After a concert and guitar seminar for my friend Mark Tortenson at The Fret Shop in Huntsville, Alabama, I traveled to Birmingham to visit David Walbert, my long time guitar instructor and mentor.

In my quest to pick up some inspiration, I set aside a few days for David to help me fine-tune my technique and to teach me a few new ones in order to expand my performance repertoire.

Years ago, while studying with David at the University of Alabama, I recall a 20 minute lesson instructing me in the art of facial dynamics for guitar players. As he put it, “I don’t think you want to be making a face like a cat in a litter box while you’re performing.” This is advice I still consider today.

But when David gets down to the core of the lesson, I cannot imagine anyone better at the actual art of teaching the craft of music and the playing of the guitar. The passion and expertise he extends to his student is the purest definition of inspiration. In my case, I continue to be motivated to improve my craft, particularly when David locates a nuance or two that can be addressed in a variety of ways. The fine tuning of any of the tunes I play is exactly the kind of instruction I welcome even after 35 years of playing and touring.

Often I have my own students ask me what I feel qualifies a teacher as a master. I cannot forget the time (I even wrote this down to exactly remember) that David heard me playing a piece of music over the telephone. He ask me to stop and casually commented, “Why did you use your middle finger instead of your ring finger to pluck the 2nd string on the ‘and’ of the 3rd beat in measure 17?” Now that qualifies someone as a master.

Editor’s Note: Richard Gilewitz has recorded a number of original compositions by David Walbert. “The Music of David Walbert” is available at  

Originally posted 2010-05-20 18:06:26.