Blue Bear Executive Director Steven Savage starts this one off telling us all about Tennessee Mowrey's step-mom.
It's a story that involves three siblings (Bonnie Hayes and two of her brothers) who showed up at the fledgling music school in 1971 when it was located on Ocean Ave. Susie, Tennessee's step-mom, knew Bonnie from both of their touring gigs (possibly a Billy Idol tour), and Bonnie brought Susie to Blue Bear.
Tennessee joins in to give a little more context to his step-mom's story. Then Steve rewinds a bit to share the story of Blue Bear's opening.
Originally started as a way to make money while the band aimed for stardom, the school saw success in the first few years, with something like 60 students enrolled. But it started to founder a bit, and Steve had left. He got a phone call asking him to come back and save the operation, and he did.
There was a sizable debt to pay off. But in 1977, they made the decision to move to Fort Mason. And with that, the school started to grow. We talk about how they went about recruiting students back then, a common practice in those days that might surprise some of you.
These days, it's mostly word-of-mouth, and to a somewhat sobering effect: 40,000 students have enrolled at Blue Bear in its 50 years. We talk about how the school has evolved its teaching philosophy, especially with the advent of completely new genres of music. And then we hear about a few standout success stories coming out of Blue Bear.
We end this podcast with Steven and Tennessee talking about what it means for Blue Bear School of Music to still be here after 50 years.
We recorded this podcast at Blue Bear School of Music in Fort Mason Center for the Arts and Culture in June 2021.
Photography by Michelle Kilfeather