By: Matt Warnock
Being a professional guitarist, I’ve had a lot of teachers over the years. These teachers ranged from my very first music store teacher who showed me the five positions of the blues scale, to renowned guitar educator and performer Roddy Ellias, and everything in between. I’ve been lucky in that each of my teachers was able to push me to the next level of my playing. helping me build the career as a guitarist that I have today.
Though I studied at top music programs and with some great professors along the way, one of the best teachers I ever had was actually one of my students. He isn’t a professional guitarist, to the extent that he doesn’t make a living playing music, and he doesn’t hold a university or conservatory teaching position. In fact, I never formally took lessons with my friend, yet I’ve learned more from him than most of my professional teachers combined. That friend is Marc Sandroff.
I met Marc when I was living in Kalamazoo, entering the second semester of my Master’s degree at Western Michigan University. Marc, who was an extremely talented and driven guitarist in his teens and early 20s, was recently coming back to the instrument after taking a lengthy break from the guitar to pursue a business career and raise his family. As fate would have it, he picked up the phone, called WIU and they recommended that he talk to me about taking guitar lessons. Lessons that would benefit me as much as they would my good friend Marc.
You see, though Marc doesn’t play guitar for a living, he absolutely loves the instrument. Everything about the guitar fascinates and engages him. From the construction of classical and archtop guitars, to string gauges and materials, to classical sonatas, blues improvisation and jazz chord solos, Marc loves it all. This is why he has been my biggest mentor over the years.
A lot of the time, when we play guitar for a living as I do, one of two things will happen. Playing guitar turns into a job with all the monotony that accompanies that title, or we become overly obsessed with learning the instrument and overlook the emotional, personal and business side of the equation, or both. By doing so, we risk falling into the trap of caring too much about our own playing, and not enough about the people who actually listen to our music, buy our records and attend our concerts. People like Marc.
Over the years I have worked with Marc on his jazz playing, and he has reminded me to keep my head in the game. To dig deeper into the emotional side of playing, engage my audience, and most importantly, to love the guitar and know how lucky I am to get to play this instrument as a career.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve been down about my playing, or that I had a rough day teaching at my university gig, but after talking to Marc I realized that a bad day as a guitarist is better than the best day at just about any other job on the planet, and this has helped keep me moving forward in my career more than anything.
Then there have been those moments where I faced decisions and doubts that every musician faces. Days where I felt like giving up on music, selling my guitar and walking down to the local bank or mall to get a job selling life Insurance or whatever, and Marc has been there to talk me out of it. Sure, he encourages me and would support me in anything I did, he’s one of my closest friends, but he’s always been there to push me to keep going with my music. To push through the hard times, relish the high points, and love every minute of this often difficult career path.
In order to be successful as a guitarist and pay the bills with our instruments a number of things have to happen. We need to have a certain level of natural talent, coupled with a strong work ethic and the right guidance from those around us to bring everything together in such a way that we can make an impact in this highly competitive field. But, most importantly, we need support and guidance from those around us. While this often comes from teachers and other professional players, there are times when a student or friend can step in and become the mentor one needs to see things through and forge ahead with our careers.
For me, that person is Marc Sandroff. So, let me introduce you to my good friend. You can learn about his upbringing as a respected and talented classical guitarist, the years when he walked away from the guitar and his return to playing in recent years, all while maintain a love for this instrument, through thick and thin, that is one of the most inspiring things I have ever seen.
I’ll stop talking now. Let’s hear Marc’s side of the story.
Matt Warnock: Tell me about your earliest memory of the guitar?
Marc Sandroff: My earliest memory is hearing my brother and sister play guitar when I was quite young. I was probably eight years old when I first heard them play. I always admired their musical abilities.
Matt: What style of music were they playing? Was it classical, folk, blues?
Marc: I’d say mostly folk, rock and blues kinds of things.
Matt: It wasn’t until you got into high school that you started getting serious, right? Around what age was that?
Marc: A little bit before high school. When I started playing I was around twelve. I think I heard my first classical guitar album when I was about 13 or 13 and a half. That’s when I started playing classical. But I started getting serious, playing several hours a day, in high school.
Matt: Were you studying on your own? Because you were in Chicago at the time, and there are a lot of great teachers in Chicago.
Marc: Yeah, my very first teacher was a great Chicago guitarist. He was a flamenco guitarist that had his own studio, and had a studio at a pretty high end music store. He was a teacher at DePaul University as well.
Matt: What was his name?
