Our Guitar Students

We honor our students for their achievements on the guitar and in life.

Musicians

Anderson Davis – One of the musical theater’s rising stars, Anderson captured the role of Lt. Cable for the U.S. national tour of the classic Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, South Pacific. His solid musical background in both vocal and instrumental music, as well as his extensive training in theatre, makes him a formidable presence on the stage.
Courses taken: Classical Guitar

David Banner – Rapper, music producer, and part-time actor, the Mississippi-born performer has worked with a plethora of rap and hip-hop talents, including T.I., Yung Joc, Akon, Little Wayne, and Snoop Dogg. With a background in business and education, Banner is an outspoken community advocate who has earned an award for his work after Hurricane Katrina, and has testified before Congress about cultural stereotypes in music.
Courses taken: Acoustic Guitar

Jacquelyn Thropay –  Keyboardist for the Los Angeles indie band, the Ross Sea Party, Jacqueline discovered her talent for music early in life through her participation in a children’s choir. Later, she became interested in the piano, teaching herself to play to such a degree of proficiency that the piano  became her main musical interest. Jacquelyn’s talent and desire was a key ingredient to her success, adding to her versatility as a musician by learning to play the guitar.
Courses taken: Classical, Flamenco, Songwriting

Mark Goldenberg –  Lead guitarist for the legendary Jackson Browne since 1994, Mark has played on recordings by a long list of top music clients, including Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstadt, Willie Nelson, and much more. He is equally gifted as a songwriter. Mark’s songs have graced recordings by Linda Ronstadt, the Pointer Sisters, Eels, Chris Botti, and more. His music, in his own words, “evocative and reflective.” Truly so.
Courses taken: Classical Guitar

Michael Cordings – Bluegrass and fingerstyle guitarist Michael Cordings has a passion for his work. A frequent participant in bluegrass festivals, Michael shares his knowledge of the rural American folk art by teaching seminars. A mandolin player as well as guitarist, Michael employs a creative use of language to convey musical concepts to his students, likening riffs on an instrument to words in writing. He was as passionate about learning the guitar as he was about teaching others to play.
Courses taken: Classical Guitar, Acoustic Guitar

Octavius Terry – This Atlanta-born musician enjoyed a career as a nationally-ranked athlete before turning to his true passion–music. His band, Jypsi Rum, performs music that Octavius characterizes as “Poetic Romanticism,” a soul-stirring blend of R&B, soul, and old-school essence. His love for the guitar is profound, and our respect for his music equally so.
Courses taken: Songwriting, Acoustic Guitar

Rahul Puar – Enamored with the classical guitar at an early age, Rahul immersed himself in its study, eventually earning his Bachelor of Music in Guitar Performance at San Francisco State University in addition to earning a Bachelor of Arts in psychology. He has studied with many fine guitarists, including Brian Head, Pepe Romero, and Scott Tennant. He is preparing for master’s degree studies at USC’s Thornton School of Music under the guidance of LAGA’s Emre Sabuncuoglu, who earned his doctorate at Thornton.
Courses taken: Classical Guitar, Flamenco Guitar, Fingerboard Theory

Sasha Bayan Khadivian – An innovative musician, guitarist and composer Sasha Bayan forges new paths in music with his band, Aurelia, by combining genres such as classical, Flamenco, jazz, and Brazilian music, then using the play of differences thus produced to shift listeners beyond the margins of defined style. Thought-provoking lyrics stretch the boundaries of the listeners’ minds. With only a year’s study of the classical guitar at Los Angeles Guitar Academy, Sasha was admitted to Northwestern University to study guitar performance. He is also completing his double major in religious studies.
Courses taken: Classical Guitar

William Beuche – Classical guitarist, teacher, and composer William Beuche has established himself as a force to be reckoned with in the West Coast music world. His diverse body of work reflects his passion for contemporary classical music, as well as ethnic musical tradtions from around the world, particularly Latin-American music. He is a founding member of Riverside’s Kusisqa, an ensemble dedicated to performing Andean music.
Courses taken: Classical Guitar, Latin Guitar, Film Scoring, World Music

Film

Alexander Martin – An actor in both film and television, Alexander has demonstrated true versatility, exploring nearly every dimension in his craft. Drama, thriller, horror, comedy, romantic comedy, and action movies–he has done it all. With his study of the guitar, Alexander added yet another talent to that impressive list. We were privileged to have had him as a student.
Courses taken: Flamenco Guitar

