Music Lesson Instructors

Scherene Auchterlonie - Violin

scherene_auchterlonieScherene has been playing the violin since the age of nine, and has studied under many great teachers. She began her musical career as a fiddle player and began studying classical violin at the age of twelve, since her early teens Scherene has recorded on several albums, studied jazz for two years at Vancouver Island University and classical performance under the late Jacques Israelievitch at York University. Her teaching career began at the early at of thirteen and she has grown to be a skilled teacher, writer and performer with a passion for music in all of its forms.

Dave Baird - Bass, Stand-up Bass

Dave Baird started playing bass in highschool bands. After graduation, he spent four years studying Jazz at Malaspina University College (Now VIU), where he also started playing upright bass.

Within a couple of years, Baird was performing all over town in jazz combos, the NMA big band and the 10 piece funk band, Decadence. After Malaspina, he performed not only jazz, but other styles of music as well. Rock, folk, funk, latin, soul, blues, country, showtunes, reggae, disco and classical all crossed paths with Dave’s instruments at one time or another.

Baird has performed with artists and bands including, Allison Crowe, The Canadian Tenors, John Forrest, and many more which enabled him to tour both Canada and Europe. His travels included a string of performances on cruise ships and his sounds can be heard on a large number of studio recordings.

His teaching style involves emphasis on learning the basics and then gradually building on the abilities needed to continue self-instruction which is an essential requirement needed in every successful musician.

Lena Birtwistle - Vocals, Piano

lena_birtwistleLena is a local singer / songwriter who laughs a lot and loves inspiring / encouraging people and sharing anything / everything music-related… also… martial arts and kickboxing… she loves those things too.

She began playing piano at the age of 5 and has completed her Grade 8 Royal Conservatory and a Diploma in Jazz (from VIU) for piano. After college she learned the guitar and began singing. She has been performing professionally for over 13 years.

Lena has been teaching for 6 years, and is VERY passionate about sharing the tools / tips / tricks she’s learned about music, performance, and how to break through old doubts / fears to get to another level of music / life / creativity that is way more fun.

She likes to work with her students to help them figure out what they want to get from music, and adapts her teaching style to meet the needs of each individual in a fun, playful, and engaging way. She loves helping students with reading music, music theory, technique, ear training, songwriting, performance, vocal control and strength, harmonies, singing / performing with emotion, technique while playing and singing at the same time, memorization, good practice habits / techniques, working with other musicians, and sharing new music that she finds through friends / students / band mates.

She also loves providing opportunities for her students to perform and has showcased various students as well as accompanied some in performances, bringing them out to her own shows so they can get up in front of a crowd.

She has been / is involved in multiple music projects as well as her own solo project (Emerald Specks) and released her debut solo album (No Sound) in 2014.

Other artists she’s worked / recorded / shared stages with include:
The Adamantines, Sid Johnson, Allison Crowe, Kendall Patrick and the Headless Bettys, Ah, Venice, Rob Wilkinson, Redwood Green, Band of Rascals, Navo, WiL.

Jim Blair - Guitar (Beginner to Advanced)

Jim has been a professional music teacher for over 25 years. Specializing in electric and acoustic guitar, he covers a variety of styles, including classic rock, metal, blues, and folk. Previously located in the Vancouver area, he has taught guitar in Nanaimo since 1996. In addition to basic and advanced guitar skills, Jim covers a wide range of relevant topics during lessons, including music history, songwriting techniques, guitar maintenance, and studio recording. A former Malaspina University/College student, he is also a producer and mix engineer, specializing in albums and demos for local artists. Jim also prepares students for entrance in music college.


I’ve been taking lessons with Jim Blair for 13 years. I started when I was 7 years old.

I love music and I love playing my guitar. I know I wouldn’t have been able to do a lot of the things I have done without Jim, because he doesn’t just teach you how to play the notes on your guitar. He teaches you how to be a musician. He’s taught me how to take care of my guitar; change the strings, fix the intonation, etc. He taught me how to prepare for recording sessions, what questions to ask, and what to expect when you are in the studio.

Something I found to be unexpected and unique was that he would be thinking about his students outside of his teaching hours. Every now and then he would bring in a video, a song, an album, or anything music related he thought might interest me. There hasn’t been one lesson with Jim where I haven’t learned something new.