Marc: Tom Wilson, he played under the name Tomas, and he was an outstanding flamenco guitarist. He also played pretty good classical guitar. He got my hands right, was a good musician, and got me to read music and so forth.
Matt: This was in the early ’70s, right?
Marc: Yeah, maybe the late ’60s, ’69 to ’70 is when I started taking lessons.
Matt: It’s a little strange for a 13 year old kid in 1969 and ’70 to be playing classical guitar. Did you get weird looks at school? Did your friends ask “Why aren’t you playing Hendrix?”
Marc: Well I did both. While I was not a big Jimi Hendrix fan then–I am now–I played rock n roll. I played folk rock and a little blues, but I also played classical, which is interesting because that’s kind of where my head is at these days as well.
Matt: You were motivated to turn to classical because you had heard it, and it was intellectual and stimulating. With the rock ‘n’ roll, was it just adolescent rebellion like most kids? What was the draw to that kind of music?
Marc: I think it was just the music of the day. It was just the music that everyone related to. It was the music I was listening to. I would turn up the stereo loud like every young aspiring guitarist and play fills or whatever, but classical appealed to me totally differently because of the polyphonic nature of the instrument. Not only was I drawn to the music, I was drawn to the how many things were going on. It was like a small orchestra.
Matt: You’ve had a lot of success as a classical guitarist. Did you go to the Interlochen Summer Arts Camp?
Marc: No, I just went for a special program, which was like a long weekend. I mean, in those days, there were really no classical guitar programs around, certainly not at Interlochen. It was just starting to happen in the conservatory and music school scene when I was about 13. It got better, of course, along the way.
Matt: At what age did you really take it seriously, and upped your practicing to hours and hours a day?
Marc: I don’t know, I think somewhere around 14 or 15. I was playing two and a half to three hours a day. By the time I was 16, I was probably playing three to four, maybe five hours a day. When I was 16 and 17 was when I really started attending some master classes, but by the time I was 16 I was pretty serious.
I don’t remember being serious, but when I talk to my old friends, they always told me that they would call me to do things and I was always practicing. Or if they came over I always had a guitar in my hand.
Matt: Your classical guitar playing allowed you to travel to Toronto and some other places. Can you tell us about some of those events?
Marc: I went to a few festivals where they would have a masterclass or sometimes a competition. There was a famous one in Toronto. There was one in Chicago that Oscar Ghiglia did that I attended a couple of times.
There was one that was done in one of the suburbs of New York City, and then the best place for classical guitar at that point was really San Francisco. I hung out there a little bit during the year after high school.
I didn’t go to college. I hung out in San Francisco and got to know some of the guitarists in that scene and I applied to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where I was accepted.
That was the hub of the guitar at that time, and it’s still a major place. I would say San Francisco was number one, and maybe New York and Chicago were distant seconds.
Matt: At this time you were studying with Jack Cecchini.
Marc: I studied with him for a year in high school and then I switched to a student of Cecchini’s named Curt Lewis, who is a fine guitarist. He also studied with a very famous Mexican teacher named Manuel Lopez Ramos, who I believe is still teaching. He actually studied with him in Mexico City.
I studied with Curt for several years. Curt was really unlike Tom, who was mostly a flamenco guitarist and a classical guitarist a little bit. Curt was really a classical guitarist, and that was a really big influence on me.
Matt: Right. What was it like studying with Jack Cecchini back then? He was sort of the go to guy for classical lessons.
Marc: Well there were two guys in Chicago for classical lessons. There was Jack Cecchini and his students, some of them like Curt who had university positions. Then there was another guy at DePaul, named Richard Pick. At the time he was fairly well known ’cause he had a few famous method books. Besides he was at DePaul, and had a following there.
Jack Cecchini was a brilliant musician, a great guitarist. A very demanding teacher, but he really did get you to do what needed to happen. When I studied with him I really focused more on musicianship. I remember him saying that “the first note of any piece is like the first word when you speak a sentence.” So we went through all the first notes and first phrases in all the pieces I was playing.
Curt really was a major influence on my classical playing. Curt really got a lot of my technique and my tone together. I think I studied far less with Jack Cecchini. What he did was help me understand music better and really put more control into my playing. He slowed my playing down a lot. We worked on feminine and masculine phrases and these kinds of things, but I didn’t study with him as long as Curt. When I think back here 30 years later, Curt really had an enormous impact on my playing, as did Tom Wilson in those early years.
