Life In The Jazz Lane
If you’re anything like me, this whole lockdown scenario has increased your screen-time. You’re stuck at home, and trying to make a point of going for a walk here and there to avoid going stir crazy. And, eventually, you made the wise decision to pick a new skill to learn, or to improve at something you might have been doing casually for some time. If you’re reading this now (and, you are, funny how that goes), I’m guessing that skill is the guitar.
Since you’re spending more time on your phone or laptop than you might want to admit (don’t worry, your secret’s safe with me), I’m sure you’ve noticed the huge uptick in guitar teaching apps, websites, and youtube channels. Because I’m always interested in improving my skills as both a musician and a teacher, I’ve checked out these resources, too.
Here’s what I’ve noticed: while a lot of these online tools might help supplement your learning process, they will make a clone out of you if you’re not careful.
Music education content that is, from inception and by design, mass marketed, makes for generic and underwhelming musicians. It’ll make you into the musical equivalent of a drive through burger, a prewritten platitude on a birthday card, and bad sitcom dialogue. And, don’t get me wrong: those things have their place. But, is that the same place YOU want to occupy?
And, in the name of fairness, let’s give these apps and generalized YouTube channels their due: you will definitely learn how to play the guitar. Maybe you’ll even learn it well enough to play through some of the songs you like or join a cover band. And that’s actually not bad at all. But, using these tools alone, that special something you hear in the music you love, that X factor that inspired you to pick up the instrument in the first place... Are people going to hear that same special something when they hear YOU play? I don’t need to say what you’re already thinking, but since I’m typing for my website, and we’re not sitting together at a cafe talking (social distancing!), I have to:
No. These apps and these youtube videos will not take you to the promised land of authentic artistic expression. They will take you to the shelves of supermarkets where you’ll sit alongside more identical twins than you remember your parents telling you about. And yes, it will be that awkward. And you will be, deep breath, unfulfilled.
If you’re going to exchange the non-renewable resource of your time for knowledge of the guitar, you deserve better.
Better means private instruction with a flesh and blood teacher. And, let’s be honest: not just any teacher. Do you want to be taking lessons from somebody who graduated from Clone Academy with honors? Or do you want the genuine article? Somebody with their own unique voice on the instrument, who studied with the best from an early age, was accepted into competitive and highly selective music academies, who’s taken risks and put themselves out there, playing original music on the stages of Hollywood and maybe taken it on the road as well? Do you want to learn from somebody who’s sold out shows of his own original music, who is consulted by other artists before releasing their next tracks, who can write anything from a rock song to a string quartet to a sonnet, and none of it sounds like anybody else?
Now, you might not be a psychologist, but I’m sure you’re getting the funny feeling that I’m talking about myself. I know, I think it’s awkward, too. But, if I was Eric Clapton, and you already knew I was all good at my funky dog guitar notes and stuff, well, I’d be, what’s that word I’m looking for? Unaffordable? Yeah, that’s the word. But, let’s face it: you don’t know me, and I’m left with the task of having to flex a little while pretending not to enjoy it a little too much.
Let’s run through the CV, shall we? I studied with Doug Doppler, the guy who took over Joe Satriani’s teaching business after Joe got too busy playing sold out shows. You can find Doug all over social media if you want to hear what my teacher sounds like. After high school I went to USC’s department of Jazz Guitar Performance. They took 8 kids a year. I was playing guitar an average of seven hours a day while playing in about 3 different rock bands outside of the music school. I wanted REAL WORLD EXPERIENCE so I used the internet to find actual gigging bands that needed a lead guitar player. They all hired me on the spot.
After leaving USC I spent the rest of my 20’s leading my own bands and performing my own original music all over Los Angeles. Eventually I wanted to learn more new ideas and went back to school for a degree in Ethnomusicology from UCLA. I studied the sitar with Shujaat Khan, studied composition with Munir Beken, Tamir Handelman and James Newton, and composed over an hour of traditional arabic music hybridized with western classical chamber music.
Here’s the part that brings this all together: I’ve also been teaching and tutoring for more or less my entire life: literally since 4th grade. I would stay at the after school day care and help younger kids with their homework. I’ve tutored high school academics, taught meditation classes for 7 years, done personal coaching work just as long, and I’ve always had guitar students. The twofold processes of learning and teaching have always gone hand in glove for me: any knowledge that I think is worth the time I’ll spend learning it is knowledge I want to turn right back around and teach. It’s become a way of life for me. When I say that life, at its best, is about self betterment and selfless service coexisting as conjoined twins never to be separated.
So, I’ve said what I’ve got to say. What I want you to do is contact me. We’ll have a phone call, we’ll ha have prelimary conversation to see if it seems like a good fit , and we’ll be off to the races. Remember: I’m still putting out the best educational content I possibly can, on a daily basis, but I’d be lying to you if I said that was good enough. I didn’t learn my instrument from instructional books and videos, and I’m glad I didn’t. I had mentors. I became an apprentice, a protege, and in time I became a mentor as well. This has been the way since time immemorial, and my most heartfelt wish for you, in the sacred quest for knowledge, is that you will not cut corners. I won’t be cutting them with you either.
Watching students light up with pride and excitement when they hear real music coming from their guitars for the first time is a thrill unlike any other.
Here are some of my qualifications:
20 years experience as a guitar teacher.
Studied Studio/Jazz Guitar Performance at University of Southern California
Studied Ethnomusicology at University of California, Los Angeles
Past recipient of the Louis Armstrong Jazz Award
Frequently asked questions
What is your typical process for working with a new student?
I typically have an introductory conversation to assess their knowledge, experience, their objectives, and their stylistic preferences. I want to hear them play freely so I can gauge where they're at with their guitar.
What education and/or training do you have that relates to your work?
I have 20 years of experience teaching guitar, and studied guitar performance and ethnomusicology at USC and UCLA, respectively. I've also taught meditation for 7 years and done personal coaching work for 5 years.