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SDML Academy of Guitar

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About SDML Academy of Guitar

hired 3 times on Thumbtack

Teaching is my passion. This is not just a way for me to make a few extra bucks as a guitarist; this is my primary vocation as a musician.

I'm dedicated and have a sincere desire to help students reach and exceed their goals with music at all levels, from beginners through advanced players. I teach ages 8 and up, and I'm a loving father, very good with kids, and extremely patient and understanding.

I'm a certified instructor in the SDML teacher's network, and we teach our own material. In other words, there are no books to buy and teaching materials are included in the fee.

These classes are for you if you:
* are a complete beginner and have never touched the guitar.
* have some (or a lot of) experience playing but want to become more fluid and confident.
* have ambitions to become a performing and/or recording artist.
* are an intermediate player looking to de-mystify the fretboard, chord constructions, scales, improvisation, etc.
* are an experienced player with good skills but need some touch-up help with specific problem areas, breaking bad habits, etc.
* are "stuck" and want to expand your playing abilities.

The SDML system is a more efficient method, a structured and logical teaching approach that easily conforms to the needs of each student. We offer much more than the standard "take your lesson, work on the material, show up a week later, rinse, repeat," which is why, stated bluntly, it works better than other instructional methods (and why Gibson Guitars has decided to sponsor the program.)

Our system affords students not only the weekly lessons they could get elsewhere, but plugs them into music deeply by offering:
-performance opportunities (recitals, etc.)
-recording opportunities (esp. via PTA "Reflections")
-sponsored weekly guitar jams & monthly drum jams
-direct connection to the industry the "Guitar Gods" series & other performance artists interviews; info on GSA, Foster Music Camp, etc)
-a "secret" student web-page packed with info...

All of this is light years beyond anything one can find outside of the university level.

This added value of increased opportunity is why we've served thousands in classes, private lessons, clinics and workshops over the past few years alone and why the students, on the whole, get better and do so faster than with other methods.


Grayslake, IL 60030

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  • 5/5 stars

    My son, Dakota, started lessons with Paul when he was 7. He progressed so fast!! We are fortunate to have found Paul.

  • 5/5 stars

    I started with Paul about two years ago. I can honestly say without him my music career would not exist. He helped produce my first single, and he's just the best of the best!

  • 5/5 stars

    I was a student of Paul's for two years, starting in 2010. He is a truly inspired teacher, patient and enthusiastic, with a lively sense of humor that makes lessons fun as well as informative. As someone who started guitar at a pretty advanced age, Paul made me feel very comfortable and welcome in a class where I was the oldest member by several decades. I highly recommend him to anyone starting out or polishing up skills already learned.

  • 5/5 stars

    Only knew Paul for a short time but loved going to see him play!! So passionate about his work!!! Kentucky will miss you!! Visit soon!!!

  • 5/5 stars

    Paul is an awesome guitar instructor and what he does best is bring out the very best in his students. He is among the best at what he does and Chicago is lucky to have him.

  • 5/5 stars

    Paul is the guitar instructor you hope to get when fearfully searching for someone with oodles of patience and knowledge and expertise and the heart of teacher and talent and....did I mention patience? He is nothing short of phenomenal. Made me look forward to each lesson and get excited at my improvements...which were quick and steady due entirely to his skill and ability to impart the knowledge he has into his students. I would drive to Chicago for a lesson each week if I could.

  • 5/5 stars

    Paul is an insanely awesome musician. Nice guy, good teacher and is able to explain theory in ways a child could understand. I would highly recommend using this guy for lessons and any other music needs.

  • 5/5 stars

    Thorough, patient, and knows many different styles!

  • 5/5 stars

    Paul Felice is a first rate guitarist and performer. I've worked with him on several occasions and he is a professional through and through. His demeanor is friendly and he is highly intelligent and patient. I'm sure you'll agree he is an excellent teacher!

