Applied Music Faculty
Recording Arts, Music Appreciation, Applied Saxophone/Clarinet Instructor
Applied Trumpet Instructor
Bob Bennett is a former member of the Woody Herman and Brian Setzer Orchestras and former lead trumpet for the Artie Shaw Orchestra. Mr. Bennett is a graduate of Morro Bay High School, Cuesta College and has a Masters Degree in Jazz Studies from California State University Long Beach. In addition to playing professionally for 30 years in the Los Angeles area, Bob is a former member of the Mount San Jacinto Community College faculty. Bob has also won Jazz Soloist awards from the Fullerton Jazz Festival and The International Trumpet Guild. He recently returned to the Central Coast and is currently teaching trumpet Cuesta College and directing The Cuesta College Jazz Orchestra.
Class Piano, Applied Piano Instructor
Idona Cabrinha has a B.A., California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo; M.M., (Piano Performance and Pedagogy), Northwestern University; additional studies: Westminister Choir Conservatory of Music, Vallejo Conservatory of Music: Student of Sylvia Wang, William Spiller; masterclasses with David Buechner, Peter Takacs; pedagogy studies with Francis Larimer; Suzuki pedagogy studies, early childhood educator; extensive experience as pianist and accompanist in West Coast and Chicago areas; former adjudicator in Chicago area; awards and honors: Dorothy L. Pound Award, Northwestern University School of Music Grant, First Place Winner Allied Arts Competition; former Performance Syllabus Chair North Shore Music Teacher's Association; former faculty member: Northwestern University Academy; former lecturer, Class Piano, DePaul University School of Music.
Alba Cancél Bigay
Applied Voice Instructor
Puerto Rican soprano Alba Franco-Cancél continues to thrill audiences with her pure and silvery sound delivered with her magnetic stage presence in both operatic and concert appearances. Most recent appearances include her debut in San Diego as Despina with Opera Neo, her debut in Los Angeles with Pacific Opera Project as Valencienne in the operetta The Merry Widow as well as her debut in the Bay Area as Barbarina with Livermore Valley Opera. Other roles from the season include the Queen of the Night from Mozart's Magic Flute and covering the role of Musetta with Opera San Luis Obispo where she currently serves as a Resident Artist. Franco-Cancél has also excelled and brought life to many roles including Frasquita, Tytania, the title role in La Calisto, Gilda, Musetta, Zerlina, Monica, Flora, Elle, and María among many others. Recent awards include Semifinalist in the James Toland Vocal Arts Competition and Finalist in the American Prize Vocal Competition. Other awards include Illinois Opera Theater Enthusiasts Award; twice recipient of the Bella Voice Award from the Bel Canto Foundation in Chicago; Finalist in the Classical Singer's Competition; and the Public Choice Award from the Metropolitan Opera Council Auditions. Her teaching philosophy places a strong emphasis on healthy vocal practice, breath management, posture/alignment and tone production along with effective learning/practice strategies and memorization skills. Her lessons are directed to build a healthy vocal technique through vocal exercises tailored to the singer’s needs, reinforced with appropriate vocal literature to helps the student accomplish the technical goals set for the semester. Alba Franco-Cancél received a Doctoral degree in Voice from the Conservatory of Music of the University of Missouri under the guidance of world-renowned tenor Vinson Cole. She also holds a MM in Voice Performance and Literature from the University of Illinois, and a BM from de Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico.
Applied Cello and Bass Instructor
Bassist/cellist Ken Hustad of Morro Bay is a member of the San Luis Obispo Symphony and Mozart Festival Orchestra in addition to playing with the Santa Barbara and Santa Maria Symphonies, the Cuesta Master Chorale, Pacific Repertory Opera, the San Luis Obispo Vocal Arts Ensemble, the Cal Poly Baroque Orchestra, and in the Tolosa Strings quintet. He is a string coach for the San Luis Obispo Youth Symphony and bass and cello instructor at Cuesta College and Cal Poly. An active jazz musician, Ken plays with the Royal Garden Swing Orchestra, Cuesta’s Monday Night Big Band, San Luis Jazz Band and the Central Coast Jazz Quartet as well as the Cuesta Faculty Jazz Ensemble.
Applied Piano Instructor
Alexander Kato-Willis has toured as a soloist to high acclaim across Europe, the United States, and Japan. Radio France Internationale called his Paris debut "radically refreshing," and National Public Radio dubbed his music "an inspiration." His recitals have been broadcast nationally on television in Japan, and he has been invited to perform by the Cultural Attaché of Finland. Kato-Willis has made appearances with personages such as Tom Brokaw and given recitals alongside musicians the likes of DGG recording artist, José María Gallardo del Rey. His compositions have been performed by former vocalists of the Metropolitan Opera and have been featured in the magazine International Piano. At the age of six, Kato-Willis gave his first solo improvisation performance. At the University of Southern California, he studied piano under the internationally renowned pianist Daniel Pollack and studied composition with Morten Lauridsen, recipient of the 2007 National Medal of Arts. Kato-Willis was awarded Highest Distinction for both his doctoral and master's degrees from the University of Southern California.
