through sixth grade (although I don’t remember ever learning the recorder, which I would later find out was practically ubiquitous throughout most other general music classrooms). I also had brief stints singing in choir and playing flute in band when I was in third grade and fifth grade, respectively. Neither of those experiences end- ed well. By the time I reached middle school, I didn’t participate in music studies beyond what was required by the district. In sev- enth grade, I had a marking period of keyboard, but it didn’t really stick with me. Then, at the end of that school year, I saw there was a semester-long guitar course being offered for the eighth-graders. By that point, I had spent several years listening obsessively to the catalogs of classic rock outfits like Queen, The Beatles, and especial- ly Led Zeppelin, so I was enthused by the prospect of learning the instrument that was so essential to the songwriting and sounds of those bands. I signed up for the class as soon as I could get a pen. I think when I began learning guitar is when my music education became somewhat more unorthodox than that of the average public school music teacher, most of whom learn on instruments meant to be played in traditional large ensembles. Although that guitar class wasn’t a pleasant time—some middle schoolers can be quite mean— it allowed me the opportunity to explore the instrument every day. Taking guitar in a school setting also meant that I learned right from the start how to read music on it, which is a rarity for guitarists since most learn how to play through tablature and chord diagrams, both of which I think are incredibly important tools to learn, but useless when you’re trying to communicate with other musicians. After that class, I began taking weekly private lessons outside of school and I learned that my high school offered several levels of guitar classes to students. In fact, it was one of the most robust guitar programs in the state. For all four years of high school, I took guitar classes every day with Roger Spinella and continued with private lessons. As a sophomore, I joined Franklin High School’s Guitar Ensemble, which met once a week after school and shared concerts with the school’s string orchestra, which was directed by Roger’s wife, Mary- ann. By my senior year, I knew that I wanted to study music, so I took Guitar V, AP Music Theory, a keyboard skills class, and a voice class. After I graduated high school in 2012, I decided to utilize the NJ STARS scholarship program, which allowed students to attend their local community college tuition-free for up to five semesters if they were in the top fifteen percent of their graduating class. Since I was still trying to figure out what I specifically wanted to do with the guitar, I enrolled at Raritan Valley Community College in its Associate of Fine Arts in Music degree program and began taking classes in Fall 2012. I think that community colleges often receive a bad reputation as a place for people that can’t make it anywhere else, but I think that my time at RVCC was a very formative experience on my path to becoming a better musician and teacher. The music education that was offered was very informative and did a remark- able job of getting my peers and me prepared to transfer to four-year music programs. My time in community college also allowed me the chance to discover what exactly it was I wanted to do with music and continue learning topics musical and non-musical without spending even half as much money as I would have at a four-year university. In my first semester at RVCC, I chose to study jazz guitar because I had spent most of my time on the instrument up to that point focusing on plectrum technique rather than classical fingerstyle technique. However, I quickly realized that I did not enjoy improvising and I

MAY 2017

much preferred the classical approach of learning a piece that had been written out in its entirety in some form of notation. Once this occurred to me, I switched over to classical guitar and began to ex- plore as much of the repertoire and techniques as I could so I would be prepared to transfer to another program. Fortunately, I found a teacher who was very passionate about classical guitar and he taught me an incredible amount in the year and a half that I studied with him. Every lesson I had with him had me practicing sight-reading and learning new techniques and discovering new repertoire. I don’t think I could have asked for a better introduction to the classical guitar. In 2014, I completed my auditions at a couple of four-year institutions, graduated with my associate degree, and transferred to The College of New Jersey to begin work on my Bachelor of Music in Music Education.

Chris: What Are Your Guitar Studies At TCNJ Like? CK: My guitar studies studies

at TCNJ are currently and always have been phenomenal! I have been blessed with two great guitar instructors in the four years I have spent at the school. My studio teacher has been Michael New- man, of the Newman-Oltman gui- tar duo, for the past 3 years. My first year at TCNJ I was taught by James Day who is now the Dean of the School of Arts and Communi- cation. Not only are my teachers

guitar instructors to me, they care more personally about my well being as a student and professional than any other professor/teacher I have met. Although my lessons only span one hour and studio one hour and a half once a week, my guitar instructors have influenced me in many ways. I look at the world differently every time I leave a lesson and my teachers have influenced my way of living life as well as my habits as a musician. I have learned how to set precious time aside to meticulously study the instrument of my amusement! It is truly an amazing area to study for guitar has always been a passion of mine, but music and education can be a particularly taxing combi- nation. This being said, I can confidently say that my guitar teachers have always encouraged me to do my best and to continue on the path that best fits my interests. Aside from my teachers, I have been able to cooperate with many other guitarists throughout my years at TCNJ. I was fortunate enough to perform and practice in a few dif- ferent guitar quartets, quintets, and trios coached by Michael New- man. Participating in a guitar ensemble is and has been a fantastic experience; it has increased my musicality, aptitude, gratitude, and capability to participate and coach ensembles. I have participated in numerous masterclasses and performed several times with the guitar ensemble and each time has been a significant experience. I will look back on my college career after I graduate, and will always think of the guitar ensemble as the most significant and most fun thing I participated in. My time with the ensemble has definitely influenced who I am today for the better, and I would encourage any readers and future students to join an ensemble as well.


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