  • 5/5 stars

    I have never worked with Paul but have seen him perform and have gotten to know him as a friend. I have been playing guitar for almost 50 years and have never had formal lessons. That said, I would take lessons from Paul in a heartbeat given the opportunity. He is a super guy, great musician, and I am quite confident an outstanding teacher. I was a school administrator for over 20 years, I know a great teacher when I see one.

  • 5/5 stars

    I'm a current guitar student of Paul's and he is an absolute professional. His musical knowledge and ability to communicate ideas are impressive. I've improved greatly in a short amount of time with him due to his ability to quickly pinpoint what you're doing, what you're not doing, and the best way to improve. I highly recommend him as a guitar instructor.

  • 5/5 stars

    Paul is a very patient and creative teacher. He's well versed in all areas of musical theory as well as fundamentals. On top of all that, he's one heck of a guitar player with real world playing experience.

  • 5/5 stars

    I really gained an immense amount of knowledge with Paul as my instructor. He opened my mind to some things that I could not see.

  • 5/5 stars

    I have been taking guitar lessons from Paul for a little over a year, and in that relatively short time not only has my playing improved significantly, but so has my understanding of song structure, the bacis music theory, and perhaps most important my confidence. In fact, with Paul's patient instruction and encouragment, I am now starting to play in public on a semi-regular basis. Couldn't have done it without him.

  • 5/5 stars

    Paul recently came to Chicago to be the guitar player for a few of my daughter's new songs that will be coming out soon on her first CD.I wish I could share them with now so you could hear how amazing Paul played on these tracks!!! He is not only a talented and professional musician but he is dedicated and passionate about it too!!! If you are looking for a teacher or a performer Paul is your guy!!!

  • 5/5 stars

    I had no knowledge or experience with any instrument, & within 3 weeks I was strumming & playing. Paul is a very talented teacher & is very patient & will work with each individual student according to their style of learning. I have been playing for a year & a half & can play & sing & easily learn songs on my own. Paul has taken my music career to a whole new level & I can't thank him enough for encouraging me & believing in me.

  • 5/5 stars Guitar Lessons Verified Review

  • 5/5 stars

    Paul was my personal guitar instructor for a year. The qualities of Paul that make him an excellent service provider is that he is so professional and has superior knowledge of the guitar.

    What completely differs Paul than the others is that he works with you on your level and has the uncanny ability to make even the hardest things seem easy to grasp.

  • 5/5 stars

    I've taken guitar lessons with Paul for 2 years. He is extremely knowledgeable about all the things that have to do with guitar. He is patient and personable.

    What I have observed with Paul is that he teaches to your level. He'll push you to learn more without pressure. What I like most about him is that he communicates with me very well as a student. He is able to relate to me. Our personalities click.

    He is a student himself. He is also a professional musician, and that is a big plus. He is amazing, and I don't know anybody else that could have done what he has done. If you're looking for a guitar teacher, go with Paul.

  • 5/5 stars

    Paul is as dedicated an instructor as I've ever met, who has a passion for music, learning, and sharing knowledge that is unparalleled. An equally gifted musician, guitarist, and performer with an ability to inspire music lovers, fellow music peers, and students alike.

    In addition, his background as solo performer, band member, and sideman, as well as studio player, means he is bringing thousands of hours of experience to the job - whether that job is teaching, recording, or performing. Paul always goes way beyond the call of duty.

    A true professional in every sense of the word. It just doesn't get much better than that....and you can take that to the bank.

  • 5/5 stars

    I'm a fellow teacher in Lexington and know Paul to be a very dedicated, helpful teacher. I've seen his students and how they appreciate him as a teacher. Highly recommend!

    Michael Fogler

  • 5/5 stars

    Paul is an excellent guitar instructor. He started teaching my daughter, Madeline, when she was 8 and she absolutely loved him. He even helped her write her first song, "Super Cookie". He was very knowledgeable and patient with her. Paul made her lessons fun and she enjoyed learning from him. We moved out-of-state, so she no longer takes lessons from him, but I would highly recommend Paul as an instructor.
    ~Karen Boles

  • 5/5 stars

    I've never been a student, his guitars have too many strings for my taste, but I have been involved in playing music with Paul off and on and I can tell you he is a very talented musician and takes it very seriously. If you want to learn to play guitar and play it well do yourself a favor and choose Paul.

