About Me

I was born in Los Angeles, California, and spent most of his childhood there. My wife, Jane, and I have two daughters: Hallie Jo, 25, and Geneva, 23. In addition to teaching classroom music at Bel Aire School, I also teach band, direct the school musical, chorus, and percussion ensembles. In addition, I work free-lance as a piano teacher and accompanist, and, in the past, have directed community musical theater, served as church choir director, taught at Marin Theater Company, and at the Santa Rosa Children’s Choir. I did my undergraduate work at Williams College, in Massachusetts; my Graduate work at Indiana University; and received my teaching credential from San Francisco State.

One interesting fact you may not know about me is that I played the piano at the opening ceremonies of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles! This is my 25th year at Bel Aire. In 2003, I was proud to be selected as the District’s “Teacher of the Year”; in 2005, the Bel Aire music program was again recognized with a “Golden Bell” award; and in 2008, I was awarded an Outstanding Music Educator award from Yale University at it’s first ever international symposium entitled, “Music: A Child’s Birthright”. At a time when many districts view music as a “frill”, I feel fortunate to be working for a school district that recognizes music as essential to the education of the whole child. I love working with such great kids and with a terrific staff!Philoso


The music program at Bel Aire is based on Orff-Schulwerk, an approach to music education developed by the German composer Carl Orff and his colleague Gunild Keetman. Orff Schulwerk taps into children’s’ natural predisposition and attraction to games, rhymes, and chants. It is a multi-faceted approach to music education, which offers students a variety of media-- singing, dancing, playing instruments, dramatizing--in which to create and experience music. Orff-Schulwerk also embraces the music and dance of cultures around the world. The social dimensions of group music-making are also a highly valued aspect of the Bel Aire music program.

Program Overview

  • Orff-based general music: multi-faceted approach to music education which offers students a variety of media (i.e. singing, dancing, playing instruments, dramatizing) in which to create and experience music.

  • 3rd grade percussion ensemble: meets Thursday. a.m. at 7:30. This group provides students an opportunity to play in an ensemble setting using xylophones, drums, and a variety of other percussion instruments.

  • 4th- and 5th-grade percussion ensemble: meets Thursdays and Fridays respectively during lunch recess. This is an extension of the 3rd grade group. The emphasis here is on precision, and on more complex and challenging material. This is great for those musical kids who need something more than is offered in general music.

  • Chorus: meets Tuesday during lunch recess. This meets the needs of those students who love to sing, and who want to refine their singing skills. Since this is a performing group, it also meets the needs of those students who love to perform before an audience.

  • 5th Grade Band: meets once a week at 7:30 a.m. This gives band students a chance to practice in their section (i.e. flutes, clarinets, etc.), and focus on technical problems specific to their instruments.

  • Spring Musical: this is an extra-curricular activity sponsored by the PTA. Mr Gist has assisted with these productions in various capacities since joining Bel Aire. This has been an enormously popular event.