Performing Arts Division Chair, Vocal Jazz Ensembles, Jazz Vocal Technique, Jazz Vocal Improvisation
John Knutson is Director of Choral Studies at Cuesta College, and interim director of vocal jazz at Cal Poly. He is also a member of the professional vocal jazz ensemble Vocalogy, formed by Phil Mattson in 1998. Before moving to California, John taught at Treasure Valley Community College in Oregon, and at Southwestern Community College in Iowa. While at Southwestern, he performed all over the US and Europe with the award-winning vocal jazz group VoicesIowa.
Cuesta Wind Ensemble, Music Theory, Guitar Class, Applied Trombone Instructor
Jennifer Martin joined the Music Faculty at Cuesta College in the summer of 2004 as the conductor of the Cuesta Wind Ensemble. In addition to her conducting duties, she coordinates the department's Applied Music program, and teaches Class Guitar. In 2008, she was selected to be the Performing Arts Division Chair, and was appointed to the post of Interim Coordinator of Cuesta’s new Cultural and Performing Arts Center in 2009. She became a staff conductor for the San Luis Obispo Wind Orchestra in 2010. Previous to her appointment at Cuesta, she was the Music Department Chair and conductor of the Reno Winds and the Truckee Meadows Community Orchestra at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, NV, where she was the founding faculty of the Music Department.
Cuesta Jazz Ensemble, Evening Jazz Ensemble, Jazz Combos, Jazz Improvisation, Music Theory
Ron McCarley, Director of Jazz Studies is a graduate of CalArts and Westmont College. Before teaching at Cuesta, Ron was directing professional and collegiate big bands and small groups in the Santa Barbara area. He has had many students go on to successful music careers and many years of experience in jazz performance and education. As a performer, he doubles on all saxophones, flute and other woodwinds and plays a wide variety of music locally and throughout Southern California. When he is not playing music or teaching, he spends his time with his wife, Laura, and their two children.
Applied Guitar Instructor
Jeff Miley received his B.M. in classical guitar performance from California State University Northridge in 1988. While immersed in his music studies there, he became a member of the Sun Guitar Quartet, whose hours of dedication to their craft culminated in their being named winners of the Andres Segovia Performance Award. They also traveled to Japan to perform at the Tokyo International Chamber Music Festival in 1989. They were the first guitar ensemble ever to have been invited to this prestigious festival. In addition to his classical studies, Jeff studied jazz arranging and jazz improvisation with Ladd McIntosh, and performed in the jazz ensembles under the direction of Gary Pratt and Ladd McIntosh. Since graduating, Jeff has spent his time working on his original music projects, and working as a sideman on numerous recording sessions, concerts, and club dates. Back in 1995, right as his first album was being released, he became the recipient of the Spotlight Award from Guitar Player Magazine. Since that time, Jeff has been intimately involved in the release of four original albums, with more on the way. His guitar playing continues to take him across the U.S. and to Europe to perform.
Applied Bassoon Instructor
Applied Voice Instructor
Chad Ruyle, vocal instructor, and tenor is a graduate of California State University, Northridge with his Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance. Mr. Ruyle is a new resident of the central coast, hailing from the Los Angeles area where he spent the last twelve years teaching and performing in the operatic realm. Mr. Ruyle made his professional operatic début as Don Curzio in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro. During his graduate studies he enjoyed the roles ofSpärlich in Otto Nicolai’s Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor, as well as Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus, Sam in Susannah, and Ferrando in Così fan tutte. Chad was a recipient of the Village Voices scholarship where he performed as a soloist at the Thousand Oaks Performing Arts Plaza. For his undergraduate degree Mr. Ruyle attended California State University, Fullerton where he was very active in the Chamber Singers under the direction of John Alexander, and in the operas Dialogues of the Carmelites by Francis Poulenc, and Die Entführung aus dem Serail by Mozart to name a few. During his time at Cal State Fullerton Mr. Ruyle performed and toured with such orchestras as the Boston Pops Orchestra, and Pacific Symphony. As an emerging solo artist, Mr. Ruyle has performed numerous recitals in the Los Angeles, Orange County, and Riverside areas. Chad spent eight years as the tenor soloist and section leader for the First German Speaking United Methodist Church in Glendale. Holding the utmost respect for the art of vocal pedagogy and vocal health, Mr. Ruyle has commanded an active teaching repertoire. Mr. Ruyle looks forward to expanding his student’s vocal endeavors at Cuesta College, and sharing his love of performance.
