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My Electronic Classroom

Some years ago when I was asked that infamous question during an interview, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”, I could not have predicted the future. I had no idea. Never knowing where the winds would direct me, as opportunities ebb and flow, I would often land in unexpected, but familiar areas. Today, as I examine the incredibly flexible series of situations my career in music has placed in front of me, it makes perfect sense that besides performing, touring, recording, and composing, I am also now teaching guitar, ukulele and even bass (never touched one) to people ages 9 to 78 all over the world. I feel like a bad storyteller from a cheap 50’s thriller right now saying, “It all started when…”, but that’s where I must begin. I have always loved teaching, and although it’s not for everyone, I feel very fortunate that I do seem to have both the ability and desire to pass the torch along. And, I am not speaking exclusively about the next generation. Often I encounter a new student who has been tinkering with his or her instrument for years and has at least a decade or two on me. I suppose it’s sort of like that phrase, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”.

Get well card from my web designer.

Get well card from my web designer.

Back to “It all started when”. I was in a car accident nearly a decade ago and found myself both incapacitated and in potential financial straits. Somehow, I located all of the players who had expressed interest in studying my style. I began teaching them over the phone. That’s correct. Over the phone. I found that when I sent them the music for a piece we could discuss the fingerings of both hands for the music, map out options, consider the various note treatments, decipher timing issues and so forth. Somehow it worked, although I did feel a bit funny telling some guy across the country how to wiggle his little finger to create vibrato, while I sat at home in the semi-darkness on pain medication that was effective enough that I didn’t mind periodically fixating on reruns of the TV series, Gilligan’s Island. Over the years and with the advent of Skype, high-speed computers, built-in cameras and so forth, this teaching concept seems to have really taken off. I have accumulated students from New Zealand to Indiana; Australia to the UK; Texas to Sweden. The instruments have expanded as well with the ukulele seemingly taking the world by storm. Uke clubs are popping up everywhere and now those with very little experience are joining local bands. There is finally an awareness out there that music is supposed to be a social event and fun. So why am I mentioning all of this and what is the point? One thing – to encourage you to dig deep and become resourceful, think positively and not to play guessing games with the future, at least not too much, especially in regards to your potential to play music or find a new source of funding.
A student captures my Skype face.

A student captures my Skype face.

For example, I have found that adapting to individual schedules in regards to time and finances are two of the main ingredients that allow me to continue down the Skype lesson trail. Often times (like 80%) folks need to adjust their originally scheduled time for a lesson, so I do what I can to accommodate them. Finances can also be tricky for some, so 30-minute lessons, bi-monthly Skype visits and payment plans work. To force a strict stipulation on the students to have this done by next week is a no-no. For many this is not school. It is a hobby, therapy or some form of escape. The key is to find the right fit between teacher and student and for both to enjoy the learning the process in my classroom. As a teacher, I recognize that some students prefer to be pushed while others drive themselves harder than others. I’m not convinced that there is a norm. For me, the avenue is wide open for teaching various instruments since music is music. Whether you are exploring bass, guitar, ukulele, banjo, or whatever might be up your alley, it still comes down to theory, technique, timing, knowledge, and experience – the usual suspects. For example, my classical guitar teacher David Walbert’s primary teacher was the renowned violinist Frances Magnes. So where do I see myself in five years? Probably on Mars hanging out with Matt Damon trying to figure out how to stay alive until rescue arrives and then the next day saying, “I can’t believe they left me! Didn’t Matt tell them there were two of us here? And he forgot his ukulele!”

Note: Catch Richard’s concerts, clinics and workshops this September during his tour of the UK and Ireland. Full tour schedule at On Tour.
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About the author

Richard Gilewitz

For over three decades fingerstyle guitarist Richard Gilewitz has charmed audiences with road tales and right-hand wizardry, creating a sparkle of mood mastery and wonderment during each performance. Recognized world wide as a performer who has a quirky take on everything around him, Richard lives up to this depiction with rousing shows filled with offbeat observations and 6 & 12-string gymnastics. As a youngster, Richard Gilewitz embraced such diverse artists as The Beatles, Andres Segovia, Kraftwerk, Leo Kottke, J.S. Bach, Arlo Guthrie, John Fahey and Flatt & Scruggs. With Richard's signature playing style delivering a technical diversity of banjo style picking patterns, classical arpeggios, tapping and harmonics, along with a rhythmic and percussive approach, he shares a fresh impression of sound to the listener during his concert performances and at his annual 2-day GillaCamp Guitar Workshop. Students around the globe also attend Richard's roving GillaCamp Guitar Workshop, a 1 to 4 hour interactive experience that provides players an avenue to renew their love of the guitar. In between touring, Richard conducts private lessons and also teaches students through Skype. Catch Richard's tour schedule at www.richardgilewitz.com

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