Director of Bands: Kevin McKeown, 2012 – Present
Kevin McKeown is in his 19th year of teaching in SMMUSD and his 8th year as Director of Bands at Samohi. In July 2019, the Samohi Bands were thrilled to learn that Mr. McKeown had accepted the position of adjunct assistant professor and interim Director of Athletic Bands at UCLA. In addition to working with concert and marching band students at Samohi, he now directs the “Solid Gold Sound” of the UCLA Marching Band.
Under his direction, the Samohi Wind Ensemble has performed at Chicago Symphony Hall, Carnegie Hall, Royce Hall, and Kennedy Center. In 2016 his ensemble was selected as the only high school band invited to perform at the California All-State Music Education Conference (CASMEC). His leadership with the Viking Marching Band has led to improved participation and level of performance, consistently high place scores including a 3rd place finish at the 2018 SCSBOA field championships, and a school record 90.5 score at the 2016 championships. Mr. McKeown also created the “Bands at the Broad” annual fundraiser to support scholarships for Samohi band student travel.
Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, Mr. McKeown and his family left “The Troubles” behind in 1982 to come to Santa Monica for a new life. He is a proud alumnus of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, where he held the position of Drum Major at Samohi in 1992. Mr. McKeown attended UCLA for his Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Education, plus a Master of Music degree and Doctoral work in conducting. He holds a teaching credential from Cal State Los Angeles.
Under the direction of Gordon Henderson, he was a four year drum major for the UCLA Bruin Marching Band, leading the band in Rose Bowl, Cotton Bowl, and Aloha Bowl performances, and two motion pictures. He went on to earn a Masters of Music degree in Instrumental Conducting, becoming the Graduate Associate Conductor of the UCLA Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band, under the mentorship of Dr. Thomas Lee.
Before joining the faculty at Samohi, Mr. McKeown taught at John Adams Middle School, S.M.A.S.H. Middle School, and at every elementary school in the SMMUSD. He conducts the wind ensembles at Santa Monica College and the Claire Trevor School of the Arts at the University of California, Irvine. He is also an active adjudicator, clinician, and guest conductor throughout Southern California, and has previously held positions at CSUN, CSULA and Long Beach City College. In September of 2017 he was guest conductor of the All-State level Wind Ensemble in Brisbane, Australia.
Outside of teaching and conducting, Mr. McKeown enjoys spending time with his family, riding his bicycle, eating great Japanese food in his Sawtelle neighborhood, and working on his ongoing pursuit to carry a single digit handicap in golf.
Director: Terry Sakow, 1990 – Present
Terry Sakow began teaching at Santa Monica High School (Samohi) in 1990. During his tenure at Santa Monica High School the bands grew to 270 students, from only 80 in his first year.
Between 1995 and 2006 he served as Chair of the Santa Monica High School Music Department overseeing the entire music curriculum, and also serving as consultant for a massive renovation of the school auditorium and the music facility.
By the end of his time as department chair, Samohi music department enrollment exceeded 800 students, and the music facility and performance hall had become the state-of-the-art facilities that we enjoy today. During Mr. Sakow’s tenure, the band program at Santa Monica High School has developed into one of the finest and most comprehensive of its kind in California.
His ensembles have received top honors at adjudicated performances and are considered amongst the finest bands in California. The Santa Monica High School Wind Ensemble performed at the California Music Educators Association Convention in 2006. The Wind Ensemble also performed in Carnegie Hall in 2007. Many past members of the Wind Ensemble have continued their music education at prestigious conservatories, universities, and schools of music.
Mr. Sakow was born in Yokosuka, Japan. Because his father was in the U.S. Navy, Mr. Sakow grew up in Japan, Hawaii and California, beginning his musical studies in the 6th grade in Poway, California as a trumpeter in the school band. Mr. Sakow earned a Bachelor of Arts in music from UCLA in 1989 and later a Masters in Music Education from the University of Illinois in 1997.
His musical mentors are Karl Fitch, Lar Best, Marc Davis, Gerald and Linda Anderson, Chris Schwabe, Samuel Krachmalnick, Dr. Thomas Lee, Gordon Henderson, Gary Rosenblatt and Dr. Abel Ramirez.
Mr. Sakow is also the principal trumpet player of the Santa Monica College Orchestra. Despite his busy schedule as a high school band director, he still finds time to perform on the trumpet and is invited to perform with many community and university ensembles around Southern California.
Jazz Band Director: Tom Whaley, 2005 – Present
Tom Whaley has been the SMMUSD Visual & Performing Arts Coordinator since 2001 and the Samohi Jazz Band Director since 2005. Before coming to the district, he directed middle and high school bands in Burbank and Morro Bay, and his ensembles have won many awards in Band Festivals throughout the state. He has been featured in the Los Angeles Times and has received both the Burbank Mayor’s Commendation and the Crystal Apple Award sponsored by NBC. He earned a B.A. in Music Education from Boston’s Berklee College of Music, a M.A. from the University of Miami in Traditional Performance, and a M.A. in Educational Administration from CSULA. He is also a professional trombonist and has performed in numerous motion picture, television, and recording sessions. From 2005-2007, he served as the jazz representative to the California Music Educators Association.
Jazz Band II Director: Ryan Rowles, 2019 – Present
Ryan Rowles comes from a long line of trumpet players. He followed his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather’s footsteps when he began playing in the 3rd grade. And for the past 20 years, Ryan has been teaching and playing music. Prior to joining the SMMUSD elementary music team for the 2018-19 school year, Ryan served as the Program Director for Education Through Music-Los Angeles, a non-profit organization that provides music instruction to students in disadvantaged schools. During his time at ETM-LA, Ryan helped to expand programming from 12 schools in 3 school districts to 35 schools in 5 school districts.
Previously, Ryan was the Director of Instrumental Music at Heritage Christian Schools where he directed middle and high school wind ensemble, orchestra, and jazz ensemble. Ryan currently serves as the President Elect for the California Music Educators Association-Southwest Section. In addition to his work as an elementary music teacher in SMMUSD, he also directs the Concert Band at SMASH and will be directing the Lincoln Jazz Band beginning the 2019-20 school year.
Beyond teaching, Ryan enjoys time with his family, seeing live music, and continues to play professionally in LA when he can. He is an aficionado of all things coffee (aka coffee snob), and can frequently be seen in small cafes throughout Los Angeles.