Recording Arts, Music Theory, Jazz Arranging and Composition, Jazz Piano, Jazz Trumpet
George Stone has enjoyed a rewarding career in music performance, composition and music education for over 25 years. He currently directs the popular Audio Technology Program and teaches Music Theory and Composition at Cuesta College.
Applied Harp Instructor
Jennifer performs as a soloist and ensemble musician throughout the United States and in Europe. She has appeared with the Los Angeles Baroque Orchestra and the Magnificat Baroque of San Francisco, in solo recital at Lincoln Center, and live broadcast of WQXR radio. A graduate of Eastman School of Music with bachelor and master degrees in harp performance, she also has performed with the Baltimore, Buffalo, and Seattle Symphony Orchestras, and the Rochester Philharmonic. She has recorded for Teldec, Warner Bros., and Musical Heritage Society. She is in demand as a specialist in 16th century Spanish harp music,most recently as guest lecturer/recitalist/instructor at Madison Early Music, 2017.
Applied Brass Instructor
Jane Swanson studied French horn with Ralph Pyle, Fred Fox, Wendell Hoss, Sinclair Lott and James Decker in Southern California, and with Phillip Yaeger in Austin, Texas. She also received extensive coaching in chamber music from Mitchell Lurie, both at the Music Academy of the West and at UCLA. She attended Pomona College and the University of Texas in Austin, completing a degree in music performance from UCLA. She was a winner of the Coleman Chamber Music Competition in 1966. A resident of San Luis Obispo since 1967, Jane has long been active as a performer with the San Luis Obispo Symphony, Cuesta Master Chorale, and Opera San Luis Obispo. From 1971 to 2010 she performed with the San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival. Since 2005, she has been Brass Coach and Assistant to the Orchestra Conductor with the San Luis Obispo Youth Symphony. Jane teaches French horn for Cuesta College and also privately.
Applied Music Instructor
Inga Swearingen received her bachelor of music degree from California State Polytechnic, San Luis Obispo and her masgters in choral conducting from Florida State University. Ms. Swearingen has performed over a dozen times on Garrison Keillor's renowned radio show, "A Prairie Home Companion", won first place and audience award at the Montreux Jazz Festival Shure Vocal Competition, and has been a featured soloist in Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. She also teaches voice and improvisation privately.
Applied Voice Instructor
Cassandra Tarantino has her Bachelor's degrees in Church Music emphasizing Choral Conducting and Performance Flute, and English Literature. Ms. Tarantino has participated in prestigious music festivals such as the Aspen Music Festival, Apple Hill Chamber Music Festival in New Hampshire, the Aberystwyth Music Festival in Wales, and the Morges Chamber Music Festival in Switzerland. She also took a six-month sabbatical in Northern Ireland to study music and the Irish-Celtic language. Cassandra received her Master's of Music Degree in Flute Performance from California State University, Northridge. Shortly after moving to San Luis Obispo in 2003, Ms. Tarantino formed an Early Music ensemble with Guitarist James Edwards called the Lark Consort, which focuses primarily on Renaissance and Baroque music for lute, Period Guitars, recorder, transverse flute and continuo. She has also co-founded a new chamber music series in San Luis Obispo called Second Sundays at St. Stephens. Folk music and dance are a passion for Ms. Tarantino, and she can be found playing and dancing traditional Irish, English Country and Contra Dance music.
Applied Percussion Instructor
Educator/Performer Darrell Voss has taught applied percussion for Cuesta College since 2000. Practically a San Luis Obispo native, Darrell was raised in a musical family and has played drums since the age of 3. After graduating from San Luis Obispo High School in 1983, he pursued a career as a drummer and percussion instructor. Cuesta College was an important training ground for his music studies; he obtained an AA degree in 1989. As a member of the Charter Class of Music graduates in 1994, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.
Applied Clarinet Instructor
Keith has been a professional clarinetist, bass clarinetist, instructor and conductor for over 45 years. His clarinet instructors include, Fred Peters, David Adkins and Mitchell Lurie. He has played with and/or conducted the Louisiana Symphony, The Long Beach Symphony, The Riverside Symphony, The Redlands Symphony, The San Luis Chamber Orchestra, The Symphony of the Vines, The Lompoc Pops Orchestra, The San Luis Obispo Symphony, The San Luis Obispo Wind Orchestra, The San Luis Obispo County Band, The Atascadero Community Band, and dozens of musical theatre and recording studio productions for various media. Keith is a graduate in clarinet performance from California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo and Cuesta College. Keith is the Music Director of the San Luis Chamber Orchestra and leads “Wind in the Reeds,” the central coast’s clarinet ensemble. His current and former students include members of major orchestras worldwide, some of the world’s finest studio musicians, directors of music at various colleges and universities, and others involved both vocationally and recreationally in the world of music. He is very happy to be providing his guidance to the students at Cuesta College.