OAKTOWN JAZZ WORKSHOPS FACULTY BIOS
RAVI ABCARIAN (bass) Executive Director: San Francisco Bay Area based composer and jazz bassist, Ravi, started learning guitar at the age of seven and began playing bass when his high school jazz band director challenged him to switch from electric guitar to upright bass.
Ravi went on to join the house band for a weekly jam session at famed jazz venue, Yoshi’s Oakland. There, he met and began working with many of the Bay Area’s great musicians, including Faye Carol, Edwin Kelly, and Smiley Winters. By his mid-twenties he was busy performing a wide range of gigs from small clubs and cafés in Oakland and San Francisco to regional jazz festivals.
In 1997 Ravi was invited to join OJW as a bass teacher by Founding Director, Khalil Shaheed. Shortly after, Ravi was promoted to the position of Educational Director. In 2011, Ravi was appointed Executive Director of OJW by Mr. Shaheed and the OJW Board of Directors.
Ravi has more than 20 years of teaching experience through his role as the Artistic Director of “The Richmond Jazz Collective,” a resident company at The East Bay Center for Performing Arts where he taught from 1993 to 2013, as a school music teacher for grades K-12, and teaching individual bass and guitar lessons at his home studio. He also enjoys working as a sideman, as is evidenced by his extensive experience accompanying artists ranging from legendary tap dancer Fayard Nicholas (of the Nicholas Brothers) and vocal group Sweet Honey in the Rock to tenor saxophonists Chico Freeman, Joshua Redman and Sonny Simmons.
DANNY ARMSTRONG (trombone) Guest Instructor/Performer: Born and raised in San Diego, California, Danny has performed and recorded with many greats including Archie Bell and the Drells, Elvin Bishop, The Coasters, Pete Escovedo, Bobby Freeman, Eloise Laws, Lee Oskar, Johnny Otis, Ann Peebles and Rufus Thomas. Danny Armstrong has been engaging youth in jazz appreciation and performing live music at school assemblies with OJW’s Jazz in the Schools Program since 2001.
JACK DORSEY (drums) Instructor/Performer: A native New Yorker who arrived on the San Francisco music scene in 1968, Jack has recorded drums for 20th Century Fox and American Zoetrope on numerous television theme scores and motion picture soundtracks.
He has performed and recorded internationally with such diverse artists as; The Coasters, Randy Crawford, Jose Feliciano, Johnny Griffin, Paul Horn, Etta Jones, Ed Kelly, Mel Martin, Paul McCandless, Denise Perrier, Khalil Shaheed, Mary Stallings, Jimmy Witherspoon and Zakir Hussein.
Jack Dorsey teaches throughout the San Francisco Unified School District as part of the San Francisco Symphony’s Adventures in Music Program and has been a core faculty member at Oaktown Jazz Workshops since 2005.
RICHARD HOWELL (tenor and soprano saxophone) Instructor/Performer: Accomplished international saxophonist, vocalist, composer, educator Richard Howell has explored a vast spectrum of music. His powerful, melodic saxophone playing has been heard with artists as diverse and definitive as blues/jazz/soul legends Etta James, Chaka Khan, Maurice White, Carlos Santana, Cecil Taylor, Don Cherry, Billy Higgins, Charlie Haden, Hilton Ruiz, Bernard Purdie, Buddy Guy, Bobby Watson, Regina Carter, Jimmy Smith, Charlie Musselwhite, Joe Louis Walker, Ledisi, Taj Mahal, Christian Scott, Azar Lawrence, and Latin/Afro/rhythmic pioneers Willie Bobo, Bill Summers and Pete Escovedo. Richard has performed at the Mali Music Conservatory with Fra Fra Sound and Toumani Diabate in Bamako, Mali and has also been a special guest of Salif Keita known as “the Golden Voice of Africa.”
“Birds Eye View,” a Gregory Dawson-Richard Howell collaboration of Modern Ballet and Jazz music performance had its debut in 2013 at the Black Choreographer Festival, and was performed “Live” by the Richard Howell Quintet (RHQ) and awarded the 2014 Isadora Duncan Award for Outstanding Achievement in music/sound/text.
As an educator and Jazz emissary Richard contributed to many Jazz education programs including the SFJazz program “Jazz In The Middle,” James Henry’s “Samba Samba Workshops,” San Francisco Symphony “Adventures In Music” and The Oakland Public Conservatory. He has found his home as an instructor with Oaktown Jazz Workshops. In addition he is the founder of the “JazzTree Education Workshop,” a successful international Jazz History Lecture Series.
