My Background

guitar lessons nyc russell 5I began teaching guitar lessons in 2002 while studying jazz guitar at the University of North Texas. Over the years, I’ve gotten better at teaching and understanding what students need from me, and I have come to enjoy it a lot. Teaching also affords me the flexibility to work on my own projects which I enjoy. Here’s a long-winded summary of my musical background:

My first instrument was piano, at age 8.  In middle school, I joined the band on saxophone. Around age 14, I got an electric guitar and began learning rock songs from guitar magazines and by ear. Seeing it as an opportunity to play my guitar at school, I joined the jazz band as a guitarist. I realized that there were a lot more chords than I had initially thought, and I became excited by the idea of improvisation. I continued playing saxophone in band while taking private jazz guitar lessons and attending summer jazz camps through the rest of my high school years.

After high school I enrolled at the University of North Texas to study jazz guitar. I practiced incessantly and gained a much more in-depth knowledge of the guitar. I took courses in jazz and classical harmony and aural skills, and studied classical guitar and jazz piano. Beyond the requirements of the school, I devoted most of my free time to trying to gain as thorough an understanding of harmony as I could, how it ‘lays’ on the guitar, and to developing a strong command of my instrument. I studied the music of Pat Metheny and Keith Jarrett.

After college, I did several stints on cruise ships as a showband musician and then moved to New York in 2004. My narrow focus on jazz gradually widened to include other styles of music, and I started to write songs and sing. I was influenced by Milton Nascimento, Sting, Peter Gabriel, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty and James Taylor. I recorded several instrumental Christmas albums with Drew Pitcher and Cameron Mizell under the names Montgomery Bruce and Dunham Van Durham, and performed in a band called Storyship with Zach Landreneau, Drew Pitcher and Tom Blancarte. During this time I learned to play various instruments—harmonica, accordion, banjo, harmonium, synthesizers, drum machine—which I now use as tools for realizing my own songs. I am currently writing material for my first solo album.


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