musician

Roger Humphrey: One Teacher’s Commitment to Shaping the Future of Classical Guitar, Part II

https://www.facebook.com/RogerHumphreyClassicalGuitar/?fref=tshttp://www.rogerhumphrey.com/Sorry for the delay in this next installment of the interview with Roger Humphrey, classical guitar great (even though he would be too humble to say this himself). It has been a chaotic existence for me, including some WordPress technology issues. This, however, is a great way to kick off Part II of the interview with my treasured classical guitar instructor.

Roger gets technology, and he wields it well in making sure he reaches students and interested parties regularly. From regular blogging on the art of music, backed beautifully by his tenure as an player and instructor and his humor, to his use of FaceTime and Skype ensuring students near and wide maintain regular lessons, Roger seamlessly blends classical and modern.

In fact, he helped keep me on track with lessons last week when I was unable to make our in-person time slot due to the aforementioned chaos. He understands life happens, but beautiful music makes it better. I would still be struggling on 4th string music reading and Yankee Doodle if it weren’t for a FaceTime call last Thursday. Roger had me work backwards through the second line of music, saying the notes as I played and stringing (pun intended) it all together bar by bar.

To celebrate my technology savvy instructor, we learn more about his history as a teacher, and a little love story as promised in the last post below.

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What motivated you to teach guitar/music?

When I had a normal day job, getting out of bed in the morning was exhausting to me. Teaching has always just come naturally because I enjoy it so much. And, the opportunities for me to teach have come naturally as well. I have never needed to pursue jobs teaching music as they have been offered to me ever since I decided to focus my career on being an instructor. I taught at Olivet College for 26.5 years, in addition to Lansing Community College, Kellogg Community College, Michigan State University, and Alma College.

I also teach private lessons and found myself in a spot 15 years ago where I was teaching 93 private lessons, 5 college classes, and had 26 people on a waiting list. My wife asked how long I was going to keep that up. I said, “Fifteen weeks and not a day longer!”

I now teach about 55 people a week. I just don’t know what I’d do if I did not teach. I enjoy it.

Is it any different for you teaching these days? Have students changed?

It is not a lot different other than I find I have less patience at times. Music is important to the human condition, and while I see some differences in child rearing and focus, kids still find learning music a cool thing to do, and I want to teach them.

I am serious about teaching as a profession, so I used to wear a coat and tie every day, and this created a sense of respect. I have scaled this back to more casual attire, but I still believe you need to act professional and look professional to create a good musical learning environment.

What has been a highlight of your teaching career? How about a low time?

On a more personal side, in the late 70s, I had the worst student. She didn’t practice and did not do well in practices, so I ended up marrying her. That was 36 years ago. We were both divorced at the time, and music brought us together.

Another time of significance I can remember was about 10-12 years ago at the end of a recital for my students. One of the fathers of an 8 year old boy stood up and complimented me in front of everyone. This inspired a standing ovation, my only ovation ever, even with performing. It was unexpected and a little embarrassing, but it validated my life choice. I only wished my mother and father were there to see it.

I sometimes have a disappointment here and there in teaching, and I still have not learned how to effectively teach a love for the process of learning music. I want my students to stop thinking of the outcome, and simply love getting the instrument out to figure out the puzzle before them, appreciating the challenge of it for 30 minutes or whatever time alone they have to focus on playing. They can experience real joy when something comes together, and it sounds suddenly beautiful. This is not mowing the lawn or doing chores after all!

What advice would you give to students picking up a guitar for the first time?

I would really want students to focus on enjoying the process of learning right out of the gate and not giving in to impatience or frustration. Also, playing well is not an obligation to perform. There is a pressure to perform if you play well. I had a student once read me the riot act for not performing. You have every right to be good and not want to walk out on the stage. Playing well and performing are two separate things. You play for you first, and then decide what to do from there. I have a saying on the wall in my lesson room: We will learn to play beautiful music beautifully.

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Roger does indeed teach students to play beautiful music beautifully. I’ve watched my son do this as a result of Roger’s instruction. I am starting to play in a manner which makes me smile. I unfortunately have more content from this interview than I could fit into two posts. I may ask Roger to revisit some of this content dealing more with classical guitar and its future in another post in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, I would encourage you to follow Roger’s blog and visit his website, Facebook page, and YouTube channel. Also be sure to add him to your Spotify and other playlists! The links are as follows:

http://rhumphrey223.blogspot.com/

http://www.rogerhumphrey.com/

https://www.facebook.com/RogerHumphreyClassicalGuitar/?fref=ts

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5NDXiMcc2vjw3vRfspJe-Q

 

 

 

 

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musician

Roger Humphrey: One Teacher’s Commitment to Shaping the Future of Classical Guitar

Roger Humphrey is a classical guitar artist and teacher, and a genuinely decent and humorous person I have the pleasure of calling teacher and friend. My son has taken lessons with Roger since he was six years old. He is now nine, and his time with Roger has shaped him into a musician with potential and a little man with focus and heart. If you don’t think a music teacher can shape a child this way, you need to meet Roger. It has been my privilege to also take lessons with him since the beginning of this year, and the path forward I see involves beautiful classical music on the strings of my Cordoba and betterment as a person for knowing Roger both as a parent and a student.

