My vision for teaching the guitar is strongly rooted in Shinichi Suzuki’s vision of doing service to “make all the children born upon this earth fine human beings, happy people, people who are capable of realizing their highest selves”. In the 1950s, when Suzuki began his unique method of training young people in music, he was motivated by the devastation of the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He sought to create a better world in which the possibility of such destructive action would never arise again. Today we have different challenges. Yet music continues to be a powerful force in awakening a capacity to see and appreciate beauty, to respond to others with compassion, to face challenges with grace, sensitivity and confidence, and to connect with others. These qualities are something that are easily eroded and lost in a world obsessed with consumption and constant stimulus. I seek to realize these goals by giving individualized attention to each student and family while calling on over 20 years of professional experience as a performing musician. I understand that solving a challenging musical problem is not that different from solving an academic or philosophical one.
I seek to work with students and families that appreciate these deeper nuances of learning an instrument and understand that this experience is not likely to be gained in schools that have become obsessed with quantitative measuring of students’ progress. If this understanding and appreciation is in place, most families will have little difficulty keeping up with an intensive program. Families who work with me are choosing to make music an essential part of the life of their child and of their family and are generally in it for the long term – once they feel that they have found the right teacher (s) and learning environments. As a rule, I don’t do “after-school” program or “exposure to music” type of teaching.
One of my greatest joys is exposing students to lesser known genres of music and lost treasures of Spanish, Brazilian and African music. So for example in our group classes, we sit down to tackle the rhythmic intricacies of “Jarabi”, a song from Mali, West Africa that dates back to the 10th century. Or in order to increase a student’s capacity to play beautiful melodies on the guitar , we reach back to 1940’s Rio de Janeiro and learn “Doce Mentira” from the saxophonist Abel Ferreira. Or we may take on the intricate guitar lines of Nene Tshakou of Zaire, one of the greatest masters of soukous guitar, the guitar solo from Bill Doggett’s “Honky Tonk” (1956) or rhythm guitar part from Rufus Thomas’ “Walking the Dog” (1964). In their respective genres, these are “canonical” works, which inform much of the music that emerged afterwards. By focusing on these works, I am able to convey to the students the key elements of a musical style.