The Real Biography:
why my mission statement is
"Learn to Work Effectively and Efficiently,
and Learn to Play With Security and Confidence."
A traditional biography would tell you all of the amazing degrees I have, the world class artists I have studied and worked with, and the numerous musicians I have shared the stage with. However, regardless of those things, that would say nothing about my ability to help a student learn the guitar. So instead, I give you, my REAL biography:
I know what it is like to be frustrated.
Like most people, my first experience with the guitar was less than ideal. I enjoyed playing, had a nice teacher, but in spite of my years of hard work, I wasn't achieving the goals I wanted to achieve. Although I could play at more than a modest level, I hit a wall. Like every other music student, my tastes were evolving (and yours will too). More and more, I lacked the ability to play the music I was drawn to. I was frustrated because I worked hard, yet lacked the ability to play the music I wanted to play.
As a young adult, I was fortunate enough to finally find a teacher that wouldn't lie to me. I didn't know how to practice, I had no sound technique, and I had developed bad habits which were holding me back. Most importantly, I didn't realize I was missing these things! As a result, I had to start at square one in order to become the player that I wanted to be. During the process, with the gifted guidance of teachers, my passion for teaching was quickly realized. And, because I was a young adult at the time, I intimately remember the process of learning with competent instruction. I finally learned how to work effectively and efficiently, and how to perform with security and confidence. Within months, I was playing professionally and continuing my studies with world-class artists.
Why I teach
It saddens me to hear someone say that they have tried to learn and couldn't. Or to hear a player lament that they do well in the practice chair but struggle to play for others with security and confidence. Such things are no fault of the student, nor is it because of any lack of ability. Rather, it is due to incompetent instruction. A competent teacher shows a student exactly how to work, and the student sees results from their effort. Yet few teachers know how to show this process. Many guitarists teach on the side out of necessity. Few actually enjoy it. Even fewer like teaching beginners.
I have been teaching for decades by choice. Because of my personal journey through frustration and realization, I became passionate about helping others to avoid the pitfalls I had to endure. I don’t want others to waste valuable time and effort like I did. I am grateful for my experiences because they helped me to establish an uncommon connection with students. It is my purpose in life to help students of all skill levels reach their potential without frustration or confusion.
What I teach
Often, guitar teachers are uncomfortable teaching multiple “styles”. Instructors from the classical music world often scoff at other genres. Other teachers often lure students with promises of instruction in all styles, yet are unable to offer the discipline and structure that classical music demands when students seek it. Students are often forced, based on their teacher’s inadequacies, to make a difficult decision (classical only or anything but classical). Regardless, the process is, more often than not, a “paint-by-numbers” approach, never reaching the essence of what should be happening. What I mean is it is important to learn many things (scales, arpeggios, position, rhythms, theory, etc). There is no shortage of teachers, books, online videos, etc. freely willing to show these things. But that isn't learning how to work. True study is really about learning to work effectively and efficiently, and learning to play with security and confidence.
I provide a foundation, nearly immediately applying knowledge to the styles of music that most interests students. Through my decades of teaching, nearly half of my students have “cross-trained”. The others have been classical purists by choice. Individual choice of style and genre is not only tolerated, it is encouraged! The foundation I provide my students makes anything possible. A paint-by-numbers approach begs for a particular style. Learning to play the guitar (learning to work efficiently and effectively) gives foundation and allows students to explore their ever evolving tastes.
Who I teach
Over half of my students have come to me as either intermediate players or rank beginners. Many of my students choose to study later in life after families and/or careers are well-established. Some return to the instrument after many years. Many have never touched an instrument before and might not even know how to produce a sound. Like most highly established teachers, only some students are advanced or even professional guitarists wanting assistance with musicality or advanced technique.
Students often come to me feeling inadequate, overwhelmed, or stuck. They are filled with “should haves” or worry that they are somehow wasting my time. It is with sincerity that I help these students see that they are exactly where they belong.
I meet you where you are. Trust is something sacred in my studio. My sincere passion for the instrument, the pedagogy, and students help develop trust. Only with trust can students best move towards conscious change and truly learn to play to their potential.
Based on my experience, an adult with life experiences is a superior learner in many ways. The ability to question, the need to understand, the faculty to seek intuitive and logical relationships give a secure edge to the adult learner. What is taught in my studio usually transfers into other hobbies, endeavors, and even various careers.
How you begin
One of my favorite things is giving a free trial lesson to a potential new student. It is almost always a most productive and rewarding experience for clients, and a chance for me to begin sharing my passion and knowledge with someone interested in what I do. Through this initial consultation, you share your goals and frustrations and I begin to assess your skills. Turnover in my studio is slow. As a result, a potential new student is someone I am more than happy to invest time with. If you choose to study, you will know what to do, how to do it, and why it matters. Most importantly, you will see results!
My traditional biography:
I've given several hundred performances throughout the United States working with varied artists such as Bobby McFerrin, Bob Mintzer, Gary Burton, and Gregory Hines. As a guitarist in the military, I've performed in unlikely places such as Baltimore Harbor Independence Day, Times Square, a Miss America Parade, a private memorial for a U.S. President, returning home of the troops, retirement ceremonies for generals. I was called to perform various styles from classical to jazz to metal (a personal favorite). In addition to traditional classical performances both solo and chamber, Historical Period Instruments have placed me in the orchestra pit for both operas, and various chamber groups.
I've studied with world-renowned artists and educators such as leading pioneer in guitar education for children Rodney Stucky; Julian Gray of the prestigious John Hopkins Peabody Institute; 4-time gold medal winner Ricardo Cobo; and established guitarist, composer and educator Jeffrey Van. I've performed in numerous master-classes including Andrew York, Manual Barrueco, Sharon Isbin, Eliot Fisk, and Eduardo Fernandez. During my earliest training as an educator under the hand of Tom Poore of The Cleveland Institute of Music, I also worked with “The Dean of Guitar” Aaron Shearer. I received my Doctor of Music Arts and Master of Music from the University of Minnesota. I received my Bachelor of Music from the University of Kentucky.
Most of my efforts have been given to guitar education. I have taught at Eastern Kentucky University, The University of Wisconsin River Falls, and at The University of Minnesota where I more than quadrupled the size of the general elective program. I've adjudicated in competitions for the Schubert Club and Southern Guitar Festival. Outside of the University, I built the most successful guitar studio in the Twin Cities. My greatest achievement has been making countless students’ lives more gratifying by sharing the guitar with them for more than 30 years. I currently own the most successful guitar studio in Charlotte, NC where I teach in-person and world-wide via Zoom. I also serve on the faculty of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music Guitar Summer Workshop.