Meet our Featured Teacher of the Month!
Instructor of Guitar, Ukulele, and Bass Guitar
How long have you been teaching?
I’ve been lucky enough to teach for about a year now.
Which Opus Music Academy locations do you work? Do you have your own studio? If so, where is it located? Do you offer in-home lessons?
I work at the New Hope location and also do work out of my home studio in Lowry Hill.
What do you teach? Anything else you teach?
I focus on acoustic and electric guitar but can teach beginner to intermediate levels of bass, ukulele and classical guitar.
What is your studio story? How did you get to where you are now?
I moved here from Green Bay, Wisconsin with dreams of running a house venue, starting my own band, and getting my degree in Audio Engineering. These all lead me down several different career paths that held opportunities for me to work as a session musician, recording engineer, mixing engineer, music producer, live sound engineer, and – most recently – music instructor!
What is one thing you think you do really well as a teacher?
I always try to focus on how to best teach my students as individuals. Everyone learns in vastly different ways so taking the time to really learn who my students are as people, as well as where they want to end up with music allows me to develop a curriculum tailored to keep my students passionate and engaged with playing their instrument.
What is one thing you really struggle with as a teacher?
I think my current weakness with being a teacher is simply lack of experience compared to those that have been teaching longer. I’ve been playing music for over half my life but teaching is new to me so I’m still learning new things about helping my students and how I can be the best teacher for as many of my students as possible.
A funny student story:
One of my students was rather shy about playing in front of people despite how fast he was learning to play guitar. One day I asked how practicing was going and he said that he felt too embarrassed to play for long because he didn’t want his family hearing if he made a mistake. During that lesson I had him practice overcoming his shame closing his eyes and only focusing on the sounds he was making with his guitar. The whole lesson I let him play what he wanted to play like no one else was in the room. After the lesson we stepped out and my next student was staring wide eyed at him and said “Wow I wanna be as good as you some day.” He didn’t feel too embarrassed after that anymore.
What do you do to retain your students?
I focus on what specifically about music is fun for my students. Not everyone wants to be the “best” guitar player or play live shows in a band. I try to find what importance music holds in someone’s life and work to make sure that passion takes root and never lets go, because no matter how or why you’re making art, I believe just loving to make art is what’s important.
What is your niche? What sets you apart from other teachers?
I stand out from other teachers because I have experience in working with musicians as an engineer and producer. What this means is that my experience recording music allows me to teach my students how to not only capture an idea they may have, but also be able to view progress in real time and create a practice routine that can help them grow into the musician they want to be. The things I’ve learned from the “other side” of music have given me a unique ability to realize small habits and methods for making the sound you have in your head come to life on some speakers.
What is your favorite band, artist, or composer? Why?
There’s never just one favorite but currently I’m obsessed with a singer song-writer by the name of Laura Marling and a rock band called DIIV. I like these artists for largely the same reason and that is they spend their energy writing on songwriting which makes their music very captivating and endlessly re-listenable.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I think a lot of people are surprised by how nerdy I am. I LOVE fantasy books like The Lord of The Rings or A Game of Thrones. I also get super nerdy about technical aspects of things like how CGI is done in movies and how to frame and build rooms/buildings.
Let’s say you’re having coffee with a brand new teacher. What’s one piece of advice you wish you would have known when you started.
Sometimes, you just can’t help a student. That’s not to say the student is beyond help but there will be some students that, for some reason or another, would be better served learning from somebody else. That was a really hard thing for me to realize because I feel like that admits that I’ve failed that student. In reality, music may be the right thing at the wrong time in a students life or there are other factors beyond our control as teachers.
Let’s say you’re visiting with a teacher who is feeling burned out. What advice would you give to them to give life to their studio?
Take a step back but don’t give up. You’ve made it this far so it’s no use to throw in the towel now. Take a break. Collect yourself. Come back to it when you remember what music means to you. Then when you’re back in the saddle remember to walk not run and you may be able to keep a positive momentum.
We’ve all had that one student or parent that drives us crazy. What do you do with that student or family?
I never jump to a conclusion. How someone might be behaving in the studio may very well be the result of things that I don’t know about and that’s okay. I then still try to make lessons productive, but also a safe place where my students and even their parents won’t feel ashamed or looked down on. As long as my students feel happy to come to the lessons, that’s all that has to matter.
What is your craziest idea? What is something you would do if money, time, and space weren’t an issue?
One day I want to create a “complex” of all my favorite things in life. A large multi-level building with a coffee shop/music venue/recording studio/library all bundled into one. I would call it Tonics.
If you weren’t a music instructor, what else would you do with your life?
I think I would be wandering in a deep forest or on a hulking mountain as an outdoor recreation instructor.