Matt: Chicago at this time is really interesting. It’s not a New York, it’s not Greenwich Village, but there was still a pretty strong folk scene. You’re doing a lot of that, playing guitar, strumming some chords…what are a few of your favorite memories from that time?
Marc: At that point in time, there was sort of a little bit of a circuit in Chicago. There were a few bars and coffee houses to play at such as a great place called the Amazing Grace, which was in Evanston on the campus of Northwestern.
There was a famous place called the Earl of Old Town and another bar on Lincoln Ave called Holstein’s. Then there was the university circuit in town like Champagne, Madison, Iowa and Ann Arbor. The big names at the time, which would be everyone from Peter Yarrow and Stevie Goodman to John Prine and Kenny Rankin, they usually traveled on their own, maybe with one other musician. Maybe a lead guitarist or something, but that was it. Although in my memory, they mostly traveled on their own and they would call a couple local musicians to do their gigs in Chicago and so forth.
I got a few calls, and that was kind of fun. I was strumming rhythm guitar, sometimes 12-string guitar, backing these guys up. That was fun because I was so young, 16 and 17 years old. It paid well, but I also got to be involved in a whole different kind of scene. I also sang and played at everything from private parties and Sweet 16′s and all that stuff as well. But as time went on I got much more interested in classical and I only really did these things professionally, mostly just to make a few bucks.
Matt: You were accepted into the San Francisco Conservatory, did you go?
Marc: What happened was, after I finished high school, I was a special music student at DePaul University, studying guitar and some other basic music kinds of things. I was getting college credit and I was actually planning to go there right after high school. I actually went for a short time and then just decided “No, I want to sit at home and practice all day,” which went down real well at my house. [Laughs]
After things calmed down, I took a year off and applied to a bunch of conservatories and a bunch of universities. I was accepted into the San Francisco Conservatory, which had the best group of guys. Then I applied to the Wisconsin Conservatory which really had a very brilliant teacher, a Segovia student named James Yogurtian, who was another important teacher for me.
Then I applied to a number of universities. So I spent that year after high school really just working on my playing. I probably was practicing seven to eight hours a day. When I wasn’t practicing, I was playing or teaching. I had a guitar in my hand from the time I woke up to the time I fell asleep at night.
Matt: Then you went to the Milwaukee Conservatory?
Marc: Then I went for a year to Washington University in St. Louis, which was a great music program, a little bit more academically focused than a conservatory. Then I decided to go to the Wisconsin Conservatory and studied with James Yogurtian. It was at that time where I decided that guitar wasn’t my life’s calling and I stopped playing very abruptly.
Matt: Before we get into that, describe the atmosphere at the Wisconsin Conservatory back in the ’70s.
Marc: It was much more a conservatory scene where maybe 150-ish undergraduate conservatory students, all were performance majors with a sprinkling of composition and conducting majors. Everybody wanted to play or conduct or compose. I don’t believe there was even a degree in theory or musicology.
Like most conservatories, there were some instruments that they were more well-known for, and classical guitar was one of them. There were probably about 20 to 25 undergraduate and graduate students studying guitar at the time. There were two teachers who had studios and then there was the big community high school, pre-collegiate program, but I didn’t participate in that much.
You had classes three mornings a week and basically practiced, did your chamber music and ensemble playing in the afternoon and practiced and studied throughout the evenings. Most of the dedicated players were practicing a few hours in the morning before they started classes as well.
So I got up at about five in the morning and played scales and arpeggios and legatos and exercises ’til about eight and then had my first class at about 9 o’clock. I then went to class ’til about one, and then took a little break and then went right back into it.
Matt: So here’s where people are gonna find your story very interesting. You’re at the point where a lot of people would give their life savings to be. To be a guitar player in the 1970s, or even today, playing guitar all day long at the conservatory, you have this bright future ahead of you as a guitar player if you stick with it, and all of a sudden you decide it’s not for you.
Marc: I got up one morning and I just sorta went back to sleep and that was it. I woke up at 8:30 or 9 o’clock and said “Eh I’m not moved to go to class.” I remember eating cheerios or something watching the Today Show, arranging jazz standards on the guitar. I wasn’t playing what I was supposed to be, and it felt kinda good. I did that for about a month, just kinda blowing off things, going to classes sometimes, not working on my real guitar studies, but still playing.
And then it kind of hit me, what I was doing, and I got into a little bit of a panic mode. Looking back on it I probably was burnt out. I probably just needed to take a few months off, but I was panicked and I just decided to stop playing. The conservatory was great about the whole thing. They told me to relax and take some time off, maybe try conducting or do some other things, but I just stopped.
