Sometimes a student or parent asks me how did I get into teaching guitar? I was thinking about this recently and it occurred to me that the truth is, in fact, the reverse of that wording. Teaching got into me.
I started teaching guitar at age 21 in Kelowna BC. I had been hanging out in this great guitar shop a bit too regularly, and the owner asked me if I’d like to try teaching at the store. He didn’t have anyone teaching and since it was obvious I was looking for something to do, I could give it a try. I was both excited and intrigued, however, for a brief moment I questioned whether I had what it took to teach. Where would I begin? how would the lessons go? etc. Even though I had these questions, the owner gave me some guidance on possible starting points for new guitarists and then it hit me: I know how to do this! I just reviewed in my mind what were all the little discoveries I had made over the years, and from that time on I never doubted that I could share it. This was 1991, I was already playing a lot and for a long time (12 years) and I always felt most comfortable with a guitar in my hands.
This invitation and opportunity woke me up to what I had been missing in my life up until that point, and that was the feeling of meaningful purpose. I had been floundering in college for 3 years and nothing I studied connected with me. This door opening was a generous offer, and I recognised it’s gift to me early on. From my first student experience and for the first time in my adult life, I was alive with purpose and with desire to do something real for others. Almost immediately, I felt that this was what was missing for me on my college path.
I can’t thank enough all the people that gave me the gift of music. My parents through their own singing, playing and encouragement to learn through lessons and at home. My grandparents for always asking that I play for them. My aunts and uncle for a steady stream of inspiring books and music, instruments and amps, and their visits that were a celebration of everyone playing and singing together. My kind friends who cheered me on and were genuinely impressed with my playing. My sister who inspired me with her musical work ethic. But most of all, I have to thank that gentleman that opened his door to give me a space to grow and learn to teach. That person is Kurt Phillips.
I didn’t stay long in Kelowna, just one year under Kurt’s guidance, and then in Sept 1992 I moved to Victoria. I had a teaching gig in my first week in town and have been making my living by teaching in Victoria for 17 of the last 22 years. For 4 years I toured and gigged with a bunch of bands, and for one year I tried day-trading on the stock market. Touring was fun and trading, well that was not a good fit for me, but it served as a reminder of where I felt most true to myself.
In 2012, after 20 years of us living in different locations, Kurt moved to Victoria and purchased a local music store called Guitars Plus!. It’s been such a pleasure to have my first mentor in the music industry start his next chapter here. Our re-acquaintance has inspired me once again to keep learning, growing and dreaming of ways to extend our educational offerings and to put my knowledge to good use.
After countless exchanges with students, teachers and with the passage of time, I’ve discovered that the thing that gives me that most satisfaction in my work is witnessing the learning process of each individual person. Factors like age, physical ability, clarity, purpose, patience, perseverance, curiosity, desire, work ethic, attitude, aptitude and the time dedicated to playing, make for a totally unique experience with every person I teach. I love seeing the path a student takes, and it makes me curious to see how you will learn, or how your kids will learn, and how I will learn from the exchange in teaching you or your child, or both! It’s at once mysterious and beautiful.
The spirit of humanity seems well, if not best expressed through music (at least for me). The way in which I found an opportunity in it through the gift my family gave me, and the empowering offer from Kurt Phillips all those years ago at Kelowna Guitarworks, really exemplifies the spirit I hope to share with my students today. I want your music lessons to be a door that opens, one that empowers you to reach the best you have to offer your instrument, your audience and most of all, yourself.
In music and art, gratifying whatever your inner desires are is the most powerful purpose you can access. I love to play, and it’s how I got into teaching, but sharing my skills and experience is how teaching got into me, and it’s given me meaningful self expression, and ultimately my vocation.
Here’s to another exciting year of music lessons. 2014-15 is set to begin and I can’t wait to get started!
Is music knocking on your door?