I am available for teaching all levels of both tenor and plectrum banjo. I teach via Skype (free download), and take payment via PayPal. If you happen to live in SE Arizona, we could even meet in person! Contact me for my rates, scheduling, and additional information.
My Teaching Philosophy
Let me say right up front that I hate job applications and work evaluations! I am so happy to be retired—happy that I never have to pump myself up on paper or “blow my own horn” again! I would rather let my actual accomplishments/skills speak for themselves, but unfortunately, most folks need to be sold on how “great I am” in my own exaggerated words. This is probably why I didn’t achieve a particularly high rank in the Military, despite my many years in uniform; I don’t know how to sell myself or exaggerate my worth. In the Military—as in the music world—one has to be blatantly “self-promotional” to get noticed.
So, rather than blow my accomplishments out of proportion (“pad my NCOER”), I would rather describe my “teaching philosophy” and let you—my potential banjo student—make your own decisions. I will not come knocking at your door with a sales pitch; you need to come knock on mine with a desire to learn, believing that I am “the guy.” I am not desperate for students (but still want you to know I am available)!
If you have read my blog, you know that I take the four-string banjo very seriously, and am rather opinionated about it (perhaps too much so for my own good!). It is a real musical instrument, and I refuse to treat it as anything less—though I appreciate the entertainment/pizza parlor sing-along side of it also (having grown up in that hobby world). I am very much aware of and in awe of its importance to American musical history (though it is all but forgotten); thus, I firmly believe that it deserves to be played in a historically-correct manner. I believe that it got “left behind” in the 1930s, and—with few exceptions—has not progressed in 80 years; this is also a reason to learn to play it correctly, with the eventual goal of surpassing the great players of the 1920s and carrying it forward. You can’t break the rules until you know them!
I don’t mean to imply that “I have achieved this level of historic greatness” myself; I am not self-delusional! I have simply identified the path, and am on it myself. Only time will tell if I ever reach it; I only have about 15-20 years of possible physical improvement left in me! Frankly, I have found that teaching others the old techniques is the best way to learn and improve my own playing. I am not a “guru” sitting on top of the banjo-mountain; I am a “Sherpa,” eager to guide banjo-mountain climbers to the top (weather and other circumstances permitting) so I can enjoy the view too.
I am doggedly enthusiastic and idealistic regarding the four-string banjo (just ask my long-suffering wife; hey, the first time she saw me almost 35 years ago I was playing the banjo! That should have been warning enough!)! While I have been on a “the sky is falling” kick lately, I do see hope for the future, and I intend to be an important part of that. I see the kids as the true key to that future, but I hope to be an inspiration to banjoists of all ages and abilities.
I see self-improvement as another of the keys; the better you play (and the more forward-moving attitude you have), the better the banjo is perceived by the unknowing public. I firmly believe that anyone can learn and/or improve their banjo playing! The upshot of this attitude is that I am determined to make some kind of difference for all of my students; if one explanation or technique doesn’t work, I’ll try another! You are not just another paying customer; you are an integral part of my devious plan to take over the world, one banjo at a time!
I am not the type of music teacher who will rap your knuckles with a ruler for making mistakes (that’s kind of hard to do over an internet connection, anyway)! I am however gradually cultivating a “tell the painful truth” honesty; what good would I do for the four-string banjo—which is much more important than you or I—if I led you down the primrose path, leading you to believe you are God’s gift to the banjo (unless you are)?
Okay, a little bit of resume (grumble. . .):
- I have a B.A. degree in Music Education from Central Washington University (Cum Laude, 1996). Nice, worthless piece of paper, but it means I have a “classical” music education (clarinet)—which means I believe in the importance of “music theory” (scales, and other boring stuff). Remember my comment about the banjo being a “real musical instrument?”
- I was a full-time professional ski instructor for eight years, meaning I will probably have skin cancer and bad knees someday. It also means I am highly trained and experienced in “learning styles,” and “teaching philosophies.”
- I am retired from the Army Band program; I have traveled the world, singing, and playing clarinet, sax, banjo, guitar, and ukulele in many different styles of music.
- Being a popular magazine columnist (BMG) and published author of two successful banjo method books, I have dozens of (okay, maybe 7) fans world-wide, making me a semi-cool person to know and associate with.
Thank you for reading; I hope I have at least piqued your curiosity! By the way, the first lesson is a no-charge “consultation”; I want to make sure we are a good match. I could be the best teacher in the world—and you the best student—but if we don’t hit it off, we’re both wasting our time. At any rate, you’ll never know until you contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and sit down with me for an hour. Speaking of “rates,” my fee is the industry-standard $40 an hour, but I am flexible and eager to help, and open to alternative payment plans (depending on your situation or barter-able skills); your success is more important than my income (but I would never want to undercut any other teachers). Of course, you’ll never know unless you ask!