Alex Stanton – Guitar
As a lead guitarist I had the opportunity to play The CMJ Music Festival in NY, NY in 2009 and 2010, SXSW in Austin in 2010, Sundance Film Festival in 2010, the House of Blues in Chicago, and scores of other venues around the country. I currently write, record, and perform folkish pop music under the moniker townsppl.
I’ve dedicated my life to sharing my passion for music. I’ve also expanded my musicianship to include my voice and a number of other instruments, as I believe they are all rivers that lead to the same ocean. I work continuously to improve my understanding of music. I attended the University of Pittsburgh as a guitar major and The University of Vermont as a guitar minor, and I’ve studied locally with John Maione, Steve Delach, and John Marcinizyn.
I remember being in my bedroom, a 14-year-old who had to get up for high school in a few scant hours, unable to go to bed without getting all the way through a Green Day song. True, I could only play one string at a time. True, it wasn’t the most complex piece of music. Still, I was hooked for life. For me, the guitar unlocked a world of music that had been trying to draw me in for some time. I had spent years trying to learn piano and saxophone, yet here the guitar let me play the music I loved on the first night. Since then I’ve spent almost every day practicing, playing in bands, writing, recording, and performing.
Tastes in music are as vast and varied as people themselves, and everyone, of course, has favorites. I’ve always believed that there is something worthwhile in all music—something that you can learn from—but more than that, something you can take pleasure in.
My goal as a musician is to enjoy and add to a world full of great music. My goal as an instructor is to help you do the same.
For the past four years, I’ve been the front man and guitarist for the Pittsburgh-based pop-punk band, My Cardboard Spaceship Adventure (MCSA). Together we have released two studio EP recordings and opened for national artists Hellogoodbye, Mae, Punchline, Stellar Kart, Emily Osment (also a regular on “Hannah Montana”), and Anthony Raneri (also of the group Bayside). MCSA was also featured in 2009 on the Vans Warped Tour. We continue to tour the east coast and Midwest.
Music has always been my passion and outlet for expression. I spent hours in my room playing power cords, trying to figure out MXPX and Blink 182 songs. (My neighbors can attest to my attempts.) I was fortunate to find a teacher who saw my desire to learn guitar, understood my goals, and was able to expand my musical knowledge.
It’s almost a decade later, and my guitar hasn’t left my side. During that time, I’ve been blessed to work with many local musicians and songwriters who have challenged me and helped me to keep learning. Playing music isn’t a foreign concept or something that’s meant for only an elite few.
If you’ve thought about picking up a guitar, you’ve already taken the first step. My job is to help you take the next step by instructing and adapting each lesson specifically for you and your goals, and to challenge you when you’re ready. Whether you want to play by ear, play in a group, write songs, learn theory, or play purely for personal enjoyment, I can help.
As an actively gigging bass player, I have had the opportunity to play a variety of shows with a wide array of musicians. Currently I write songs and play bass (electric and upright) for a Soul/Funk/Jazz band, Lyndsey Smith and the Soul Distribution, as we tour through the Pennsylvania area. We have played multiple large scale shows including opening for Tower of Power at the Altar Bar and playing a private party for the lead actor in Grease 2. I have also played in local house bands, large musical productions and written songs for solo artists.
As a child, I studied piano and drums privately from kindergarten until 8th grade at which point I picked up the bass guitar when my friends were starting a band and no one we knew played it. At that moment I knew I had found the instrument that felt like a natural extension of myself. Since
then I have dedicated my life to music and the bass and currently attend Duquesne University for jazz bass performance. I now study privately with some of the best musicians in the world in the fields of music theory, composition, and performance.
In order for music to be appreciated, it must be shared and I believe that it’s something in everyone’s heart. For me, playing bass isn’t just about the action, it’s about saying something I want to without the need for words. Being able to share my knowledge of the musical language is the highlight of my musical endeavors and I hope that everyone gets the chance to enjoy the wonderful intricacies of the musical world.