Jonathan Groff – Gifted with stellar talent in both music and acting, it is no wonder that Jonathan has made a big splash in television, on film, and on the stage. Most recently, he has appeared on the cast of the hit television series, “Glee.” A courageous advocate for human rights, Jonathan uses his talent to speak up for those who cannot. We were honored to have had him as student.
Courses taken: Songwriting, Acoustic Guitar

Kendra Haaland – A native of Southern California raised in Minneapolis, producer Kendra Halland enjoyed a successful career in the advertising industry until a trip back to her native state to visit her brother produced an opportunity to work as a productions and operations manager on the film “FernGully: The Last Rainforest.” Since then, she has landed a position with Disney, serving as an associate producer and producer for some of their top animated films.
Courses taken: Classical Guitar

Omer Avarkan –  An award-winning motion designer whose work in animation and design has featured prominently in promotional materials for films such as Big Fish, Lords of Dogtown, Monster-in-Law, as well as in trailers and teasers for television and video games, Omer is a behind-the scenes key to the success of these endeavors. His creative fire served him well as a student of the guitar. We were honored to have had him as a student.
Courses taken: Latin Guitar, Classical Guitar

Sin-Halina Sy – Sin-Halina has worked in the editorial department on many hit films, including Jonah Hex, Fame, Gamer, Crank: High Voltage, Beautiful Losers, and many more, earning the praise of fans for her fine work in the editing room. Her creativity extended into the realm of music as she excelled as a student of the guitar.
Courses taken: Classical Guitar, Latin Guitar

Art

David Wicks – Artist David Wicks connects the worlds of science and the arts by exploring humankind’s relationship to the environment, using his skills in mathematics and software design to create new forms drawn from the physical world. Not only are these forms lovely to look at, but have practical applications as well, such as maps, drawings, animations, and interactive platforms. He works as a designer and engineer at Oblong Industries Inc., a company with offices in Los Angeles and Barcelona, Spain.
Courses taken: Classical Guitar

Peter Jenkins – Editor of a successful design, fashion, and lifestyle ezine, Peter provides his readers with timely, practical advice and news about fashion and design, in addition to thought-provoking discussions on cultural issues. His creative outlook on life inspires us. His study of the guitar added one more facet to his artistic endeavors. We were, of course, glad to have had him as a student.
Courses taken: Classical Guitar

Business

Akira Hayashi – The global release manager at Esri, a Redlands, CA geographic information system technology firm, Akira manages the process of developing, testing, and implementing new software system, serving clients throughout the world. His analytic mind gave him a great advantage in grasping the mathematical relationships of the notes as he progressed through his study of the guitar.
Courses taken: Classical Guitar

Peter Lopez – President of Transamerica Investment Management, Peter is passionate about making sure that investors have a safe place for their life’s savings to grow, a momentous task in today’s economy, but one for which he is well-equipped. Peter is equally passionate about the guitar, and makes room in his hectic schedule to study classical and Flamenco music.
Courses taken: Classical Guitar, Flamenco Guitar

Fatih Gürtuna – Well-traveled and multi-lingual, Fatih currently holds the position of general manager at YEDA Group, specializing in the areas of construction and consulting. Originally from Istanbul, Fatih attended Newbury College in Brookline, MA, before embarking on his career. He now resides in Algeria.
Courses taken: Flamenco Guitar

Raul Gitani – A life insurance and financial services professional in the greater Los Angeles area, Raul is the CEO of Gitani and Associates, whose offices are based in Pasadena. Raul had a passion for both classical and Flamenco guitar. He was a pleasure to have as a student.
Courses taken: Classical Guitar, Flamenco Guitar

Satinder Raina – Satinder is the former chief executive officer of Sophoi, Inc., which designed innovative software that provided 21st Century solutions to the ever more-complex issue of intellectual property management. We enjoyed his bright, forward-thinking approach to his guitar study as well.
Courses taken: Classical Guitar, Acoustic Guitar

Vikram Karnaker – Vikram worked for STEC, a publicly traded technology company. At STEC, he teamed with senior management to cultivate investment ideas, including mergers and acquisitions, as well as strategic partnerships. Prior to his work at STEC, he was an investment banker at PJSC, a boutique investment banking advisory firm based in New York, where he worked on mergers and acquisitions, financing, and restructuring assignments. His background, in both mathematics and English, helped him excel at both the analytic and the creative side of playing the guitar.
Courses taken: Classical Guitar, Latin Guitar, Flamenco Guitar

Science and Mathematics

David Goodwin – Professor Emeritus of mechanical engineering and applied physics at CalTech, David was known for his extensive research in the field of chemical vapor deposition, an integral part of semiconductor laser and integrated circuit manufacture. He was an example of courage and grace to the CalTech community as he battled glioblastoma multiforme. As a LAGA student, David’s love for the classical guitar and Brazilian music was evident in attention to detail in practice and lessons. It was a privilege to have had him as a student.
Courses studied: Classical Guitar, Brazilian Guitar

