BLUE BEAR LIVE III – Friday, May 9th at Great American Music Hall

A Youth Music Education Benefit

By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Fine Arts Critic
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

On Friday, May 9th blues guitar legend, Elvin Bishop, The Elvin Bishop Band and some very special guests will be laying it down at THE GREAT AMERICAN MUSIC HALL for Blue Bear School of Music’s 3rd annual Blue Bear Live – Youth Music Education Benefit Concert. Special performances by an assortment of Blue Bear affiliated youth bands will get the party started in an inspired way and the evening’s entertainment will end with a New Orleans style funk dance party set featuring The International Playboys.

Headlining this year’s benefit is blues legend Elvin Bishop. His latest Blind Pig album, BOOTY BUMPIN’, features both old favorites and recent triumphs exemplifying why Elvin has become one of the most respected and beloved artists to come out of the 60′s blues-rock explosion. As a founding member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Bishop continues to stir up a party with a bluesy stew of slide guitar and groovin’ rhythms.

Tommy Castro, center, with Elvin Bishop guitarist, and Ronnie Baker

BLUE BEAR LIVE III supports Blue Bear’s many outstanding youth music education programs. Over the past two years proceeds from Blue Bear Live events have funded a multitude of innovative music education programs and initiatives for youth in San Francisco and beyond. Successful programs that are supported with Blue Bear Live funds include: the STAR (Schools That Aspire to Rock) program which provides instruments, teachers, instrument instruction and performances opportunities to more than 200 students each year at James Lick Middle School, Rooftop Alternative School and Woodside International School; Blue Bear’s Studio 101 program which engages 300+ students through songwriting, music production and music technology and is offered at numerous schools and youth based community centers including the Manzanita Recreation Center, Friends of the Children, Urban Services YMCA, Star King Elementary School, San Francisco Public Library and Claire Lilienthal School; scholarship support for students attending and Blue Bear summer camps and other music education programs and activities throughout the year; and the Little Bears Music program which provides early childhood music education for more than 200 infants, toddlers and their families at various locations throughout San Francisco.

2008 Blue Bear Celebrity Sponsor and bandleader for BLUE BEAR LIVE III, Elvin Bishop is one of the most respected guitarists to emerge from the ’60s blues-rock explosion. Bishop started in Chicago playing with such artists as J.T. Brown, Hound Dog Taylor and Junior Wells before making his name as a founding member of seminal electric blues group PAUL BUTTERFIELD BLUES BAND (which included Howlin’ Wolf’s former rhythm section). An integrated band playing blues music in 1965 was unheard of, and this, together with the band’s powerful rock ‘n’ roll infused sound, helped introduce the blues to a whole new audience. Elvin eventually relocated to San Francisco, where he launched a solo career that has spanned four decades. He played in the epic Allman Brothers Band’s Fillmore East concerts, recorded and toured with such blues luminaries as John Lee Hooker and B.B. King, and hit the charts with several solo tracks, all while clocking in many hours on the road and onstage entertaining and delighting crowds. Elvin has released two well-received solo albums on renowned blues and roots label Blind Pig Records, including his latest release BOOTY BUMPIN’. The album captures the blues legend at home in front of a live audience, doing what he does best: stirring up a party with a bluesy stew of slide guitar and groovin’ rhythms. The Elvin Bishop Band also features Mighty Mike Schermer on guitar and vocals, Ed Earley on trombone and percussion, Timm Walker on bass, S.E. Willis on keys and accordion, and Bobby Cochran on drums and vocals.

TOMMY CASTRO has established himself as one of the most popular artists in the blues arena, with a unique brand of rock ‘n’ soul music and consistently tight, crowd-pleasing performances. The engaging guitarist, vocalist and songwriter from San Jose first learned to play guitar at age 10, and was initially inspired by the likes of Eric Clapton, Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop (whom he’ll join onstage at Blue Bear Live III). In 1991 he formed the TOMMY CASTRO BAND, and in a remarkably short time went from performing at a tiny San Francisco saloon to opening for B.B. King’s national tours to making high-profile appearances on network television. His 2007 Blind Pig release PAINKILLER garnered praise as one of the best albums in Tommy’s distinguished career, receiving positive reviews from The Washington Post, Billboard and many more, winning BluesWax’s 2008 Album of the Year, and earning a 2008 Blues Music Awards “Contemporary Blues Album of the Year” nomination – with Tommy himself nominated for Blues Music Awards “B.B. King Entertainer of the Year.” The Tommy Castro Band also features Scot Sutherland on bass, Tom Poole on trumpet, Chris Sandoval on drums, and Keith Grossan on saxophone.

A former Blue Bear student and current board member, BONNIE HAYES is an acclaimed music educator who leads popular Blue Bear songwriting classes, and who designed and directs our innovative Blue Bear Summer Camps program for teens. She has also forged a highly successful career as a songwriter, producer and performer, famed for her kick-out-the-jams style – which she’s exhibited at every Blue Bear Live show since 2006. Bonnie’s songs have been recorded by such diverse artists as Bonnie Raitt (“Have A Heart” and “Love Letter” helped restore Raitt to superstardom), Bette Midler, Robert Cray, Adam Ant, David Crosby, Booker T and the MGs and Cher, and she has toured as a keyboard player/vocalist with Huey Lewis, Billy Idol and Belinda Carlisle. Her own recordings have also put her on the map, from her pop/punk debut Good Clean Fun that earned critical raves and national college airplay, to her current release LOVE IN THE RUINS.