Matt: Now that you look back on it 30 years later, of course hindsight is 20/20 and of course there are no right or wrong decisions in your life, you just make decisions. But how do you reflect on that decision nowadays when you look back on it?
Marc: First of all, it took me a good 10 or 12 years, a very long time to be at peace with myself. For ten years it was very hard for me to go to a guitar concert. I didn’t pick up the guitar at all. It was very difficult for me to understand where that really fit into my life. Was the guitar a part of my life or would I just enjoy it as a spectator? When I look back, there’s definitely a part of me that goes, “If I had only kept playing another five or six more years and then stopped, look at how good I would’ve been.” There’s definitely that part of me.
I never really enjoyed performing. I look back at it and I think, I wasn’t really too thrilled about playing recitals, and God knows if I ever would’ve been good enough to make a living being a classical guitarist, probably not. Teaching was okay, but I’m not sure that’s what I would’ve wanted to do exclusively.
Lots of my musician friends always tell me I would’ve ended up in some commercial recording, a studio musician or side man or whatever. I’m sorry that I gave it up because those were years where I could have improved my skills and understanding and appreciation of music. On the other hand, pursuing it as a career, I’m not sure, I probably would’ve made a lot of the compromises that I see other professional musicians make in paying the rent and pursuing their art and so forth.
Matt: You’re second career as a businessman turned out very successful. You’re an investor, successful in multiple aspects of business. Do you feel your musical training and the experience you had as a teenager and at these conservatories, did that help you in the business world?
Marc: You know there’s nothing more difficult than having to sit and practice by yourself for five, six or seven hours a day, sitting with the metronome, practicing very slowly and diligently. I learned discipline at a very early age. Going to graduate school and learning how to study was never very difficult, because quite frankly it was not as difficult as playing guitar. I think that way of training my mind, it allowed me to express my creativity and that helped me a lot in my professional career.
Matt: So you’re a successful businessperson, you’ve got a great family and a great life, and then one day you wake up and decide you want to play guitar again?
Marc: Yeah, things happened in my career and my wife got very sick, and I was forced with kind of juggling more personal things… I had lost a close friend to cancer. Over the years I had a habit of saying, “One of these days I’ll get back to it” and eventually I realized that today was the day, so I made a conscious decision to see if I really loved it. That was the question for me all those years, “Did you really love it as much as you thought?” There were a lot of unanswered questions, so I just decided to play again.
Matt: So now when you play, you don’t really perform out, you just usually perform for friends and family, small things, but you still pursue it as an intellectual challenge. Is that how you see it, as an emotional output but also an intellectual challenge?
Marc: Well I didn’t play for 25 years, and then in the last eight years I had long periods, a year or two years, where I played regularly. Three to six hours a day and taking lessons once or twice a week. I almost started studying it full time again. More recently, I probably play a few hours a week and don’t have a regular lesson, which I kind of miss.
I enjoy the discipline of it. I enjoy learning, but that’s true with everything. There’s something kind of unique about learning music. Being able to sight-read a Bach piece like you’re reading a book, that’s a wonderful skill to have. It’s just an enjoyable thing. It really turns me on.
I really like studying music more than performing music. Playing well for myself is more important to me than getting up in front of a lot of people.
Matt: Would you say that people who are 19, 20 years old are facing down the same decisions as far as their career path, looking at it and going, “Well, I love my art and I wanna do this, but I want to have a standard of living. I’m not sure if I really love it or not.” What would you say to those people?
Marc: First of all, my opinion is, whether I’m talking to my 16 year old daughter, somebody’s kid or somebody I know, is follow your heart. If that’s what you want to do, do it, because you only go around once in this life and you should do what you want to do.
Secondly, as you get older and you have to face real life challenges like paying the rent, you gotta be clear about what that life might be like for you. As long as you look out there and see how other musicians and artists live… And many of them have fine lives economically and great lives artistically, and some of them even have great lives artistically and great lives financially.
As long as you have a clear focus on what it is, and how it’s going to impact you, I think that’s fine. I think at some point you should just follow your heart and take that as long as it leads you.
Once you start doing all the normal things that we do, like getting married and having kids, life’s circumstances sometimes forces you to think about those other things. I’ll tell you, I continue to follow my heart, and I like my artistic motto, which is “Play what I want to play, and play for who I want to play for.”
That works real well for me. I tell a lot of people that in some ways I’ve figured out the best artistic model that works for me. It doesn’t work for everyone, but it works for me because I don’t really have any grand designs to do anything beyond having fun with my guitar and getting better.