José Moreno – A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, José works as a civil engineer in the greater Los Angeles area. In addition to playing the classical guitar, José is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, a professional organization which promotes continuing education, encourages development of new technologies, assists in the professional development of its members, and advocates for improvements in the nation’s infrastructure using sustainable, environmentally-sound technology.
Courses studied: Classical Guitar

Osvaldo Lopez – With a profound gift for playing the classical guitar and a keen desire to learn, Osvaldo Lopez was a joy to teach. At some point, Osvaldo hopes to go on to music school to study the classical guitar on a formal level. He works with young people through the program College Bound, teaching math. College Bound helps youth navigate the academic world during high school, preparing them to enter university life.
Courses taken: Classical Guitar

Medicine

Brooke Salaz – An administrative assistant to UCLA’s prestigious Department of Neurosurgery, Brooke brings joy to patients who come through its doors with her compassion and care. We were touched with both her caring heart and her passion for the guitar while she was our student. We are ever so grateful for her having touched our lives.
Courses taken: Acoustic Guitar

Jack Der-Sarkissian, MD – A graduate of USC’s Keck School of Medicine, Jack has had seventeen years of experience practicing family medicine. He is the assistant chief of service in family medicine at Kaiser Permanente, and was elected to the board of directors for the Southern California Permanente Medical Group. Passionate about enjoying a healthy lifestyle, he studied the guitar with Los Angeles Guitar Academy as part of a well-rounded approach to life. We are privileged to have had him as a student.
Courses taken: Classical Guitar

Jan Gruber – A graduate of Stanford University and the University of Washington School of Medicine, Jan Gruber, M.D.,  practices anesthesiology at Kaiser Permanente in Los Angeles. Balancing his work with his passion for music, Jan is a serious student of the guitar. With his quick mind and a physician’s knowledge of how the body moves on the instrument, he continues to progress on the guitar despite his busy schedule.
Courses taken: Classical Guitar, Flamenco Guitar

Stephanie Kovalchik – Stephanie received her Ph.D. in biostatistics from the University of California Los Angeles. Currently, she  is a postdoctoral fellow in the biostastistics branch of the National Cancer Institute. Stephanie joined Los Angeles Guitar Academy as an adult beginner, and has shown herself to be a quick study on the guitar. Though her work to battle cancer took her from Los Angeles, she is continuing as a student through our webcam guitar lessons program. We are grateful for Stephanie’s work against cancer, and for her great love for the guitar.
Courses taken: Classical Guitar, Flamenco Guitar

Athletes

Dene Selkin – Dene, a runner, turned to yoga and other alternative medicine when she became injured in 2004. She is currently a yoga and Core Fusion instructor in the greater Los Angeles area. The balance of mind and body that she found in yoga benefited her greatly in her study of the guitar. Her desire for excellence propelled her to learn quickly. Her passion for both her practice of yoga and for the guitar inspired us as well.
Courses taken: Classical Guitar, Acoustic Guitar

Rafael Capiro – Owner and head trainer at Truth Fitness and Health Studio in Peninsula, CA, Rafael provides a full-service, personalized training regimen, incorporating nutritional advice, core and functional training, post-rehabilitation training, massage therapy, and more. With an athlete’s drive for excellence, Rafael made great progress in studying the guitar with us.
Courses studied: Flamenco Guitar

Education

Butch Mayo  – A  school administrator and a fine amateur classical guitarist, Butch Mayo also enjoys flying remote-controlled aircraft, as well as spending time observing nature at his vacation home at Playa Linda.
Courses taken: Classical Guitar, Flamenco Guitar

Inspiring Stories

Daniel Besancon – Valedictorian of his high school class, Daniel Besancon became semi-paralyzed on one side through an injury to his spine in a traffic accident. Playing the guitar helped Daniel recover, both by music’s healing power, and the connections forged between body and mind that form as a person learns to play.

Joseph Warren – Despite suffering a spinal injury in a car crash, Joseph nevertheless pursued his love of the guitar through private lessons. He made excellent progress, and in the process, inspired us all.

Add Your Name To Our List of Students

If you are or have been a student at Los Angeles Guitar Academy, we would be honored to include you. We will need a short biography and, if you have one, a link to your website or other Web profile. This service is completely optional, and is offered to our current and former students to thank them for their choosing Los Angeles Guitar Academy and to provide networking opportunities for them.