I first played the guitar because my Dad sprained his thumb. No joke… You see, my Grandparents had given our family a cheap (fourteen-and-a-half-books-of-Green-Stamps -- remember those?!) guitar. It was ¾ size, had steel strings, and utterly baffled my otherwise musical family. My Dad, a man not known for his patience, apparently had been trying to teach himself how to play this instrument with only the aid of a book. As was his wont, he struggled and persevered until something broke (his thumb.)
The next up was my Mom. She lasted nowhere near as long as my Dad did until her patience gave out. What happened to the guitar? Straight to the attic it went… which is where I found it one rainy day.
I had been to the attic before. It was a strange and wonderful place, filled with steamer trunks and old books from eras long since bygone, objects that I couldn’t identify – but I knew with my child’s vivid imagination – told wonderful tales of far-off places, fraught with danger and excitement, all the things that make a twelve year old boy’s heart race. And on this particular day, there was this peculiar triangle shaped box. So I did what any boy would do: I opened the box.
There it was. It was a Stella guitar, the cheapest of the cheap. But it had all six strings and it worked. On top of the guitar was a copy of Mel Bay’s Modern Guitar Method Level One. [This book is still in print today and is still of value to all aspiring guitarists. If you want to learn how to read music, this is very helpful. It was a required text at the first school at which I taught guitar.] I opened the book and picked up the guitar… and haven’t put it down since. It’s been thirty five years and I still love it.
I had no idea where the guitar would take me, but take me it did. To date I have performed on five different continents, in over twenty different countries. I have done tours of Indonesia and Finland. I have done over twenty-five tours of Poland. I have landed on a bomb-pocked runway in East Timor to do a gig. I have performed for six sitting ambassador. I have performed in countless recordings, been a member of hundreds of bands, played professionally as well as for the sheer hell of it.
I have spent the past five years dedicating my life to teaching everyone I can about this fantastic, magical thing I do – making music. I firmly and absolutely believe that a) music is the most direct connection to the emotions of another human being, b) it is not magic (although it feels like it) and c) anyone can do it with the proper, patient coaching. I also believe that while listening to music is essential, participating in the creation of it is not only accessible, but of the utmost importance. I believe that this is one of the connections to the divine…
So, why should I teach you or your child the guitar?
First: experience. I have been playing guitar professionally for the past 35 years. I played in high school and it ended up contributing to the cost for college (I graduated Cum Laude from Amherst College in 1991. I was 34 when I took my degree. (When I crossed the stage to accept my diploma, half of the glee club ran off the stage and hastily assembled at the spot where the newly minted Alums stepped off the stage and chanted en masse “Your Powers are Weak, Old Man!” They had all gotten into the habit of referring to me as Obi-Wan. Yes, my hair was silver even then…)
Second: Commitment. I have been teaching the guitar since leaving my last touring band in the summer of 2004. My student retention rate is excellent. Once a student begins guitar with me, they tend to stay. Many of my students began classes with me in the sixth grade. I have seen all but two of them become high school students. I have seen two of my former students leave for college. I am also a certified teacher employed as a substitute in the Berwyn Public School System.
Third: playing the guitar is fun! This means that learning the guitar should be fun too, no? I have a lighthearted approach to teaching the instrument that most folks find engaging. I have a way of figuring out what is preventing the student from realizing success in this endeavor, and helping him/her work through it.
So… in short, I look forward to making your formal acquaintance and to working with you on the guitar. And we’ll try assiduously to avoid spraining your thumbs…