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Cal High Instrumental Music

Instructional Staff

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Dave Ellis
Instrumental Music Director

When the Berkeley High School Jazz Ensemble visited his 5th grade class, Dave fell in love with the saxophone. He later became a star member of the BHS Jazz Ensemble and spent his summers making music under the redwoods at Cazadero Music camp. After graduation from BHS, Dave continued his music education at Berklee College of Music in Boston, receiving a bachelor’s degree in Music Production and Engineering & Tenor Saxophone. Returning home to the Bay Area in 1992, Dave quickly became a well-known figure on the Bay Area jazz scene where he was a founding member of the acid-jazz Charlie Hunter Trio, with their debut CD on Prawnsong Records produced by Les Claypool (Primus), and two recordings for Blue Note Records. In 1996, Dave recorded his debut CD as a leader for Monarch Records, Raven, produced by the late Bud Spangler. Dave’s two follow up CD’s, In The Long Run (1998-Monarch) and State Of Mind (2003-Milestone) were produced by legendary jazz producer Orin Keepnews. He was voted 2nd in the JAZZIZ readers’ poll in 1997 for Best New Artist behind Diana Krall and has won several Bay Area and California Music Awards, including the Best Jazz Artist (1999), and Best Jazz Album award for State Of Mind (2004).


Dave has since performed, recorded and toured - nationally and internationally - with a diverse group of world-renowned artists and groups including Kenny Barron, Bill Bell, The Black Crowes, The Grateful Dead, Nneena Freelon, Mickey Hart, Bruce Hornsby, Bobby Hutcherson, Phil Lesh, Eddie Marshall, Christian McBride, Mulgrew Miller, Donny Osmond, Bonnie Raitt, Patrice Rushen, Boz Scaggs and Bob Weir. In addition, Dave produced and/or engineered several CDs including his vocalist sister Zoe Ellis’ debut CD Live At Anna’s Jazz Island (2007), released by their music production and publishing company Zadell Media Productions.

Dave has always been interested in helping the next generation of players succeed. He performed and taught in the San Francisco Symphony’s Adventures In Music program; instructed both recording and jazz ensemble courses at the California Jazz Conservatory in Berkeley; served as a clinician, master class instructor and adjudicator for Monterey Jazz Festival's Next Generation High School Jazz Competition, and at the Campana Jazz Festival. He has coached jazz ensembles and combos, taught saxophone, music theory, ear training and musicianship for Berkeley High School, Albany High School, Longfellow Middle School, Jazz Camp West, UC Berkeley’s Young Musicians Program, and Stanford Jazz Workshop.


Dave spent 2014-2021 as the Jazz Program Director at Oakland School for the Arts teaching both middle and high school where he designed and implemented an award winning jazz program and Big Band.

Briana Berastain
Marching Ensemble Co-Director

Briana Berastain is a co-director for our Marching Ensemble this year. She is a Cal High alumnus, having graduated in 2019 after four years of playing flute, piccolo, and oboe in the concert and marching programs. In April 2023, she graduated from the University of Redlands with her B.M. in Music Education. She was also a visual and woodwind coach for us during the beginning of the 2021 marching season, and is very excited to be back at Cal High again. In addition to working with our Marching Ensemble, Ms. Berastain (or Ms. B) is the music teacher at Creekside Elementary in Danville.

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Daniel Rugani
Marching Ensemble Co-Director


Lori Willis
Orchestra and Choir Director

Mezzo soprano Lori Willis began her musical career as a violinist, receiving scholarships from the University of California, Berkeley Young Musician’s Program and from Oberlin College Conservatory of Music for violin performance. After obtaining a B.A. in Political Science from U.C. Berkeley, Ms. Willis gained recognition as a vocalist. She has performed a variety of roles and made guest soloist appearances with countless groups that include Oakland East Bay Symphony, Oakland Opera, Sacramento Philharmonic, Golden Gate Opera, Berkeley Opera, Cal State East Bay Chorus, The Lucy Kinchen Chorale, Opera Noir and Oakland City Chorus. She has also been a member of the San Francisco Opera Chorus for their performances of The Trojans (2015), Die Meistersinger (2015), and Porgy and Bess (2009). 


Ms. Willis has studied voice with Sheri Greenawald, Wendy Hillhouse and Allen Shearer and has also been a student of vocal coach, Marcie Stapp. She has a Master of Arts degree in Vocal Performance from California State University, East Bay and has been a voice instructor at Laney College in Oakland, California.  Ms. Willis currently teaches Concert Choir, Chamber Singers, Chamber Orchestra, String Orchestra and AP Music Theory at Cal High.

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