    M. Sean Smith

  • 5/5 stars

    I have been taking lessons with Paul for about 5 months , and have learned some cool stuff and have really progressed as a guitarist.

    Paul is a pretty cool guy and taught me some cool stuff and helped me make the stuff i made up even better.

    plus the recital things are fun.

  • 5/5 stars

    I took lessons last year from Paul for around 3-4 months. The only reason I stopped was due to family and work obligations.

    My experience with Paul was very good. What I enjoyed most was that Paul was interested in what you as a student wanted to learn and accomplish.

    I would recommend Paul to anyone. In fact I have. A co-workers son is taking lessons with Paul and ha has nothing but good things to say.

  • 5/5 stars

    I had Paul as an instructor and can honestly write that he was very attentive to my questions, guided me on some of the theory that I wanted to also learn about, and taught me quite a few useful methods that I still use in my guitar practice even today. Did I mention that he also makes learning fun and is quite patient? Well he does and he is :-)

    I'd highly recommend Paul to everyone and wish that I still lived in Lexington so that I could continue to benefit.

    Paul........... great job....... should have told you that some time ago.

  • 5/5 stars

    I've known Paul for several years. He teaches from a great program (SDML), and he's among the best in town for lessons. As a guitarist myself who has learned (and is still learning) from the same system, I recommend him to anyone in the Bluegrass area seeking to take their playing to the next level.

Question and answer

Q. What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?

A. Shop around, and don't settle. You're paying your hard-earned money for a service, so be as sure as you can be that you're going to get what you're looking for. Talk to a handful of teachers and compare their offerings, knowledgeability, references and testimonials to each other.

Most teachers' motivation is directly proportional to their quality of service. If a teacher seems apathetic to gaining your business, she's most likely going to have the same apathy toward your lessons.

Be most interested in teachers who take the time to answer your questions, provide background on their qualifications and experience, and respond to you in a timely manner.

Q. If you were a customer, what do you wish you knew about your trade? Any inside secrets to share?

A. The most important thing in finding a good guitar teacher is to make sure that he or she is responsible and reliable. It seems cliche and should be a given, but too often I hear stories of students constantly waiting for their teacher to show up, who then arrives late and unprepared.

Such an approach shows a teacher whose commitment is sorely lacking, and this inevitably shows through in a student's lack of potential progress.

An instructor I would want to learn from would be where he says he's going to be, when he says he's going to be there, and does what he says he's going to do.

If there's a "secret" to quality instruction, it goes back to the focus on strengths, rather than weaknesses. Many, many instructors tend to focus on somewhat unnecessary material, like sight-reading standard notation. This is a waste of time if the student is sitting there, knowing how to read piano music, holding a guitar that she can't play.

Q. What important information should buyers have thought through before seeking you out?

A. Before you start looking for a guitar teacher, it's important to really ask yourself why you are wanting to learn guitar. Is it just a hobby? Do you want to pursue a career? Are you looking to be the Next Big Thing?

All of this is not only very important information for a good teacher to know about you, but also for you to use in gauging a potential instructor's ability to meet your needs.

You should also have some days and times in mind for when you can take lessons, as good teachers are almost exclusively very, very busy, and have limited openings.

Lastly, know how much you expect to pay for lessons, and try to avoid pricing that seems too high or too low. Exorbitant pricing can indicate a scam; suspiciously low pricing indicates teachers who are not confident in the value of their own services.

Q. Why does your work stand out from others who do what you do?

A. The system I teach, developed by David M. McLean and an integral part of the Skinny Devil Music Labs (SDML) goes far beyond standard once-a-week lessons, and I take an active role in the development of the students who have put their trust in me. My approach is uniquely catered toward the needs of the individual, and though housed in a standard curriculum, flexible for students who have a specific focus on aspects of the music industry.

