Q. Describe the most common types of jobs you do for your clients.
A. It used to be that I was mostly doing club dates, larger performances and private functions. Today my musical life is even more diverse. I perform with my daughter, sing with a large chorus in New York City, play for hospitalized patients in NYC as part of Musicians On Call, and take a variety of gigs that have me singing and/or playing. I also study music all the time.
I am also president of International Masters Series, a production company that brings top-flight international talent to the American stage. It takes up a lot of my time. Whether it's through others or with me onstage, I really enjoy imparting knowledge. It is very fulfilling to know I am helping to usher in a new generation of enthusiastic musicians.
Q. Describe three recent jobs you've completed.
A. Producing a major tour of Gypsy Jazz masters on the West Coast. Check it out. Come to the gigs if you are nearby!
Q. What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A. Find a teacher who loves to teach and who is experienced at what they are teaching. It is harder than it appears. Many great musicians are NOT teachers!
Q. If you were a customer, what do you wish you knew about your trade? Any inside secrets to share?
A. Guidance, discipline and structure should be part of the curriculum. They are essential tools. Without these, you can spend your entire lifetime meandering through music without actually learning anything substantial. Be sure that the instructor helps you set a schedule. EXPERT PLAYERS INVEST 10,000 HOURS OF PRACTICE TIME before they gain the recognition that they have earned. I'm not saying that everyone needs to clock 10,000 hours, but certainly 3-5 hours a week will guarantee more than just proficiency. It sounds boring, but it works.
Q. What questions should a consumer ask to hire the right service professional?
A. The quest for a music teacher (or any other instructor of the arts) is very subjective. Students can learn from someone who is not formally educated or trained, yet they can have a miserable experience with a teacher who studied at the finest international music schools.
I would ask the teacher if they enjoy teaching; if they prefer performing to teaching; if they are still studying (they should always be studying); and if they love what they do. If the answer is "yes," then this might be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Q. What important information should buyers have thought through before seeking you out?
A. Supplementary teaching can be seen as "down time" for students, particularly young ones who are attentively sitting at a desk all day, and who are mentally depleted in the evening. I formulate my hour with my students to be a creative time with takeaway value that will last them a lifetime.
Here are two things that I recommend be considered before shopping around for a music instructor:
1. What does the student want to learn?
The prospective student should have an idea about what they want to learn. This goes along with putting in the hard work of self-discovery. If the student is still very young (I don't take students under 8 years old), the parents need to help guide the student. It varies from student to student, and I am not a method teacher.
Some students play piano. They may lean more toward theory, scales, patterns, time signatures and other important components of a well rounded musical background that leads one to university-level music theory, composition, recital, etc.
Other students may have "ears." They can hear anything and understand how to reproduce it or interpret it. This is a student with an improvisational brain that will need to be nurtured.
2. What kind of instrument is suitable to the student?
As a life-long instrument collector and trader, I have a discerning eye for compatibility between the student and a particular instrument. I am always happy to help students and/or their families make decisions when shopping for an instrument.
Whenever possible, I put the student on one of my own instruments during the first lesson in order for me to gauge what might be a suitable instrument for them to rent or buy.
Q. Do you have a favorite story from your work?
A. Many years ago I had a student in Toronto. She was a neighbour and the daughter of a prominent clergyman in Toronto. She mostly wanted to learn how to strum some chords for song leading her youth group. Several years later, I had a student in Freehold, NJ. She was the daughter of a prominent clergyman in NJ. One day she asked me if I knew the clergyman in Toronto, and I said, "Of course! His daughter was my guitar student." Turns out that my two students had become best friends after studying in a seminary together. Just a random "six degrees of separation" thing! They have both kept up their guitar and music studies, I'm very proud to say!
Q. How did you decide to get in your line of work?
A. Music was my calling. My dad bought me my first guitar when I was 8 years old, because he realized it was the only way to stop the nagging!
Q. What are the latest developments in your field? Are there any exciting things coming in the next few years or decade that will change your line of business?
A. The internet has been a big game changer. YouTube has enabled me to offer my students examples of guitar (and bass) playing that was previously unavailable - at their own discretion. I find this help students develop their curiosity-driven studying habits. Many of the world's greatest guitarists, such as Martin Taylor, Lollo Meier and Stochelo Rosenberg, may not be very well known to local audiences, but I can access their online guitar "institutes" and help my students gain a wider, more worldly view of our great instrument and how we communicate with music. Likewise with the bass, with educators/performers such as Australia's Zeljko Zelle Glamocanin, whose website is superb and who is helping usher in a new generation of very sophisticated players. It's very exciting. It's a GREAT time to be a teacher.
Q. If you were advising someone who wanted to get into your profession, what would you suggest?
A. Practice, practice, practice! Study, study, study. Be a social creature who loves people. Strive for excellence, and demand the same for those around you. If you don't love music, find something else to do. If you can't love people, please don't do this job!