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: