Meet Our Instructors
Scottsdale Music Academy is honored to have the best in the business on its teaching staff. All of our music industry certified instructors have real-world music experience and a passion, as well as knowledge, for music education. Of course having the skill to play like a pro is a requirement for all SMA instructors, however we all know that being a great musician does not always make for a great instructor. That is why every SMA instructor is not only required to have the skill and facility of a professional musician but the patients and heart of a teacher. Adult and youth students can be confident that your SMA instructor will be dedicated to YOU and YOUR goals and will help you reach them in the most efficient and effective way possible! And have fun in the process!
John Davis, Owner & Lead Instructor
John Davis is the proud (yet extremely humble) owner and lead instructor of Scottsdale Music Academy. He genuinely believes in giving students the experience of learning music they truly enjoy. He understands the benefit of allowing students to play amazing music together. His mission is to set every student free from the “rat box” approach to music lessons. Bye-bye scales in a vacuum! Hello stage, screaming fans, and spotlight-worthy solos.
John is one of those rare natives of Arizona. After studying with various guitar instructors, he ventured out to sunny Hollywood, California where he attended the renowned Musicians Institute-G.I.T. After graduating in ‘96, John began living the dream of playing professionally and teaching guitar lessons to eager, young “guitar-lings.”
On the international level, John has co-written and recorded two major releases and filmed several MTV music videos with the band F5. He knows all too well what it’s like to travel in a bus with 8 smelly dudes, because from 2005-2007, the band went on a U.S. tour. Besides learning how to hold his breath for a really long time, he had the great honor of playing alongside great bands and artists such as Alice Cooper, Staind, 3 Days Grace, Tesla, Alex Skolnick (Testament), David Ellefson, Jack Blades, and Tommy Shaw.
Last but not least, John has recorded with some of the industries leading producers, including Bob Marlette (who recorded Tracy Chapman, Wilson Philips, Alice Cooper, and Shine Down) and Ryan Greene (producer of No-FX, Lita Ford, and Dishwalla).
With all this professional experience on his resume, you’d think he’d walk around like one of those rock stars with his head in the clouds. But no! John is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. Stop by SMA and take a guitar lesson with him. You’ll learn from one of the best guitarists in the Valley, and have a really great time while you’re at it.
Chris Bandusky, Guitar Instructor
At the age of 22, international RCA recording artist Trik Turner hired Chris as their lead guitarist. Over the next four years, he toured, wrote, and recorded with Trik Turner, which developed his playing skills and allowed him to gather valuable life and guitar experience.
During this time, Chris also earned a double Bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University; receiving degrees in Business and in Music. His dominance in Music Theory allowed him to tutor others while continuing to excel at his own classwork. Chris believes that there are three facets to life and music and he strives to mold all three; theoretical, spiritual and physical states when he performs. Being whole in all three states is when one is at their best, and this philosophy has allowed Chris to enhance his playing style and sound.
Chris is recognized as an extremely talented musician who prides himself on his work ethic and professionalism. Many experts in Nashville and other musical cities rely on Chris’ unique talents for both recorded and live performance needs. Chris always maintains a consistent, upbeat and positive attitude no matter what the circumstance. His character is strong and enduring, and he always carries himself in a professional manner. These qualities continue to set Chris Bandusky apart as one of today’s most sought after guitarists.
Ari Lerner, Voice, Piano
Rooted in the Great American songbook and raised amidst Scandinavian traditions, Ari explores pushing musical barriers with empathy at the forefront. She has developed a strong allegiance to female singer-songwriters such as Joni Mitchell, Carole King and Bjork, while engaging in a deep level of discipline and musicianship by studying her favorite instrumentalists and vocalists such as Mark Turner and Ella Fitzgerald. She is a recent graduate of Berklee College of Music in Boston, double-majoring in Performance and Songwriting, and also a music instructor at Empower Collegiate Preparatory in Phoenix. She teaches all levels of jazz, classical and pop voice as well as jazz, classical and pop piano and beginner guitar. Her lessons are a mixed bag of theory, technique, song study, repertoire, and performance. She loves when students bring in songs whether they be originals or covers, but she also loves to recommend songs based on the students’ interests.
Zach Paris, Drum Instructor
Zach Paris is an extremely versatile percussionist that specializes in a wide range of musical styles. His omnivorous approach in performance and education has led him to a career in jazz, latin, pop, country, rock, and heavy metal drum set, as well as marching percussion, classical percussion, African percussion, multi-percussion, and four-mallet marimba. In these areas, Zach has won a number of competitions including the Nebraska Guitar Center Drum-Off finals, the Victoria Drum Festival Solo Competition, the Heartland Marimba Festival Solo Competition, the Scottsdale Guitar Center Drum-Off, the Paul Seidel Drumming Competition, and the Percussive Arts Society International Percussion Ensemble Competition. He was also recently recognized as a winner of a DownBeat Magazine Student Music Award in the Graduate Blues/Pop/Rock Soloist category.
Zach is an active educator, having taught college courses at Iowa Western Community College and the University of Nebraska, and currently teaches courses at Central Arizona College and Arizona State University. He also teaches privately face-to-face, as well as over Skype, to students of all ages, levels, and drumming styles.
Zach currently holds associate degrees in music education, music performance, and music technology from Northwest College (where ha was named the 2010 Music Student of the Year), a bachelor’s degree in music education from the University of Wyoming (where he was named the Presser Scholar in 2013), and a masters degree in percussion performance (MM) from the University of Nebraska. He is currently completing a doctorate in percussion performance (DMA) at Arizona State University.
As a performer, Zach is one of the original founders of the rock band Righteous Vendetta (Sony Records). He spent 2 years with the band, touring the country playing countless venues and festivals in over 35 states. The band also won a number of competitions, including the Mountain West Region of the Ernie Ball Battle of the Bands. He can be heard on Righteous Vendetta’s first 2 recordings “Complexity of the Fallen” and “The Dawning” (Red Cord Records).
Sam Sultan, Guitar, Drums, Voice, Keys
Sam is a multi-instrumentalist teaching guitar, piano, drums, voice and just about anything else that makes noise! He grew up in Westchester, New York and attended SUNY Purchase before becoming a musical theater actor and then music director and pit orchestra musician. He has gigged in both regional and off-Broadway theaters and has worked as a youth music director and teacher since the age of 18!
As a guitarist Sam has performed as a solo artist at the Bitter End, CBGB’s, and with Bobby Cronin at Birdland featuring Broadway actors including Kate Shindle (Legally Blonde, Cabaret), Rebecca Trehearn (West End: Ghost, Love Story), and Jason Gotay (Bring It On) Sam has also played various theatres such as Westchester Broadway Theatre, Arizona Broadway Theatre and many others!
As a teacher, Sam is a firm believer in finding music that students love and working that music into their curriculum. Virtuosity is good. A passion for music is better!
Brian Bookman, Guitar & Bass
Brian is a guitar & bass instructor with many years teaching experience. Brian started with classical studies on upright bass at 9 years old. Within a very short time was playing and then privately studied contemporary 6 string guitar. Over the years Brian has been able to draw from his live performance and studio experience to bring a unique and fresh perspective to his students. Brian enjoys working with all ages and musical styles. As put by Brian, “2015 brings me full circle; again teaching and playing full time. I’m fortunate to enjoy a full roster of students and the ability to play live music 7 nights a week”