Knowledge is only ever one question away
Ernie Francestine – Guitar
When I was twelve I picked up my first guitar, and sixteen years later I am still falling in love with this fun and exciting instrument. As a beginner, I remember intently practicing to master basic chords and songs and eventually noticed myself making significant strides. This gave me the confidence and determination to stick with it. I adopted a blues- and jazz-oriented style of playing, but am always finding new things to learn and styles to appreciate. Playing in various bands throughout high school and college and having teachers such as Dominic Paga and Joe Lish made me proficient in all styles, and I am eager to help you find your niche.
I customize each student’s learning experience in order to maximize his or her enjoyment for guitar and music. I enjoy working with students of all skill levels because it gives me a chance to shape and encourage their musical tastes, the way my teachers did for me. During lessons, I strive to make every new skill adaptable to a real-life playing situation. Just like when I started playing, I know that with practice and proper teaching techniques, significant improvement isn’t far away for any student. Music is my passion, and I look forward to sharing that with all of my students.
Jonathan Gulden – Drums
Growing up in a musical family, I’ve had the privilege of studying with talented, encouraging teachers and mentors from a young age. Starting with the piano, I soon moved to the saxophone and played it throughout elementary school. At age 11, I began to pursue my longtime interest in drumming. Self-taught at first, I soon began studying privately and playing in ensembles through junior and senior high. When the time came, I entered college as a music major, studying percussion and music technology.
Studying with eight percussion teachers from the elementary to collegiate level, and in a variety of musical settings, has had a tremendous impact on the development of my personal playing style and musical interests. In addition to formal training, I’ve played in bands for many years. One of my ﬁrst gigs—at age 13—was at Nick’s Fat City, now Club Diesel in Pittsburgh’s South Side.
Since then, my vast taste in music has led me to play in many different projects, from rock to jazz, country, and experimental. One of my strongest musical traits is my ability to adapt to speciﬁc genres. Most recently, I taught group recording lessons at the Guitar Center. My passion for teaching, combined with my love of the drums, has led me to Sunburst as one of its newest staff members.
Taking all that I’ve learned over years of practicing and performing, I’ve developed my own approach to teaching the drums, through which I hope to inspire others and contribute to the growth of musicians in the community.
Jay Walker – Keyboards
My musical journey started in Colombia listening to my grandmother singing folk songs of the Caribbean coast. I always knew what I wanted to be: a musician. After living in various countries in South America, in Brazil I looked for piano lessons. It transformed my life. Around the same time, I started writing my own songs, which I continue to this day.
After high school, I went to St. Olaf College in Minnesota to study composition. There I learned about western music, jazz, and snow. The most powerful experience, though, was discovering rock ‘n’ roll and forming a band with my brother, Joseph Walker, one of the best musicians I know. We were moving fast, performing five or six times a week everywhere we could. We branched out from original folk music to funk, rock, soul, jazz, and dance music, and taught ourselves how to produce our own records .
After graduating from college, I met someone on a bus who invited me to New Creation Baptist Church, where I was immediately put on stage as an organist. I stayed there for the next few years. It was an amazing experience that gave me a completely new understanding of music and people. At the same time, I was working as producer, all while discovering how to make sounds through the computer—something that I feel is the future of sound.
I have a deep interest in the history of many styles of music. Currently, these are some of my biggest musical inspirations: The Beatles, Skrillex, Skream, Bach, Beethoven, Schumann, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Tony Sheridan, Luiz Gonzaga, Hector Lavoe, Diomedes Dias, El Chombo, Richie Hawtin, Black Sabbath, Larry Levan, E o Tchan, and many more.
I’m super excited to be part of Sunburst School of Music, a place I have a hunch will become an important musical hub for Pittsburgh. Get ready!
Rauhit Ashar – Guitar
Biography Coming Soon!