My love of music started when I was still in diapers. My parents, although not great musicians, were huge music fans. I was exposed to everything from Chopin to Return to Forever to Zeppelin. They introduced me to live music performances, from symphony orchestras to the swing and Dixieland jazz of the Rosie O’Grady’s Good Time Jazz Band. This undoubtedly influenced my decision to become a musician.
At age six, I started piano lessons with Michael Kramer. Michael is one of the best jazz pianists you’ll ever hear and a great teacher. He had a great rapport with students and a flexible instruction method. You really wanted to work hard for him. This is where I acquired the music fundamentals and work ethic that I would later apply to the guitar.
When middle school came around I decided to join the symphonic band. The awesome wailing clarinet solos I had first heard at Rosie O’Grady’s were calling my name, so I became a clarinetist. I was an excellent player, but the prospect of high school marching band led me to give up the instrument. My experience as a wind player greatly influenced my phrasing as a guitarist.
During middle school, my family frequented the Orchid Garden at Church Street Station to watch a great top 40 rock band, “Rock-n-Soul”. Up to this point, I had absolutely no interest in the guitar. To my ears, the guitar was this raw, sloppy, dirty instrument, that lacked the fluidity of the clarinet or the precision of the piano. This all changed when I experienced the soloing of Rock-n-Soul’s lead guitarist Phil May. In addition to being one of the most skilled and stylistically versatile guitarists ever, Phil possessed a modern, powerful, singing, fluid, Van Halen soloing style that forever changed the way I viewed the instrument. Phil was always happy to entertain all of my guitar nerd questions and offer advice. He was a huge influence on my playing.
The last week of middle school I decided to become a guitarist. That summer I was finally able to mash the strings on my dad’s old Epiphone acoustic, so I bought a Samick electric guitar from a store in the mall. Dave Hopwood, the sales clerk, also taught lessons, so I signed up. It’s funny how things worked out, because you’d be hard pressed to find a better teacher or guitarist anywhere!
My lessons with Dave Hopwood have been the single most important event in my musical development. Dave taught me to be a musician not just a guitarist. He encouraged me to be technically diverse, stylistically versatile and serious about my craft. Dave was the first instructor to truly explain music theory, demystifying complex subjects like improvised soloing. He utilized proprietary lesson materials and unconventional methods which I employ to this day in my lessons. Without Dave, I would probably be an average guitarist at best. I owe my career to his tutelage. Thanks Dave.