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Benwar Shepard

Executive Director

Benwar Shepard was raised in South Sacramento receiving his education in the Elk Grove Unified School District K through 12 schools. Shepard received his Bachelor’s and Master's degrees in Music Education from the Conservatory of Music at the University of the Pacific. He has taught music in public schools in Stockton Unified and Elk Grove Unified School Districts. Shepard has taught music in churches, homeless shelters, parks, community centers, apartments, and various school settings. Shepard has spent the last 6 years teaching music at Valley High School and Jackman Middle School in Elk Grove Unified School District and is now teaching full time at Jackman Middle School. His passion for actively taking arts education to the heart of the community-led him to establish 501(c)3 non-profit Bigger Than Us Arts.  


Mr. Shepard is the Director of Education at the Department of Sound, is the former Co-director for the Sacramento youth bands jazz ensemble and combos, is an active member of Element Brass Band, and performs with several New Orleans Style Brass Band throughout California. It is also part of his life purpose to unify the community through arts and has used Instrument and Art Petting Zoos, leading adult and youth brass bands, and teaching and providing instruction in both public and private settings to accomplish this. He is very excited about the launching of the Sacramento Brass Band Collective which will combine the efforts of several Sacramento Brass Bands to promote arts throughout the streets in our city.

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Byron Colborn 

 Teaching Artist

Saxophonist Byron Colborn is a Program Manager and Teaching Artist for Bigger Than Us Arts. Byron grew up in Davis, CA and is a graduate of Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. Byron currently teaches our Woodwind Ensemble on Thursdays from 3:00 - 5:00 pm, as well as private lessons that are tailored to your schedule. Byron has been a prominent performer, bandleader, and teacher in Sacramento for more than a decade. He is the leader of many groups including the Element Brass Band, his own 18-piece Big Band, and a variety of small groups. Byron also performs often as a sideman with vocalist Peter Petty. Sign up to study with Byron at

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Mawiyah Bustamante

Human Resources Director

"My mother loves to tell me how I was singing before I could talk.  There are also a couple of teachers that reported that I was happy to entertain my classmates by standing on the tables and singing songs even during nap time. I wonder if she realizes I actually was singing in the womb. 

I was born in Culver City and lived in southern California up until 5th grade.  I have fond memories that when it was time for show and tell, I would sing. You may recognize the hits at the time were performed such as  “Tell me why the road turns” by Diana Ross and Wham’s “Careless Whisper”.  I even competed in a talent show singing “Let’s Hear it for the boy,” disappointedly, I lost to a lip-sync. 

We moved to Sacramento in the summer of 1986.  The beginning of my wonder years, summer before the 6th grade. I am a Valley Viking alumni class of 1993.  After receiving a music scholarship to the CSU, Sacramento Vocal Music program, I took a long hiatus to be a mom and State Worker in Personnel.

Now, it is an honor to join the BTU Arts family as the Human Resources Director.  I am happy to be part of this beautiful mission to keep the performing arts and expressions in our community."

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Dominic Garia 
Percussion Lead/Teaching Artist 
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