Tracy Bolton1. Describe your experience as a classroom guitar teacher.
I have been teaching guitar for 11 years at Lafayette High School. Lafayette offers 2 semester-long classes as part of the school day. I spend the majority of my day teaching classroom guitar and fill out the rest as an assistant band director. Each year, my school starts about 100 new guitar players. I have developed an after school guitar program to build opportunities for those students who wish to continue with guitar. I currently have a classical ensemble and 3 rock bands that meet weekly to work on developing skills playing as part of an ensemble, soloing and composition.

2. What’s your favorite thing about teaching guitar, and Why?
My absolute favorite part of teaching guitar in school is the students. The classes draw a different clientele. With those students, I get the opportunity to develop relationships with a much wider range of the student population.

3. What’s your least favorite thing about teaching guitar? How do you deal?
The biggest obstacle I face in the guitar classroom is convincing students who already have some facility on the guitar that reading skills are important. A student that has been playing for a while and has a well developed ear is often very frustrated when trying to learn to read standard notation. The beginning classes are simple enough that a good ear can get you by for a little while. When things start to get more complicated, the frustration kicks in and those students can become down right obstinate when asked to read.

I attempt to combat this issue early in the process. Coming from a wind background, student’s mouths were occupied. This is not the case with guitar. Students can play and speak at the same time. This was a huge revelation for me! I could have students say note names while playing the notes thus reinforcing the names along with the locations. I also spend quite a bit of time drawing parallels between reading music notation and reading English. How frustrating and slow would life be if you were dependent on someone else to read something to you in order for you to know what it said. The ability to read for yourself expands your ability to learn more music at an exponentially faster pace.

4. What are your 3 favorite lessons to teach at TGW?
Improvisation is my absolute favorite lesson! Simple ways to incorporate improvisation into lessons is a favorite lesson of mine. Improvisation is something that tends to get lost when we teach instruments. We spend plenty of time learning notes and rhythms (which are very important!) but we lose sight at time of the creativity that should be involved in music. You have a very simple “can’t fail” way to allow students to start to create original solos of their own.

It makes me smile on the second day of the clinic when we know enough notes and chords that we can start to create ensembles out of simple songs. On Monday, many people didn’t really even understand how to hold the instrument. On Tuesday, we are playing ensembles and learning how to build layers out of what seems to be just a simple single line of music.

I love teaching the power chord lesson! It is that moment when you see a room full of adults get that childlike joy on their face when they discover that something they heard on the radio is easily accessible to them and more importantly their future students.

5. What are the top 2 reasons for a teacher to start a guitar program?
Guitar has such a rich and varied history. There are so many styles and techniques you can teach and discover with the same six string instrument that it is mind boggling! Guitar is a gateway to teaching kids classical but also a way to teach them how to discern what current music they like and why they consider it quality.

Guitar is also an instrument that can stay with you for life. You can be part of a group, sharing the musical experience. You can also play as one. Whether you’re working on classical, folk, pop or rock, music is always at your fingertips.

6. What are the top 2 reasons for a teacher to attend TGW?
Teaching Guitar Workshops takes the terror out of standing in front of a classroom full of young guitar players. In a week, teachers receive a wealth of information of different teaching strategies and classroom structures and routines that have been proven successful by current guitar teachers. Every year I teach the clinic, I learn something new from one of my colleagues that I immediately take back to my classroom.

Teaching Guitar Workshops delivers a first hand look at the new guitar methods available as well as the tried and true method books. The workshop gives you guitar skills so that you will feel comfortable in front of your students but it also will give you a better understanding of what different guitar methods have to offer and how to pick the method that will work best for your teaching style and situation.

7. What is one thing everyone will walk away with from TGW?
Everyone that I have talked with who has completed the Teaching Guitar Workshop walks away confident that they can start a classroom guitar program. They may not feel like they are ready to be a gigging guitar player but they feel like they can walk into a classroom and start a student on the path to a good guitar education.

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