Monday, 15 June 2015

Teach To Learn

Over the years, I have been approached by many guitarists to give them lessons and advice. When time and circumstances have allowed, I have obliged, and in the process have made some friends that remain so to this day. Usually, they were players who already had a good idea, and were looking to improve their technique or have new doors opened, but more recently I have found myself teaching beginners, some quite young. This presents a completely different set of problems, particularly for one not accustomed to teaching from scratch. I first picked up a guitar thirty eight years ago, and I must admit to not having a clear recollection of what it was like to not be able to play. The guitar has been an extension of my body and soul for that long that I can't remember when a neck felt alien in my hand.

Being faced with a completely clear slate in each student, I had to approach the lessons and the instrument with a similarly fresh approach, and it took me a little while to find that 'square one' from which to start. Doing so gave me the opportunity to revisit some basics and clarify my own overall approach, even broadening my musical scope in the process. I have always found that teaching something to someone helps to cement it into my own mind - the best way for me to nail a new piece was to teach it to one of my students. Having to do this with the basics of holding a guitar and pick, of playing the most simple of pieces produced great clarity. It wasn't that I need to learn those particular pieces, but the approach of taking the elements a small bit at a time and explaining them in terms a child could understand enabled me to view music at a quantum  level. Taking what I learned from teaching fresh minds and applying it to things I was working on gave me a fresh outlook and a fresh insight, and some of the results are on my latest album.

I am currently on the faculty of Sowilo Communty High School, a care school in my local suburb, and also teach at Classic Sounds, my local music store which runs an extensive music school. Both places give a great deal to their community, and help our youth find purpose and meaning, which is always a good thing. The payoff for me is learning  more about myself, including what I can do as a musician and music educator, and that warm feeling when I see the lights go on in a pair of young eyes as they learn the joy of music. As I teach, so I learn, and I think that's what it's all about.


Guitar time at Sowilo Community High

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