Dharmajazz Academy

Dharmajazz Academy

5.0Exceptional(6 reviews)
Offers online services
Offers online services


Years of practice, study, and performing have guided me in helping others connect the dots between technique, intention, and musical communication. In 2007 I published The Road to Aqaba—Practice Strategies for the Jazz Pianist, a combination of technique, theory, and memoir on developing an intimate tactile relationship with the piano, along with clear methods for building a personal vocabulary for improvisation (available at Dharmajazz.com.) TRTA provides core material for lessons, supplemented with constant creation of new materials as my own understanding and teaching continue to grow.

A vital part of my teaching is to identify how each student picks up new information, and what particular obstacles may be hindering their awareness of given concepts. One comment I hear frequently is, “Oh, now I get it - no one ever explained it to me like that.”

The coolest part of teaching for me is that moment when I watch “the light go on,” and the student gets that piece of information, performs that skill, or feels that window of understanding open that signals a deeper connection with the music.


18 years in business
Serves San Francisco , CA
Offers online services

Payment methods

Cash, Check, Venmo

Social media


Years experience

2 – 4 years experience, 4+ years of experience

Able to read music

Student can read music, Student cannot read music

Lesson length

60 minutes

Student's age

19 – 25 years old, 26 – 45 years old, 46 – 65 years old, Over 65 years old

Student has instrument

Students who have a piano, Students who have a keyboard

Interested musical styles

Jazz, Pop

Photos and videos

  • Reviews

    0 reviews

    Mikey W.

    A+. Highly recommended. Steve helps you understand the piano.
    Ive been taking (intermediate) piano lessons with Steve for two years and I wouldnt recommend anyone else. He knows the piano extremely well, in an intuitive and deeply personal way. Hes written a book of insightful practice methodologies, many of which hes creatively come up with on his own, The Road to Aqaba. He wont just teach you how to play, he will teach you how to practice! (And learning how to practice is arguably more important than learning how to play, not to mention youll do a whole lot more of it than playing :) He will help you to know and to understand the piano (as well as how to play pieces). Jazz or Classical. Beginner or Advanced, I dont think it matters.
    Piano aside, hes one of the best teachers Ive ever had. Hes always prepared with thoughtful and interesting material, while flexible enough to follow and develop the students mid-lesson interests and tangents. An incredibly peaceful soul, not once in two years was he frustrated with me, and I know that I can be an incredibly annoying student at times :o
    A+. Highly recommended. Develop musically & personally. Do it. You wont regret it.
    ... Show more
    February 22, 2021

    Liz B.

    Steve is very knowledgeable and patient with his students. He always gave me specific things to work on, and pushed the right amount to keep me going. I’d love to be able play with him again!
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    February 14, 2021

    Robin H.

    Steve is very knowledgeable and an excellent teacher. Being a singer himself, he knows how to coach someone to get the best support and sound. Hes great at creating arrangements for tunes and has been my musical director for some of my shows. Ive enjoyed working with him over many years.
    ... Show more
    February 14, 2021

    Michele R.

    Hes talented, teaches to the unique needs of the. individual, makes fantastic charts, can play on keyboard absolutely anything, cares, shares, hes the best. He teaches you to sing LIKE YOURSELF. Your own voice, but with better technique
    ... Show more
    February 13, 2021

    June K.

    Steve is a fabulous teacher and accompanist. He knows music. He knows how to teach in a way that makes it fun. I always leave my lessons feeling inspired and encouraged no matter how challenging the music. I also love that he can transcribe music from audio to paper for me.
    ... Show more
    February 13, 2021

    Josh T.

    Steve is a professional performing pianist, how has played in hundreds of venues for 40 years. He is a seasoned pro. He’s also been teaching for decades. He is a superb teacher, carefully listening to what I play, recommending what I need to practice to improve and move my own music to a higher level. He is extremely patient and supportive, while being highly informative. I trust Steve’s understanding of music, and I trust his ability to convey his knowledge with a unique combination of caring, patience and perseverance.
    ... Show more
    February 13, 2021

    Frequently asked questions

    The first part of working with new students involves diagnosing strengths and weaknesses, with an emphasis on their grasp of fundamentals. All else flows from there. 

    Next, we focus on specific simple tools for practicing in a deliberate and efficient way to get the greatest benefit from time spent on the instrument. Gaining solid fundamentals through conscientious and effective practice habits gives students the skills to play whatever music they are drawn to.

    From the beginning, understanding just how each student assimilates information is an evolving process guiding how I can best help them toward their musical goals—and beyond!

    I started playing piano at age three. I’m a lifelong musician and the most valuable training I've received comes from playing in hundreds of bands, styles, and settings: from garage bands to symphony orchestras.

    My formal training includes lots of private instruction of course. As a multifaceted performer, I have an undergraduate degree in Music from Southern Oregon University, during which time I studied and toured with the modern ballet company, Oregon Dance Theater. I earned a Masters Degree (M.M.) in Classical Piano Performance, with an emphasis in Jazz Studies from the University of Northern Colorado (1986). 

    Along the way I've participated in numerous jazz and performance master classes and retreats such as that which I undertook in Peru in 2002 to study native shamanic practice and the ancient Amazonian spiritual vocal melodies, Icaros.

    Collectively, these artistic and performance experiences have given me a wider variety of tools for teaching music as a language for expressing the deeper questions and yearnings of our innermost lives.

    ONE FREE TRIAL LESSON. $85 per hour Zoom lessons. 4-lesson pre-paid package discount of $300 ($75/hr). Free hard copy of my method book with 4-lesson package. Individual printable pdf lesson concepts included with all lessons as applicable.

    I began teaching by fielding questions and offering help to fellow students in college who saw that I had a different level of insight into the musical process. Concurrent with studying for my Masters Degree at the University of Northern Colorado, I taught jazz combos in the renown UNC Jazz Studies Program. Helping others discover their own connection to music grew into developing my own private teaching practice, which I have sought to improve upon for over thirty years.

    Currently accepting adults only: from beginners and returning enthusiasts, to professionals seeking to improve their improvisation skills and practice habits.

    I recently completed a personal YouTube #365 Challenge of creating and posting musical content everyday for a year. No breaks! I finished on October 31, 2020, having recorded hundreds of jazz standards and pop/rock covers, educational videos, and composing dozens of new pieces of music ranging from simple piano improvisations, to fully produced and released songs. Most of these can be viewed at YouTube.com/stevesnelling.

    I encourage any student seeking a new teacher to request a trial lesson. A good indicator is if you experience at least some immediate improvement based on the interaction. Be aware if the teacher seems to be listening to your questions and concerns (or not), as well as offering acknowledgement of your aspirations. And if possible, see if they can actually play what they are teaching. Being able to correctly demonstrate concepts is vital to successful lessons. All of this should be predicated on the teacher having solid reliable tools and a teaching setup that feels comfortable and supportive of the learning experience.

    Specific to jazz piano and improvisation, the student should have a sense that there is some clear attainable path to progress, and there should be ample time for interactive musical play between the teacher and student.

    I suggest students ask themselves a few things before starting lessons:

    1) What is the minimum you would like to learn? What’s the level or accomplishment that would give you the minimum satisfaction to make it worth your while to undertake lessons?

    2) What’s the highest level or greatest achievement you imagine attaining?

    3) How much time do you have to practice on a consistent basis, and how much time or patience are you willing to invest to make it happen?

    Obviously, based on the information the teacher provides in advance, you should consider whether or not that teacher is likely to have the skill set or teaching emphasis to help get you to your goals. A student should be comfortable to share what in the past has NOT worked for them with other teachers.

    Services offered

    Music Theory