Rising young blues star JOHN NÉMETH is a singer steeped in the tradition of B.B. King, Ray Charles and Junior Parker, and a harmonica player of riveting intensity and virtuosity. A native of Boise, Idaho, grew up singing in a Catholic church and started playing in local bands as a teenager, then in 2002 became a featured artist with influential blues guitarist and singer Junior Watson who called John’s voice “a national treasure”. Heralded by the Cascade Blues Association and the Washington Blues Society, Németh has opened for Robert Cray, Keb Mo’ and Earl Thomas and earned international acclaim for performances at major music festivals in the U.S., Europe, Canada and Asia. Signed to Blind Pig in 2006, John released his label debut, MAGIC TOUCH, in 2007, featuring Junior Watson on guitar. The album lived up to its high expectations, and is a “Best New Artist Debut” nominee in this year’s Blues Music Awards.


A fixture on the Bay Area Blues scene for more than 20 years, MIGHTY MIKE SCHERMER is the “go to” sideman for such heavyweights as Elvin Bishop, Bonnie Raitt, Charlie Musselwhite, Maria Muldaur, Howard Tate, fellow Blue Bear Live special guest artists Tommy Castro and Angela Strehli, and many, many more. He’s also enjoyed a solid solo career with two acclaimed CDs, an award winning single and critical praise in his own right. His current release, the compilation CD RIGHT HAND MAN, VOL. 1, chronicles Mighty Mike’s career alongside many top artists, and captures the cutting tone and emotional style that have made him a favorite of music fans, media and industry greats. His musical journey began at age 10 with the guitar, trumpet and clarinet. A 1984 Albert Collins concert was a pivotal moment that turned his passion toward the blues. Since then the blues has brought him to sessions, festivals and clubs in all 50 U.S. states and 19 countries around the world.

San Francisco native VICKI RANDLE has also graced the stage at every Blue Bear Live show since 2006. This talented vocalist, percussionist, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter is a sought-after talent in the music industry and one of the most visible musicians in America. Vicki is the lead vocalist and percussionist of the acclaimed Tonight Show Band, a group she’s been with for 14 years from its founding under Branford Marsalis to its current director Kevin Eubanks. Her skill and musical flexibility keep her in demand by guests as diverse as Phil Collins, Al Green, Elton John, kd lang, Vince Gill, Tori Amos, Albert Collins, Robert Palmer, David Sanborn, Al Jarreau and Garth Brooks. Chances are you own or have heard an album that features Vicki, or perhaps you’ve seen her perform onstage: she has toured and recorded with Pharaoh Sanders, Babatunde Lea, Pete Escovedo, Romeo Void, Doobie Brothers, Wayne Shorter, Kenny Loggins, Lionel Richie, George Benson, Aretha Franklin, Dr. John, Herbie Hancock, Laura Nyro, Mickey Hart and many, many more. Vicki recently released her first solo album, Sleep City, produced by friend and musical collaborator Bonnie Hayes.


Gifted singer and songwriter ANGELA STREHLI hails from the same West Texas landscape as Buddy Holly, Waylon Jennings and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. Inspired by the mix of blues, country and rock ‘n’ roll she heard on the radio, young Angela played harmonica and bass before becoming a full-time vocalist. She was a key figure in Austin’s explosive blues scene of the ’70s and ’80s, alongside Stevie Ray Vaughan (who championed Angela all through his career), Jimmy Vaughan and Clifford Antone (founder of the namesake, storied Austin club). It was at Antone’s that Angela had the opportunity to perform with and learn from legends like Muddy Waters, Otis Rush, Albert Collins, Buddy Guy and Albert King. She was voted the city’s best female vocalist six times, and often collaborated with fellow Austin stars Marcia Ball and Lou Ann Barton. Now based in San Francisco, Angela continues to work with a remarkable array of musicians, including fellow Blue Bear Live guest artists Tommy Castro and Mighty Mike Schermer, and has released several solo studio and live albums to positive acclaim.

Other scheduled artists include André Thierry, R.C. Carriere, The International Playboys, and young representatives from STAR (Schools That Aspire to Rock) Bands.

To purchase tickets on-line: BLUE BEAR LIVE III
For more information: BLUE BEAR SCHOOL OF MUSIC

Visit Seán on YouTube:
Lorena Feijóo – A Look at “Giselle” with Seán Martinfield
SAMSON & DELILAH – Meet Seán Martinfield

Seán recommendations for your recording Library:
CD – THE PAUL BUTTERFIELD BLUES BAND. – Featuring Paul Butterfield (vocals, harmonica) Mike Bloomfield (slide guitar), Elvin Bishop (guitar), Sam Lay (vocals, drums), Mark Naftalin (organ), Jerome Arnold (bass).
CD – BOOTY BUMPIN’. – Elvin Bishop (guitar), Bobby Cochran, Ed Earley (background vocals), Steve Willis (accordion), Evan Palmerston (bass guitar), John Nemeth (vocals).
CD – PAINKILLER. – The Tommy Castro Band. Featured with Castro are Randy McDonald (bass), Keith Crossan (saxophonist), and Chris Sandoval (drums).
CD – LOVE IN THE RUINS. – Featuring Bay Area songwriter and vocalist Bonnie Hayes.
CD – MAGIC TOUCH. – Debut album for John Németh
CD – VICKI RANDLE. – Solo release from vocalist, percussionist, multi-instrumentalist, and songwriter Vicki Randle.
CD – MIGHTY MIKE SCHERMER BAND, FIRST SET. – Featuring 11 songs including Lonesome Whistle Blues, Annabelle, and I Want a Little Girl.
CD – ANGELA STREHLI – Blonde and Blue. – Blues vocalist strikes a personal chord with songs such as Two Bit Texas Town, Never Like This Before, Can’t Stop These Teardrops.

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Seán Martinfield is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at:

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