Name: Don Furness
School: Redmond Middle School, Redmond, Washington
Guitar Students: 60
Teaching Guitar Workshops: When and Where did you attend the Teaching Guitar Workshops?
Don Furness: I attended in Seattle at the Experience Music Project in about 2008.
Teaching Guitar Workshops: Tell us a little about why you decided to teach guitar?
Don Furness: Music is important for all kids, yet we only had the traditional performance classes of band, choir, and orchestra. There needed to be an option for kids that didn’t want to take a performance class. We started the class the first year with about 45 kids and next year we will be at 91.
Teaching Guitar Workshops: Tell us what inspires you to teach guitar.
Don Furness: Learning to stretch my skills as guitar player and thinking of new ways to teach techniques on a newer instrument to me inspires my teaching. When I took the Teaching Guitar Workshop I wasn’t much beyond a beginning player. I continue to be a lifelong learner; I think kids enjoy seeing that.
Teaching Guitar Workshops: What is the most fun or rewarding element of teaching classroom guitar?
Don Furness: The most fun of teaching guitar is seeing students learning to take chances–learning new techniques, satisfaction of learning to read notes and chords, ensemble playing, even singing. It’s very rewarding to see kids in the hall from previous classes and they tell me they are still playing.
Teaching Guitar Workshops: What is the most challenging element of teaching classroom guitar?
Don Furness: Perhaps the most challenging to me is teaching the kids the importance of tuning each time they come to play and getting a large class tuned. They are excited to get going in learning their instrument.
Teaching Guitar Workshops: Aside from guitars, what other products do use during your class?
Don Furness: We use tuners, presentation station for daily lesson outline, youtube videos, play-along CD, and instruction book
Teaching Guitar Workshops: Any other thoughts or insights about teaching guitar?
Don Furness: I very much enjoy the change of pace of teaching the guitar class from the band rehearsal. It brought a new freshness to my day.
Two ideas that gives a little variety to the class are ensemble playing and a recital at the end of the class. It’s fun seeing the kids learning to perform a bit and developing teamwork skills. “Ya mean we gotta sing?!” Kids get creative with lyrics and expression and realize they might have some hidden talent. The recital idea is really from one of the instructors at the Workshop I attended. It’s called a “Guts Recital.” If the student has been working on something special they enjoy and have the guts to play it, they do. It’s meant to show what they have accomplished. Kids have fun playing things that matter to them and get to show off a bit.