Originally from Los Angeles, Brogan Bentley (Media Studies class of 2012) moved to San Francisco sixteen years ago to study at the University of San Francisco. “I’ll never forget, it was early morning and it was really foggy, and I entered [USF’s campus] right off of Fulton and I was just like, ‘This place feels special,’” he says. “It was kind of a no-brainer.”
Brogan began his college career as an undeclared major. At his dad’s suggestion, he signed up for a film course: Melinda Stone’s Independent Cinema of San Francisco, which exposed him to San Francisco’s underground art scene, igniting his interest in the creative side of Media Studies. “I’m not a traditional learner. I’m not necessarily an academic, but I’m very creative,” he says. “And Melinda and the rest of the Media Studies department allowed me to express my creativity in a way that checked off all the stuff that school asks of you.”
On top of his coursework, Brogan crewed on student films with fellow classmates, wrote horoscopes for the SF Foghorn, and DJ’ed at KUSF from 3-6 a.m. as Brother Bentley. All these extracurriculars “definitely interfered with some of my schoolwork, but it was so worth it, because it just kind of threw me into this legacy of independent media,” he says. Brogan played bass and sang vocals in Ghost Town Refugees, a band formed at USF featuring a rotating lineup of students, including alumni Dennis Walker, Sunny Pierce, Christian Hasselberger, Christopher Braun, and Matt Chabalian. The band went on tour in Europe and played at the Meo Spot music festival in Portugal.
After graduating, Brogan stayed in the city, playing local shows and making connections in the underground arts community. “San Francisco being so small really creates the opportunity to connect,” he says. “It’s not uncommon to run into people that you went to school with when you’re out and about.” Brogan got a job teaching for an after-school music program at Glen Park Elementary through a chance encounter with a friend from USF, who worked at the school. There he collaborated with Jairo Vargas, the lead singer of the Bay Area Reggae band Bayonics, to start a student band program, which Brogan considers one of his greatest post-grad accomplishments. “Some of these kids had never played music outside of their regular curriculum, which is not very well funded. I was able to watch kids, who didn’t even know that they loved music, get turned on to music… Oftentimes, their parents wouldn’t even know that there were these incredibly gifted, talented, young kids who just needed the instruments put in front of them for them to have that activated.”
After Glen Park, Brogan focused on teaching audio production at San Francisco State University and the Blue Bear School of Music. Currently, he is involved with Local 16, the SF chapter of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (I.A.T.S.E.). The stagehands’ union handles huge concerts and conferences in San Francisco, including working with the Moscone Center, Salesforce, and Oracle. Brogan rigs lighting and sound equipment, and says his audio classes at USF taught him a lot of the basics.
In 2019, Brogan completed an MFA in Electronic Music and Recording Media at Mills College. There he became interested in “sound healing,” a type of therapy that uses music to improve well-being. He did research on “Biofeedback” and “Brainwave Entrainment,” and made a sculptural sound piece that mixed light and ambient noise for his masters project. “I’d say I’m a musician, but I think my focus these days is more geared towards the healing arts,” he says.
The flexibility of a Media Studies degree has helped him mold his career to suit his different interests as he navigates post-grad life. “Media Studies is such an umbrella term, which is why I think it’s so valuable and applicable because everything is media,” he says. “That’s what we learned in the program. Everything from the billboards you see, to the stuff on the radio, on television, and on the internet. Everything is media.”
Being flexible and going with the flow has worked well for Brogan, but he’s also had times when he wasn’t pursuing his passions, and he says that is okay too. “Sometimes you have to make sacrifices that are not necessarily comfortable or what you would envision for the time being. I’ve worked some catering jobs and stuff that weren’t exactly exciting or inspiring, but… always trust that things are lining up in ways that are probably better than you could have imagined.”
Brogan attributes a lot of his success to the connections he made at USF and in the greater Bay Area community: “You just find your people everywhere you go, you know, if you’re just kind of living true to yourself and making your art.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Savannah Dewberry is a journalism student at the University of San Francisco. In addition to MediaZine, she is the Chief of Copy for the SF Foghorn, and an intern for the SF Times. She is originally from the East Bay, and enjoys textile crafting.