Matt: Now here’s a tough question for you. People who know you or people who have seen your business career blossom and grow, might say, well “It’s an easy decision for you to say you made the right choice to quit guitar because you had this very successful career.” Now if your business career floundered…are you looking back at it saying that it was the right choice because you were so successful, or do you think that even if you hadn’t been as successful as a businessman it was still the right choice to give up the guitar at the time?
Marc: Well I like to think my career is continuing, [Laughs]. You know, I don’t go there that often, that “Did I make the right decision or not?” Mostly because there’s not much I can do to change it. It is what it is, and if I could spend energy on it, I would rather spend energy on playing guitar, growing my business and being a father.
Some days I may be playing particularly well. On those days I always say to my wife, “I think I can do it. I really think I can do it.” Then I laugh and tell her that I’m not sure what “it” is. I’ve learned to be comfortable with not knowing what “it” is but wanting to do “it” as well.
Matt: Now, to talk a little bit about some of the other stuff you do musically. You do it for fun, you study music, you get out and perform for friends and family for here and there, but you’ve also become a very generous mentor in the guitar community, not just in Tucson, but nationally, with a lot of people that you’ve helped out.
Can you talk a bit about how you got into that role? Did you look out for it? Did you look out for students to help out financially or you give guitarists like me guitars who couldn’t afford them? I mean, is that something that you looked for because of an experience you had, or did that just fall into your lap and you just said “Yeah, I’m gonna go for it and really help some people out?”
Marc: Each one is a different story. I think in recent years, I’ve looked for it more and I’ve been more organized about it, but when I started doing it, it was just, “Andy needs to play a better guitar than he has now, so let’s make that happen.”
Some of the people that I’ve helped out range from real aspiring people, like you for example, to one of my most rewarding personal ones, who was a good friend who’s actually our dog’s trainer. He was a professional musician, he was a pianist and a trumpet player and he played piano but he couldn’t afford a keyboard. Debbie, my wife, and I just surprised him with a keyboard one day, and maybe a year later he sent me a recording of him playing. That was well worth the cost of the keyboard, hearing him making music like that. In recent years, I’ve been more organized about it, but it just kinda started as one-off kinds of things.
Matt: Do you see yourself as coming full circle, you were this kid and aspiring, there were all these people that were above you like Jack Cecchini and these guys that you were aspiring to be like and now you see these kids who look up to you as a mentor.
Even though you’re not a professional player, they still look up to you and think that you’re successful and you’re a great player and have fun playing, you do your thing. How does it feel to be looked up to by these kids?
Marc: I mostly do this for myself. I don’t really do it because I really want anything from it or want them to look up to me. I know the importance of studying music in my life, and I see other people who have an interest in it. Some of them will never be professional musicians. Some of them are already professional musicians and great players.
With a few things, I’ve done it more systematically, but in other things it’s just one-off things I do for an individual person. But I do it for me. I do it for the joy of giving; I don’t do it because I’m expecting or wanting them to think about me. In fact, a lot of the people I’ve given to, we’ve become friends and we have relationships, much richer than just me giving them a guitar and helping them out a little bit.
Matt: You’re someone who has had all these great experiences in life, and you’ve obviously enjoyed being a musician and not being a musician. What advice do you have for anybody who is looking to become a musician or someone who is struggling with that decision, like “You know what, I want to be a dentist or a lawyer or a businessman, but I want to keep music in my life?” It can be done and you’re proof of that. What would you say to those people?
Marc: First of all, there are a lot of fine, excellent musicians who don’t make their living at it. “Amateur,” comes from the word “amour,” which is love. Playing music for the love of it. I’m an amateur, although I’ve had points of being a professional. That doesn’t have anything to do with your relative level of skill.
I remember a guy at the Wisconsin Conservatory, he owned a hobby shop, and he was a brilliant concert guitarist, as good as anyone I’ve ever heard. There was a guy who was a lawyer who was a fabulous jazz pianist. So those people are all over the place.
I think not only is it possible, but maybe sometimes in American culture maybe it is easier. To some people it’s their life’s calling, and that means that they want to be on stage and they want to perform and that’s great and they should go do what their heart’s telling them.
For other people like me, there are lots of loves. I mean, I wouldn’t be willing to give up my family and other things in my business career to go be a pro player. I’m okay with not being a virtuoso at one thing and being competent at many things. So it really depends on what you’re heart’s telling them to do.