Roger is savvy with technology. He understands where it can assist in spreading classical guitar interest and education to a larger audience of young and not so young aspiring musicians. So, when I asked him for an interview and time from his busy teaching and playing life, he agreed to FaceTime with me and made my heart and mind play Ode to Joy on repeat. I present the first part of our interview below, focusing on Roger’s path to classical guitar and a touching piece of his musical history. I look forward to sharing the next half of this interview on Thursday, February 11, 2016.

When did you start learning to play classical guitar and why?

I was 22 years old and had already performing as a guitar player. I was not happy with my abilities at the time and started to consider learning classical guitar. I fell in love with the music after hitting the wrong button on a jukebox and hearing Jethro Tull play Bach. I was in the military at the time, and I needed to be able to play at least this song if nothing else. Then, once I started learning classical, it always became one more song.

This was an abrupt change of heart for me. I took time off from performing for about 10 years while still teaching and working. I was hooked.

Was music an important part of your life and/or household growing up?

Not in a particular way. Both of my grandfathers played fiddle, although neither one of them would play in front of anyone. My father played accordion, which was the coolest thing to listen to, but he was just daddy to me, not a musician.

As for me, I liked music in general, and I was encouraged by my father to play. My mom tolerated my playing, but neither my dad nor mom wanted me to go pro and consider music as a livelihood.

Was there a turning point for your parents on your choice of music as a career?

I was performing a couple of years after the military when I met first wife. I had to learn to balance a day job, being married, and my first child. My parents were proud of my decision to balance life this way, but it was hard. During the downturn of the 70s, the company I was working for filed Chapter 11, and I was out of a job. I started teaching guitar until I could find another day job. I eventually found another job and kept teaching at Marshall Music in the evenings. I was competent at my day jobs, but it was not a good way of life for me. I hated going to work. So I put pencil to paper to figure out how I could make a living at teaching classical guitar, and I began my new career. This concerned my parents.

My mother has been gone 20 years, and she never quite understood my decision. I have enough of her in me which lead me to walk my own path. She was just quiet as I did.

As for my father, five years before he passed away, it was my turn to drive him to his snowbird destination, and we spent a few days together. This was the most time we spent together since I was a boy due to an estrangement, and he came to understand and accept why I was doing what I was doing.

Return Thursday for more of Roger’s story, including his experience teaching and his views on where classical guitar is going. There is also a love story in the next blog!

Links to Roger:

http://www.rogerhumphrey.com/

https://www.facebook.com/RogerHumphreyClassicalGuitar/

http://rhumphrey223.blogspot.com/

 

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The Art of Learning Music

Hello. I am back after a break where I assisted in running a fabulous writing conference and completed two major work projects. During these events in my life, one thing remained consistent: my effort to learn music.

Through my full immersion into learning bluegrass banjo over the past year, followed by starting down the path to electric and classical guitar, I have learned more about myself as a person than ever before, including the following:

  1. I have a remarkable work ethic and a dogged desire to keep at something until I get it right, and
  2. I have a knack for finding the right people to be partners in my learning.

I am sure some people are born with a natural fluency for music, and they quickly find the right strings, keys, percussion points, and breaths of air to produce beautiful noise. I, on the other hand, liken my fingers finding the right strings and frets on my banjo and guitars to drunk giraffes (nice, longish fingers with decent nails) wandering the Serengeti aimlessly, eventually becoming entangled in the chaos. So, I have to work really hard at learning, and I rely heavily on daily practice and various resources to learn. There is an art to learning the art of music, and here are the mediums I use to learn.

I practice, on average, one hour a day. As often as I can, I try to increase this by a half hour to one hour or find moments in the day where I can pick up an instrument and perform one piece of music or an exercise (even scales) quickly between life’s activities. I use a metronome for a portion of all practices, and I touch all three instruments daily. It is my labor of love, and one I have been engaging in for nearly 365 days straight since 2/7/2015. Doing the math now, and I’m going to guess I have practiced between 450 and 500 hours. This would equate to me practicing for nearly 21 days straight at the high end if somebody locked me up and threw away the key, and I did not sleep or eat or etc. I am not planning on this by the way! Music is life, and you must live life to make music.

I also find time to read music theory books and relevant magazines and newsletters as well as watch YouTube performances or lessons to learn from those much more talented than me. I am never without tunes in my ear whether at work or play, and I study and listen to the greats for each instrument.

All of this is wonderful, filling my soul cup daily with bourbon, and I am making significant progress as a result of the effort and focus. There is something much more important than this though. I could not do this without the help and guidance of two talented, interesting, and dedicated instructors for helping me along the path to playing music beautifully.

Recently, I was given the gift of an interview with my classical guitar teacher, Roger Humphrey. I will be sharing his story, wit, and wisdom in a two part blog special starting tomorrow. I hope you will stay with me on this journey.

In the meantime, please check out Roger online:

http://www.rogerhumphrey.com/

https://www.facebook.com/RogerHumphreyClassicalGuitar/

http://rhumphrey223.blogspot.com/

 

 

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