I’ve played with 2 different bands now, “Systematic Dream” and “Mr. Goshness”, which have played many shows, and have each recorded an EP, thanks to Jim and his musical wisdom. These projects wouldn’t have happened without him.

-Kali Fawdry

Spencer Bowman - Drums
spencer_bowmanSpencer began drumming at the age of ten, and has since continued to develop his passion and skill on the drum kit. He has shared the stage and the studio with many of BC’s most talented musicians, as well as touring nationally with the progressive metal band The Body Politic. Many teachers have helped shape Spencer as a drummer, including Mike Johnston, Matt Halpern, and Dom Famularo. Spencer spent two years studying with Jesse Cahill at Vancouver Island University and holds a diploma in jazz studies. Teaching his first drum lesson at thirteen, Spencer continued teaching privately throughout his early teenage years. In 2016 he now teaches at Arbutus Music in Nanaimo, BC. Spencer’s goal is to inspire his students, as well as demystify the mechanics of drumming.
Paul Cimolini - Guitar (Beginner to Intermediate)
paul_cimoliniPaul began lessons at age 12, studying under Jim Blair. He has been playing guitar professionally for 15 years and has been teaching since 2004. Paul enjoys teaching young beginners, specializing in classic and modern rock. He plays in the bands “Atlas Collapses” & “The Eggmen”. Paul has opened live shows for Alanis Morrissette, The Goo Goo Dolls, The Trews, and The Cowboy Junkies. He also teaches ukulele, bass & songwriting.
Lee Ellefson - Guitar (Beginner to Expert)

Lee is a jazz guitarist, composer, producer & instructor. He began playing guitar at age 19, initially studying with his grandfather, Allan Hodgkins (who performed and recorded with Django Reinhardt in the early 40’s), and in 1984 enrolled in the Malaspina Jazz Program. He has toured throughout Canada & the UK playing alongside Kenny Wheeler, Ian McDougall, Rick Kilburn, Phil Nimmons, Claude Ranger, Chris Nelson, Buff Allen, Rene Worst, Ken Lister,and Nick McGowan, among others. Lee has 9 albums of original compositions, and is also on staff at Vancouver Island University as a private guitar instructor.

Check out his website for more info: http://www.leeellefson.com/

Fred (Bing Xiao. Xie) - Drums

fredOriginally from Beijing, China, Fred is fluent in both English and Mandarin. He took the Jazz program through VIU, majoring in drums, and completed his music performance degree in the summer of 2015. Fred plays in the local rock band “Under the Mountain”, and has played live at many different venues. He has also toured across Western Canada.

Zack Friend - Drums (Basic to Intermediate)
Zack is an active and respected part of the Nanaimo music scene, and has recently completed his Bachelor of Music degree at VIU. Zack was a student of Canadian drumming icons Pat Steward and renowned jazz drummer Jesse Cahill, and has taught drums for four years here in Nanaimo. Currently he plays with the rock group “Chasing Satellites” which recently released their second CD.
Tamara Lea-Martella - Beginner Woodwinds, Vocals

Tamara Lea-Martella is a Vancouver Island based vocalist. Tamara has studied jazz at Vancouver Island University where she received her Diploma in Jazz Studies, and has also trained as a classical flutist at the Victoria Conservatory of Music. Her studies have taken her to private study with top professionals in the music world to conventional study of pedagogy in a conservatory setting. Tamara Lea teaches beginner woodwinds and voice. Tamara Lea has over 25 years of teaching experience with all ages of students.

Tamara is a vocalist that can perform many genres of music but her love for jazz far out weighs them all. As a musician, she has contributed to a range of diverse genres including rap, rock, pop, gospel, blues and jazz. Tamara has performed in many festivals and has had the pleasure of opening for groups such as “The Real Group”, “The New York Voices”,Dee Daniels, and many more!


It has been said, “She will tell you a bedtime story,paint a scene with her song and take you to a place you have never been before…The power of Tamara’s voice and the beauty and refinement of her performance leaves the audience enthralled and enchanted longing for more……”

Edward Lee - Guitar, Ukulele

edward_leeEdward Lee is a very talented guitar player/instructor and is the audio engineer/producer and owner of Broken Spiral Studios in Nanaimo. Ed teaches a very wide range of styles on both guitar and ukulele including metal, fingerstyle/slap guitar, rock, blues and pop. With extensive training in Jazz Studies at Mallaspina College, Ed also enjoys teaching jazz theory, improvisation and reading notation.

