Name: Erik Larson
School: Fairmont Junior High School, Boise, Idaho
Subjects: Band, Guitar
Students: 90 Guitar Students p/YrTeaching Guitar Workshops: How did you decide to teach guitar?
Erik Larson: My music supervisor somehow heard I played “a little guitar” and needed somebody to take over an elementary class. I agreed and I was horrible that first year! I took the Level One GAMA Teaching Guitar Workshop that summer and it changed my whole approach. I have since taken Level Two and hosted 2 Level One and 1 Level Two workshops here in Boise.
Teaching Guitar Workshops: Was there support from your school?
Erik Larson: When I decided that I wanted to start a junior high guitar program, my administrators were very supportive and created room in my schedule for two sections a day.
Teaching Guitar Workshops: Tell us about a typical guitar class?
Erik Larson: I spend time each day on hand dexterity, strum patterns, chord pairs/progressions, rhythm reading, note-reading and chord study, using songs and a variety of exercises.
Teaching Guitar Workshops: What is most rewarding about teaching guitar?
Erik Larson: Some kids don’t work well in a large group rehearsal environment. It’s been a shot in the arm for me to be able to offer an alternative and to get even more kids involved in our school music department. I think it has made me a better teacher, as well.
Teaching Guitar Workshops: What is most challenging about teaching guitar?
Erik Larson: Having 15 years of experience as a band director first, it has been difficult to understand the dynamics of classroom guitar, as it is not always a “rehearsal” environment, but is often like a gigantic private lesson with kids at a variety of ability levels and interests.
Teaching Guitar Workshops: Any other thoughts or insights for teachers who wish to start a guitar program?
Erik Larson: With the amount of training that is available for classroom guitar teachers, no one needs to be fearful of getting a program started in their own schools. Adding a guitar program has allowed me to offer music to kids who might have otherwise “fallen through the cracks” by not participating in the traditional ensembles that our school offers. Selfishly, it has also allowed me to not have to travel as much between schools for other teaching assignments.
Teaching Guitar Workshops: Moving forward, what would help you teach guitar?
Erik Larson: Being a professional trumpet player certainly hasn’t helped me much on the guitar end of things. I try to take lessons in the summer whenever I can to help with my own progression as a guitarist. I also try to soak in as much as I can from friends and colleagues who play. Honestly, YouTube (when used properly)and other guitar teaching websites are also a terrific resource for someone like me.
Teaching Guitar Workshops: What products do you use in class?
Erik Larson: Classroom sets of Essential Elements for Guitar, Snyder’s Guitar School (Bk 1) and Explore It! Book by Class Guitar Resources. I also have a Fender G-DEC Jr. that I use as a metronome and to accompany exercises and chord progressions with a rhythm section. I use my iPod all the time!
Teaching Guitar Workshops: What products do your students bring and what does the school provide?
Erik Larson: Kids provide their own picks and keep a folder for handouts and notes. I have a classroom set (25) of Dean Espana classical guitars. Just got new Levy’s bags for them. I replace individual strings as they break (using D’Addario) unless they’re old and I put on a new set. Each guitar gets all new strings at least once a year. I take care of strings (since they’re my guitars!), I also have a couple of tuners and capos when we need them.
Teaching Guitar Workshops: Do your students play informally?
Erik Larson: A couple of my older kids are involved with bands, but the JH kids mostly play just for their own enjoyment.