GSI– Who are your students? Is it easier to convert, say, a bassoonist to the guitar than it is to convert a goth kid who already plays guitar to play classical? Or a kid who doesn’t play anything yet? How do you get to that moment where they realize they’d rather play classical guitar than some other kind of music.
Gregg – I am very proud that my students come from the general population. All with no classical guitar experience and many with no music experience at all. I’ve had varsity football starters, theatre actors, honor roll students, students on academic assistance, and every other type of student you could imagine. It does not matter where they come from, they can learn to play and many of my advanced students did not even know they would enjoy it, they just took the class to get fine arts credit. Classical guitar has a way of creeping up on you when you don’t expect it then all of a sudden you’re hooked. Or, as I like to say stealing from Bill Cosby, “If you’re not careful, you might learn something.”
I have plenty of students who don’t care at all about classical guitar and just take the class to learn how to operate the instrument and then play rock, metal, blues, whatever. I’m totally fine with this; follow the curriculum, learn classical and expand your horizons then do whatever the heck you want as long as you enjoy it. The catch is that many of these kids fall in love with CG on the way and form my advanced classes. Pretty much all of my students play other styles and are better at those styles (so they tell me) because of what they’ve learned on classical.
GSI – What are the biggest challenges? Do they come from the students or admin?
Gregg – Well, I’ve been lucky to have a forward thinking administration. I’ve had many challenges and been in more than a few challenging meetings, but I never faced edicts telling me what to do with assessment, grades, or curriculum. Over time my goals have been met and in the long run everyone is happy.
I suppose the hardest people to get on board are the parents. This is not their fault, it is because of the perception of guitar. On the one hand it is great to be associated with Jimmy Page and Ed Van Halen as this makes my instrument more appealing to the general public. On the other hand there is a deeply held perception that guitar should always be ‘fun’ (like a video game, c’mon isn’t Guitar Hero fun?). The idea that some work must happen before the fun of performance (do they have any idea how many thousands of hours Ed Van Halen spent on the edge of his bed working out his style?) is foreign to many and this is the largest part of the battle.
Bottom line: stick to your guns, do what is right for the long term learning of the student. You may face short term challenges, but will do long term good for all involved, including society at large.
Check back for part three of the interview, and also check out Servite’s YouTube Channel, where you can see some of Gregg’s students in action.
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