We are very happy to welcome Ed to our wonderful teaching crew!

Alan Medcalf - Guitar, Banjo, Dobro, Ukulele, Electric Bass, Lap Steel (Beginner to Advanced)

alan_medcalfA professional musician for his entire life, Alan has performed on stage, TV, radio and recordings. During the last 15 years he has also focused on teaching privately and for seminars and classrooms. Styles taught by Alan include classic rock, jazz, roots, country and classical, plus music history and advanced theory for all genres. Al has sat on many music industry boards & committees and has an extensive background as a production manager, adjudicator, audio engineer and artist manager.

Performance credits include country artists Patricia Conroy & Carolyn Dawn Johnson, Canadian folk icon Valdy and drummer John Densmore (Doors). Al has also recently played for several productions of the stage show “A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline”. During this last summer he was the production manager for various concerts featuring Steve Miller, Bad Company, Chilliwack, The Odds & Doucette.

Kyle (VoxMan) Shepard - Beatboxing

VoxMan Kyle began creating sound effects with his voice at a very young age while playing with toys. You know the drill: elaborate punch and kick sounds, machine guns and explosions, flips and splooshes and the like. Then his parents got him a drumset and he learned to combine his passion for sound effects with his practice of rhythm. The result: one very unconventional and funky musician. Kyle is now a fusion beatboxer/vocal-scrambler honing techniques from sources as eclectic as ethnic choirs, electronic dance music, global percussion and cartoon voices. Kyle graduated from the University of British Columbia’s film department, specializing in audio design. Kyle teaches beatboxing and vocal-play around British Columbia, and performs for all different manner of folks with his dad in the notorious duo “The Big Mess”.

Marty Shepard - Trumpet

Marty Shepard was born & raised way too long ago in Chicago, Illinois. As one of the original members of REO Speedwagon, he opened for such groups as Iron Butterfly, Canned Heat & Three Dog Night. After touring the West Coast with Planet Swing, he has performed with Brooke Maxwell’s El SuperBando at the Empress Hotel, Victoria, Joëlle Rabu at The Port Theatre, Nanaimo, BC & Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and hs soloed at The Nanaimo Convention Centre. Marty currently performs at festivals and clubs in Nanaimo, Vancouver, Victoria, Tacoma and Puerto Vallarta with the father/son duo, The Big Mess, (of which he is the father aspect).

Marty also engaged in an independent trumpet career, telling gorgeous, heart-moving stories with his trumpet and flugelhorn. These tales can still be enjoyed on his CD “HalfLife”. Delightfully notorious for using a common toilet plunger to produce lush, bluesy tones with his horn, he is admired as a uniquely passionate musician.

Hilary Whelton - Vocals

hilary_wheltonHilary holds both a Bachelor of Music Diploma (Classical) and an Associate in Music Diploma (Jazz). She is the Vocal Director for the Bard to Broadway Theatre Society and is the Administrator and Instructor for Bard to Broadway’s Performing Arts Education Series.

Hilary has appeared as mezzo-soprano/alto soloist for Handel’s “Messiah”, Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” and Vivaldi’s “Gloria”. She has also appeared as the aging courtesan, Aunt Alicia, in “Gigi”, and as one of the ensemble cast of “A My Name is Still Alice”.

Hilary teaches in Nanaimo at Arbutus Music and also in Qualicum.

Rob Wilkinson - Ukulele, Piano, Guitar

rob_wilkinsonRob Wilkinson has been in one band or another starting from around the time he was in middle school. Since then, he has done several years of study with the Royal Conservatory of Music and completed his second year of Jazz studies at VIU. He currently performs regularly with the Erika Phillips jazz quartet, the hard rock band The Body Politic, and pop-rock group Ah, Venice. In addition to the hours of practice and performance time on the piano, Rob also fronted the pop-rock group Sound and Science, and he plays the guitar and sings in his spare time.

Whether it’s following the Royal Conservatory methods of learning, improvising over chord progressions, or even just learning your favorite song; Rob’s wide variety of playing experience allows him the means to help you become a better player, using whatever genre or method is best for you and incorporating all-around musicianship in the process.