The only piece of advice I would tell people is, “If you spent all those years practicing and you don’t become a professional musician, that doesn’t mean it was a waste of time.” I have people a lot of times say to me, “But don’t you feel responsible for giving your talent to everyone?” which is a whole concept I’ve struggled with for many years. And you know, I really don’t.
The only person I feel responsible with regards to my guitar playing is me. I don’t really feel the need to share it with anyone other than myself, and I’m in control of that. I think it’s a real curse.
Studying music is a wonderful, beautiful thing but it’s also a little bit of a curse and an addiction. Keeping the balance of that in your life can be a real struggle. I struggled with it and I know I will struggle with it again. But, at the end of the day one of the things that keeps me balanced is really not feeling any responsibility that I have to share my skills and my hard work with anyone other than just wanting to do it because I enjoy doing it.
Once I got into that mode, which I did for a long time it was hard to reconcile. People would tell me to give it up, but I couldn’t give it up, because it was my responsibility to them to keep going. That’s not a good scene for me….
Matt: What were some of the things that you learned from your teachers along your journey that you could share with our readers?
Marc: I had the benefit of having a lot of different teachers, and they all stressed different things and clearly some of it was in different stages in my development. But starting off with Tom Wilson, he had a very mixed approach. He worked on a little technique, music reading. Some pieces that would help you with your technique but will also help you with your musicianship. He really had a blended approach, and he made it fun. Of course at that point in time, I was 13 or 14 or 15, so the mix was good and having fun was important.
But by the time I got to Curt Lewis, there was a real emphasis on technique and really getting my hands very stable in a certain way, of course at that point of time it wasn’t in the relaxed-technique era, there was a lot of tension going on, holding your hands a little stiffer.
We worked on scales religiously. While Tom Wilson did that as well, Curt worked on it in a methodical way. I started playing scales two hours a day. I started doing slurs, hammer-ons, pull-offs, trills and left-handed ornaments to build muscles for about forty minutes a day.
Even to this day, it’s interesting, when I go through my paces, I won’t spend three hours, but I’ll spend a good hour playing a little bit of scales, trills, a little bit of right hand work, a little bit of slurs and I really got that from Curt.
Jack Cecchini did some of that, but by the time I got to him, that was already drilled in my head. Jack Cecchini spent a lot of time with musical concepts. We worked out of a few technical books. Then beyond those musical ideas, we worked with the repertoire that I already knew, and we always had one new piece we were working on. But again, I didn’t study with him that long. You know, the masterclasses, most of the concert guitarists were all studying just, you came in there with one piece and how do you perfect that one piece.
Yogurtian did a mixed blend, more like Tom Wilson, but you did spend an awful lot of time working on your concert pieces, at least with me. So when you walked into a lesson, he knew your repertoire, or at least my repertoire. Then he went “Okay, in addition to the new piece we’re working on, let’s work on the Ponce, let’s work on the Granada.” So whatever it is, he spent 20 to 30 minutes working on a piece you knew well, working through things.
Then later in life, I got to know Tom Patterson at the University of Arizona and studied with him 12 to 15 months. Tom had a very different kind of approach. Tom really worked on the music. Now remember, by this time I was having fun, and I think Tom was seriously teaching me, but he also recognized that unlike his students, I didn’t have any collegiate goals and he didn’t have to teach me the literature. I didn’t want to learn the literature, although it’s funny that I say that, I remember wanting to learn a jazz standard that he had played, and I could do that, but he made sure he stuck in another classical one that week as well. [Laughs]
But Tom taught technique almost like a gymnastic or swimming coach. He worked in the technique you needed to get for that piece you’re working and then he might move you back and you might have a score study to get that technique down or he might develop a special exercise, but it was all based around getting that technique for the piece you’re working on. So that was kind of an interesting thing.
Each teacher brings a little bit of the mix, and I think that’s why having a lot of teachers is really a good thing, especially if you want to learn how to be a teacher. I think to myself sometimes about how I would approach it as a teacher and you know, I guess the good teachers look at each student and have their own formula for each one.
Just one more thought about the University of Arizona, the other wonderful thing that I learned here, and I give Tom great credit for it. When I was growing up in the guitar world, the level of the competition and sometimes the unpleasantness because of the competition was a big turn-off.
One of the great things I think Tom has established is the level of mutual respect and mutual support among his students for each other. When they naturally get into some competitive mode, he heads them off at the pass very quickly. I think that’s a beautiful thing, who knows maybe I would have hung in there longer had I been in more of a Tom situation.