Meet Our Faculty

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Kasey Knudsen, alto saxophone
Kasey is a San Francisco-based saxophonist, composer, and educator and leader and she teaches year-round at Sonoma State University, the Stanford Jazz Workshop, the California Jazz Conservatory, and the Monterey Jazz Festival education programs.

Mike Galisatus, trumpet, music history and listening
Mike is the Director of Bands at the College of San Mateo, directing both the college big bands and the wind ensemble. He has been the recipient of various teaching honors, including the CMEA Bay Section Outstanding Jazz Educator Award for 2015-2016. Michael is in demand as an adjudicator throughout California, and as a freelance trumpeter in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Steve Wilson, trombone, theory
Steve has been a director of Kuumbwa Jazz Camp for over twenty years. He is a long-term music instructor at Cabrillo College, currently teaching Jazz Combos, Popular Songwriting and Jazz-Pop Solo Voice. Wilson performs with Bop of the Bay, Cabrillo Stage, the Robin Anderson Big Band, the Monterey Jazz All-Stars, and other local ensembles.

Christian Sands, piano, Artist-in-Residence
Christian Sands is currently one of the most in-demand pianists working in jazz and is a five-time Grammy nominee. In the last few years he has toured around the world as a bandleader and recently appeared as a sideman on records by Christian McBride and Gregory Porter. A Mack Avenue recording artist, Sands was also music director for the Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour ensemble in 2019. A protégé of Dr. Billy Taylor, Christian  started the Jazz Kids of Montmartre in Copenhagen, Denmark. Christian is the Monterey Jazz Festival’s 2020 Artist-in-Residence.

David McGillicuddy, guitar
David is a graduate of Don Keller’s Aptos High School Jazz program who went on to study with Ray Brown at Cabrillo College and was a music major at UCSC. He was a member of the CCS Honor Jazz Band, CMEA State Honor Band, and the Monterey Jazz Festival High School All Star Band that performed at the MJF and toured Japan in 1987. He has taught music lessons privately since 1997, and his students have gone on to study music at the Berklee College of Music, and at USC and perform nationwide and internationally. David attended his first concert at Kuumbwa in 1985 and began volunteering at Kuumbwa in 1988. His YouTube channel of jazz guitar lessons has hundreds of subscribers and nearly a quarter of a million views.

Katie Thiroux, bass
atie is a bassist, vocalist and composer. By age 10, she was performing in principal vocal roles in the LA Opera and Opera Pacifica. She began studying privately with jazz vocalist Tierney Sutton at the age of 12, and in 2005, Thiroux began a mentorship with John Clayton. Among her many awards, she’s received the Shelly Manne New Talent from the Los Angeles Jazz Society, and in 2006, Katie was awarded the full-ride Phil Ramone Presidential Scholarship to Berklee College of Music. Thiroux was asked to teach abroad at the Berklee International School in Quito, Ecuador, and when she returned Los Angeles, she completed a Master of Jazz Bass from California State University of Long Beach on full scholarship in 2012. In 2015, Katie was a semi-finalist in the Thelonious Monk Competition. Katie’s latest recording, Off Beat, was cited by DownBeat as one of the “Best Albums of 2017.”

Matt Witek / Zach Olsen, drums
Matt Witek is a Los Angeles-based drummer. After graduating from Berklee College of Music in 2009, Witek furthered his studies in Los Angeles under the tutelage of world-renowned drummer Jeff Hamilton. Along with Hamilton’s mentorship, Matt completed a master’s degree in Jazz Studies on full scholarship at California State University Long Beach in 2012. 

Zack Olsen is a drummer, educator, and clinician and has been a mainstay on the Santa Cruz music scene for over 20 years. A student of Pete Magadini, Eddie Marshall and Dave Black, Olsen now teaches private students in Santa Cruz and is an instructor for the Kuumbwa Summer Jazz Camp. He is also a pit orchestra drummer for Cabrillo Stage in Aptos and has performed with Shakespeare Santa Cruz. He regularly appears around the Bay Area and West Coast with Tammi Brown, Smith Dobson Jr., Steve Wilson, the Cabrillo College Big Band, and many others. He is also a drum tech for Kuumbwa Jazz Center and the Monterey Jazz Festival.

Gaw Vang Williams, vocal jazz
Gaw is a jazz-pop vocalist and educator native to Sacramento, California. She became the director of vocal jazz program at Sacramento State in 2014, where she earned her Bachelor of Music in jazz studies and Master of Music in voice performance. She began teaching in 2004, serving as a music instructor at various high schools and music organizations. She also directs the Christian Brothers High School vocal jazz ensemble and previously directed the Sierra College vocal jazz ensemble. An active private music instructor, she has also worked as a vocal clinician, working with middle schools, high schools and collegiate ensembles and served as an adjudicator for many music festivals.  Under Williams' direction, the Sac State Vocal Jazz program has won 7 DownBeat Magazine Student awards.