TACUMA KING (drums) Instructor/Performer: Tacuma is an extraordinary teacher, master percussionist and prominent part of the Bay Area’s music, dance and arts education community. Tacuma teaches African and jazz percussion, song and dance. Among the percussion instruments children learn are the djembe, dundun and conga drums. Songs and dances include the Djolé, a West African masked wedding festivity; the Manjani, a rites of passage dance from Guinea; and the Gumboot, a dance originating from the gold mines of South Africa. Among the many artists and groups Tacuma has worked with are the San Francisco Symphony, Young Audiences, the Sun Ra Arkestra, Cross Pulse, Shaka Zulu, Bantaba Dance Ensemble and his musical mentor Mosheh Milon. Tacuma brings an exuberant warmth and playful magic to his classes and workshops.
MARK LEE (drums) Instructor/Performer: Mark Lee has a wealth of experience performing on the San Francisco/BayArea instrumental music and musical theater scene. He has backed vocalist Ernestine Anderson, Freda Payne, Charles Brown, Mary Lou Henner, Stephanie Powers, The Pointer Sisters and many more.
RON MARABUTO (drums) Instructor/Performer: Ron Marabuto is the son of pianist/arranger John Marabuto and was raised in the East Bay. After graduating from UC Berkeley, he spent over a decade in New York City working with jazz greats such as Pepper Adams, Tommy Flanagan and Roland Hanna. Upon returning to San Francisco, Ron continued to work with many notable musicians including, Buddy Montgomery, Bruce Forman and Mark Levine. Ron has taught at Stanford Jazz Workshop, JazzCamp West and Monterey Jazz Festival Education Program.
ANDY OSTWALD (piano) Instructor/Performer: Andy’s book/CD series, “Play Jazz, Blues, Rock Piano by Ear,” has received high praise in Keyboard Magazine, American Music Teacher Journal, and California Music Teacher, and is currently sold world-wide. He’s been teaching at OJW since 2002, and providing private piano instruction since 1985. Andy has performed/recorded with the Peck Almond Group, Jacqui Naylor, and the Cartoon Jazz Septet, and has toured extensively with Diane Witherspoon. He received his Bachelor’s degree in piano performance from San Jose State University, and later studied in New York with renowned jazz pianist, Harold Mabern.
RAFA POSTEL (trumpet) Instructor/Performer: Rafa started the trumpet at 5 years old and grew up playing in the school band and learning in other places like the Oaktown Jazz Workshop, the Young Musicians Program, and the Berkeley High Jazz Ensemble and combos. He went on to study at the New School in New York, the Amsterdam Conservatory, and finally earned a Bachelors of the Arts in Jazz Performance from the State University of New York at Purchase. He’s worked with many fine musicians including Marcus Shelby, Larry Vuckovich, Eric Reed, Faye Carol, Goapele, Aloe Blacc, and Valerie Troutt amongst others and also tours internationally with the reggae band Katchafire.
RUTH PRICE (drums) Instructor/Performer: Ruth was born in Berkeley, and raised in Oakland. She attended Maxwell Park Elementary, Bret Harte Middle School, and Skyline High. Going to church every Sunday, she began to take an interest in drums as a toddler. Ruth’s foster mother was the first to notice her attraction to music and invested in a drum set for her. By the age of seven, Ruth had a drum kit and began taking lessons with Donald Bailey, an accomplished musician who had played with some of jazz’s giants such as Duke Ellington, Sonny Rollins, and Jimmy Smith. Ruth also studied with Jeff “Tain” Watts, Babatunde Lea, Darrell Green, and Fred Dinkins, to name a few. Ruth has been performing in ensembles since middle school when she was a student at Oaktown Jazz Workshops. She attended Musicians Institute in Hollywood in 2006 and by the summer of 2007 she was picked up by Grammy Award winning artist Van Hunt. She’s also toured in West Africa with Jazz and Democracy teaching the relationship of Jazz and Democracy in the schools throughout Gambia and Liberia. Ruth has performed with several musicians such as Pete Escovedo, Mulgrew Miller, Ed Kelly, Ledisi, Branford Marsalis and Van Hunt.
GEECHI TAYLOR (trumpet) Instructor/Performer: Geechi Taylor, premiere trumpeter, instructor, and educator, was born in Chicago, Illinois and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. Since the age of 13 Geechi has been immersed in playing music and, as a teen, he was recruited to participate in various music camps. After being accepted into the University of California at Berkeley’s Young Musicians Program, where he received his most extensive training, Geechi was accepted on a full tuition scholarship to the New England Conservatory. After completing his degree, Geechi performed shows with musical greats, Patrice Rushen, Ndugu Chancler, Rodney Whitaker and Herlin Riley. He has toured with a range of hip-hop, jazz,and blues artists including Lauryn Hill, Dr. Anthony Brown’s Asian American Orchestra, and blues legend Jackie Payne.
OAKTOWN JAZZ WORKSHOPS YOUTH MENTORS
NYAH HERBERT (alto saxophone) OJW Alumna 2013-2016
ASHANTI JOHNSON (alto saxophone & vocals) OJW Alumna 2012-2016
ANTHONY MILLS-BRANCH (alto saxophone, bass guitar & upright bass) OJW Alumnus 2011-2014