I started to seriously teach guitar lessons about five years ago. I lived in State College, PA with my wife and daughter. My wife attended the doctorate program the school of Information Science and Technology at Penn State University. She graduated in 2009.
During that time I toyed with the idea of starting my own guitar lesson business. I had a friend who taught piano lessons. I always bugged him because he only charged $12 for a half hour. He was great with kids and enjoyed what he did. Anyway he got me to consider I might be a good guitar instructor. At the time I worked as a bartender at the Toftrees resort. It wasn’t my favorite job and I felt the pull of my late 30s work its way into my brain. There weren’t a whole lot of prospects for me in State College. Although one time, while tending bar, I had a customer who worked at a hospital in Harrisburg offer me a job on the spot. He was convinced he could find something for and guaranteed my employment if I would come work for him at the hospital simply by spending a couple evenings chatting with me at the bar. I declined the offer but he shoved a business card into my hand before he checked out.
A few months later I emailed the man and received no reply. I didn’t fault the man. I figured it took me too long to respond to his offer. Still I was mentally done with the bar business. My friend, the piano teacher, and I started to put together some music to perform. We spent much time in discussion. We discussed how he taught piano, why kids liked him and why did well. He felt that some of it was because he was so much less than other teachers in the area. The going rate there was $25 per half hour for piano. I told him that I wanted to teach guitar and he thought I’d be good at it. Anyway that was when I began to consider how I would teach.
I started to play guitar when I was 14. I had a teacher in back in my home town of Traverse City, MI who I didn’t have a very hi opinion of. The guy was going through a divorce, wasn’t very nice and blamed students for not knowing how to play things he expected from them without ever covering the material. I paid for these lessons, along with my first guitar and amplifier, with my first-ever job as a buss boy. This man was not someone I wanted to emulate as an instructor. Still I managed to get in about nine months of guitar lessons. I went back six months later and quit the lessons after only a month. At age 18 I met with my next teacher, jazz guitarist named Rob Getz. I only had two lessons with Ron but man he changed my life. I didn’t know how much my timing sucked until I took my first lesson. He made me get a metronome and play with it. The second lesson was more of the same. I never forgot those lessons, but couldn’t afford to continue.
Later, while at Michigan Technological University, I met Mike Irish, director of Jazz Studies. Mike proved pivotal in my musical maturation. It was the late 1990s and the internet was hitting its first big boom. I listened to jazz online and was interested. The cool thing about Mike was that he was a guitar player. I joined the R&D Jazz Big Band at MTU and took about 15 weeks of private lessons. Mike was a great teacher. He showed me how to practice, manage my time, be inspiring and that kindness was the ultimate teacher.
Ok back to State College… I quit my job as a bartender and ran an ad on craigslist to teach guitar. I ended up with about four students. I was excited. I never got any more but that was enough for me to believe I could do this and do it well.