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San Marcos Music Academy

565 North Arizona Avenue

Chandler, AZ 85225

(480) 292-7955


565 North Arizona Avenue

Chandler, AZ 85225

(480) 292-7955


Guitar & Bass Guitar

Encompassing the worlds of jazz, rock, classical, world music, R&B and hip-hop,

Donald Pena has committed the better part of 15 years to being a student of these

various styles of music. With an emphasis on Jazz and Music Production, Donald

graduated with a degree in Contemporary Music from Santa Fe University of Art and

Design. In addition to studying music in school and having been a member of school

affiliated groups such as, Big Band, Latin Jazz Band, Balkan Ensemble, Funk

Ensemble, and Jazz Quartets and Quintets, Donald has been playing professionally

for over a decade and has been teaching for nearly as long. He is currently the

guitarist and one of the main producers for the award winning group, The Maya


Donald’s interest in music was sparked when on one Christmas Eve his younger

brother was gifted an electric guitar. That night, despite it being his brother’s

instrument, Donald learned his first song on the guitar. Luckily for Donald, his

brother had already set his heart on playing the drums. Within a couple years

Donald was gigging professionally and studying jazz formally under Pete Pancrazi.

He soon became the pupil of some of the Valley’s greatest musicians, Dom Moio,

Raul Yanez, and Nick Manson.

His teaching style is in part derived from his most influential teachers, wherein

lessons are based on the individual desire and musical taste of a student, coupled

with a strong instilling of the fundamentals of music theory, vocabulary, and

fretboard harmony. His goal is to cultivate within the student a sense of authority

over their instrument so that they are eventually able to teach themselves.

Donald Pena

“I’ve been taking lessons from Donald for a couple months, and I have really enjoyed learning from him. He’s very good with theory and very patient with me during classes. Having been a piano student for the past eight years, Donald has helped explain the correlation between the piano and guitar, thus making it easier for me to learn the instrument in a fast and fun way! I would highly recommend him as a teacher for students of any level.”

Esha A. (student)

Matt Vandal is a remarkable guitarist. His fusion playing will ignite your ears with his enthralling and melodious guitar solos. You can hear his many influences in his playing, including Eric Johnson, Steve Morse, Pat Metheny and John Scofield, among many others. His solo fingerstyle sound will remind you of Leo Kottke and Chet Atkins, both of whom are clear influences.

Matt has been playing guitar since the age of seven. “I grew up in a VERY musical home. My Dad played in bands while attending college and my Mom is a classically trained pianist. Two of my brothers are guitar players and another brother played bass. My family has always been connected in one way or another to that beautiful sonic universe that is music.”

Matt has played as many styles of music as he can get his hands on. He was a member of the Pensacola Guitar Ensemble (a classical guitar quartet), is currently teaching guitar, and gigged extensively in the East Valley with the jazz group Vandal Hancock Duo and with his fusion quartet, The Matt Vandal Group. Matt's teaching repertoire contains classical, jazz, fusion, shred, blues, as well as original compositions. He is also an avid player and teacher of the 8 string extended range guitar.

“My son Alec's band played the Hard Rock yesterday.. much of his guitar skill is rooted in his lessons with Matt, so a big thank you!!”

Gil S. (parent)

“I’ve known Matt for about 10 years. He is passionate about music and an enthusiastic teacher. Matt has taught me how to read music and shown me proper techniques for playing guitar.  He is patient and always encourages me to try new styles.  Matt is an amazing teacher and I've enjoyed being his student.”

Nick M. (student)

Mario Zelaya is a professional bass player, composer and producer in different styles of music, including Brazilian, Latin, World Music and commercials for local Spanish-speaking radio stations. His bass playing is influenced and inspired by Jaco Pastorius, Richard Bona and Marcus Miller.

Mario has been playing bass since the age of 11. Since then, he has performed with many different bands in Europe (Sweden), Latin America and the United States.

Matt Vandal

Mario Zelaya (Se Habla Español)

“Mario has helped keep my son engaged and enthused about learning to play guitar. He keeps getting better and better.”

Customer since October 2013

“Mario has been my daughter's guitar instructor for several years. Each week she can't wait to go to her lesson. He's extremely intuitive, and has kept her engaged and challenged right at the level she's needed. Without that level of engagement, I'm not sure she'd still be playing. After every lesson, she can't wait to play what she's learned. Wonderful instructor. Thank you!”

Customer since November 2013

“I just started back up with my teacher Mario. He is very patient and a great instructor. His prices and selection are always in line with competitors and in most cases lower.”

Customer since November 2015

Starting at 10 years old, Rex Torgeson has been playing guitar for nearly 12 years. It was clear early on to his teacher, Matt Vandal of the McKnight Music Academy, that Rex was drawn to complicated technique and speed. The more complex and challenging the material, the better. Starting with a song by his then favorite band, Green Day, Rex would practice for up to five hours a day and quickly advanced to more technically-demanding pieces to match the evolving complexity of his musical taste.

After five years of training, Rex was asked to instruct as the Progressive Metal specialist. After having taught at McKnight for five years, Rex is now instructing at San Marcos while studying as a quintuple major at Arizona State University.

Rex Torgeson