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BA cum Laude, University of Massachusetts-Boston, Music Theory and Composition M.Ed., University of Massachusetts-Boston, Music Education
2011-Present - Arrange music for, and play in, a youth ensemble at St. Joseph Church, Needham (liturgical music) 2007-2016 - Taught roughly 1800 guitar students and 200 beginner piano students, Chelsea High School
When I was fourteen years old, my older brother brought home an old acoustic with only the two lowest strings on it. I started noodling around with the bass parts to Beatles and Motown songs – and became a bass guitarist! Now hooked on music, I became a guitar player, graduating from strumming at a poolside party to learning by playing (and teaching) in a host of rock and roll bands. I went to graduate school and became a teacher of guitar classes at Chelsea High School, teaching about 1800 students over nine years. Along the way I took up arranging for an ensemble of young string and wind players at my church – I had learned tenor saxophone, which I play in this ensemble - and learned jazz and fingerstyle guitar. I am now teaching one-on-one so I can share my love of the guitar directly with students – as a mentor has said, I enjoy reliving the excitement of my first musical discoveries by teaching new students, and helping more experienced students advance. I have expanded my skills by learning piano, which I also taught at Chelsea high school, on an introductory level. This heart of rock ‘n’ roll is still beating, and I want to keep inspiring students to follow their hearts and become musicians.
My teaching experience began on an informal level in my early 20’s, as I instructed many fellow band members in guitar and bass guitar on a case-by-case basis when working out our parts in songs. I became the person who wrote cheat sheets for most of my bands over the time I’ve been in (many) bands; I loved the fact that my musical ear was enabling me to mentor colleagues. As I picked up students through word-of-mouth referrals, friends, and fellow church members, I was able to take students through the rudiments of guitar, and in some cases produced some very advanced players. My teaching experience in Chelsea High School enabled me to take roughly 1800 students through basic guitar; again, some of these really caught fire and are pursuing guitar passionately through their bands. I do encourage regular practice for my students, as this is really where learning takes place, especially on a physical level. The ways I’ve tried to make learning fun are working on students’ favorite songs, getting students to play with me in duets as soon as possible, and encouraging improvisation. By giving students the “tools” of improvisation and knowledge of chord progressions, I also encourage students to develop original songs. Through playing bass guitar for a number of years in bands, and learning and instructing piano, I am also able to offer instruction on these instruments.
For beginning students at Chelsea High School, I developed my own guitar method books, level 1 and level 2, which use tablature for its very graphic and easy-to-understand method of learning notes on the guitar fretboard – which have remained the texts for guitar classes at the High School since my departure. To supplement this I have the Hal Leonard Essential Elements for guitar, and a number of other texts, which offer other approaches, songs, and material. Along with my texts, these materials offer a gateway to learning to read and play in standard, that is, staff, notation. In addition I have numerous popular songs and rock songs which I have set to tablature and standard notation. So, I would take young students through the early stages of my method, supplemented by these other materials. For students, young and adult, who have progressed beyond the fundamentals, I would make available and seek materials to follow their desired musical style(s). Additionally, paralleling my own musical experience and that of many whom I’ve played with over the years, I implement duet playing with my students, with an ear toward any interest they might have in forming bands, and any other players that they know who may desire to do so.
In the earliest stages of learning, such considerations as posture and proper technique are crucial if a student is to be comfortable with playing, achieve early success, and lay the foundation for further progress. The way I have tried to “sell” this to students is: the “accepted” technique became so because it is the easiest and most comfortable way to play. In terms of early success, at the earliest point possible I teach/encourage a student to play a song – however simple – in its entirety, slowly but steadily and clearly. Now the student has the expectation that, at whatever point of progress, we will be playing songs through, in steady tempo, clearly and with proper technique. Thus the student/teacher relationship becomes a microcosm of playing in a band! The student is empowered by concrete success, and I, the teacher, am rewarded by the affirmation of getting her/him to play successfully. Further on, I use my sense of what sorts of music the student likes and is interested in, to direct our process in a direction which they will enjoy and which will motivate them.
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