Expect to experience guitar lessons far different from those normally found in this and other areas. I teach it this way because it works. My student base is large, and I keep students for a very long time, for very good reason.

Q. What do you like most about your job?

A. As I said before, teaching guitar is my passion. Frankly, when I chose music as a career, I didn't expect teaching to become a path for me. Through David's guidance, however, I almost instantly fell in love with it.

Nothing makes me feel more satisfied than when I see my students reach, and normally exceed their personal goals. The look on their faces when they light up after nailing a lick that's been troubling them, or suddenly grasping an elusive concept that opens up a world of possibilities, makes me feel like I am offering a valuable service and making a difference in their lives.

And I know how they feel, because I've felt that myself under David's instruction, and it's the best feeling in the world.

Q. What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?

A. One of the most common questions students ask me is, "How much should I practice?" Without exception, I answer their question with a question: "How good do you want to be?"

Jimi Hendrix took his guitar to the grocery store, laundromat, walking down the street; he was obsessed with the instrument and it showed in his greatness. The students who succeed the most are the ones who gain the same (or similar) obsession. That's why the SDML system is committed to focusing on strengths, rather than weaknesses.

When students are compelled to direct their time and efforts to the aspects of playing that they enjoy and excel at the most, they tend to also organically grow in the areas that lack, and therefore become a whole and confident guitarist.

Q. Do you have a favorite story from your work?

A. It seems like I gain a new story every week, something that makes me feel proud of my students and very fortunate to do what I do. It would be impossible to choose a favorite.

One of my most memorable experiences, which happened very recently, was when a former student was instructed to write a paper for a college course. The topic was to be "a career worth pursuing." She chose guitar playing, interviewed me, and wrote an extremely flattering and touching piece, detailing her experiences as my student.

That essay is something I'll hold near and dear to my heart for the rest of my life. It was the quintessential example of how my work has helped someone see the possibilities that a world filled with music can provide.

Q. What do you wish customers knew about you or your profession?

A. Guitar teachers are often pigeon-holed as washed-up musicians, or struggling musicians trying to make a few extra bucks to make ends meet. This is a difficult badge to overcome, and is the reason I take great pains to brush it aside.

Unfortunately, the stereotype isn't without good historical basis.

The SDML system, however, is different. Teachers in our network are required to pass rigorous testing and training before they're permitted to acquire students under the system's name and criteria.

Many guitarists also assume that lessons are either for those who suck at guitar, or that they'll be forced to learn whatever style of music this instructor is familiar with. Neither of these things are true in my lessons. Many experienced guitarists have jumped their abilities, and I teach whatever style the student is interested in.

Q. How did you decide to get in your line of work?

A. After several months of intensive training, my teacher suggested that I give teaching a try, by acting as a substitute for him one day. The lessons went incredibly well, and the feedback from the students was extremely positive.

I continued to substitute teach for a few months, then slowly began building my own student base in my off time from work. Eventually, classes grew to the size that, when I got laid off from work, I was able to move into teaching full time and business exploded. I still have a significant waiting list to this day.

Teaching isn't for everyone, but it's definitely become an integral part of who I am both personally as well as professionally.

Q. Do you do any sort of continuing education to stay up on the latest developments in your field?

A. In addition to being a teacher, I am and always will be a student of David McLean. Despite my large base of knowledge on the instrument, each week he manages to find new ways to hone my skills and introduce new (and sometimes mind-boggling!) concepts in analyzing and/or creating different pathways to music.

At the moment, I'm involved in developing a new, comprehensive training program for guitar instructors as part of the SDML expansion project in 2011. It's a ton of work, but I find myself being auto-re-educated (if that's a word) and even seeing areas I can improve on in my own teaching and playing. It's a continually evolving process, and I expect it always will be.

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