Unedited testimonials from some of my current students and their parents:
“When I was about 7 years old my parents forced me to pick up an instrument and as any other young child I chose what seemed the coolest to me, the guitar. For the next three years I had classes twice a week with a different teacher, one that did not attend to all my needs as a guitar student and did not help much when it came to making me a better guitar player. I spent hours a week playing music off sheets of paper. Essentially when I went to middle school I dropped the guitar for the first three years because my teacher made it boring and a chore.
“After meeting a soon-to-be good friend who plays the guitar, I once again took interest in learning the guitar. Naturally I asked him about his teacher. He told me all about Russell, a unique teacher who helped his students with what they wanted and needed to learn. In addition, I asked him if he ever got bored in those 7 years he has been playing and he said no, because he had a fun and interesting teacher. Not too long from then I began guitar lessons with Russell.
“Initially, I was skeptical whether this was the right teacher for me. But after one or two lessons I discovered he was an amazing teacher. Russell does well in keeping that one hour of a guitar lesson feeling like 2 minutes. Russell is a different type of guitar teacher. He does not force upon you something that you do not want to do. For about the year that Russell has been teaching me he has taught me several different types of music and in about a few months through practice he has helped me learn more advanced music than would commonly be played in that same period. Russell is also very kind, making him a good teacher for children most likely and even better for beginners. Russell does not fail to be humorous once in awhile and not just sit there and instruct you.
“To anybody that is starting guitar or is experienced I suggest giving Russell at the very minimum a chance. Russell is a great guitar player and teacher. He breaks music down for you and gives you a much broader look on music.”
-Moisey Alaev, age 15
“Unlike most of Russell’s students, I came to him as an adult—an extreme adult. I started playing guitar as a high school student in the late 1960’s, when Joni Mitchell and Judy Collins were on the rise and Dylan had just gone electric. In college, I put the guitar down. I didn’t pick it up again till just a few years ago.
“Russell has been a fantastic teacher for me. He is deeply versed in the jazz guitar I now want to learn. He’s also an extremely kind and patient teacher. Gently, clearly and persistently, he corrects my misplaced fingers and my mistakes about which note is where on the fret board. He’s has been unfailingly encouraging. Far from being rigid in his teaching, he makes use of my ever-changing ambitions to attempt first this jazz standard and then that one as opportunities to enlarge my overall skills and knowledge. He’s even assured me Jobim won’t be beyond my reach.
“Each lesson has been an eye-opener, leaving me more intrigued and motivated to practice—eager to practice, in fact. The chords, progressions and rhythms I’ve loved in standards for years are now beginning to come to my hands as naturally as the basic G, C, D, E and A majors of folk guitar.
“At the same time, my hitherto theory-challenged brain is beginning to grasp the rudiments of how certain chords are constructed and why they sound the way they do. And for the first time in my life, I’ve learned how to read tablature and play an instrumental. Lately, I’ve even dared to search out pro jazz charts online and take a crack at them. All of this I owe to Russell. Studying with him has been a joy and a revelation.”
-Ellen Pall, adult student
“On his 7th birthday, our son Matthew wanted an electric guitar. We were befuddled by the idea because his hands were too small and too delicate for the strings. But, our appeals to reason could not delete the impression that Nirvana’s CD left on him. And we had no choice but to buy him the smallest and very basic electric guitar from Sam Ash. Then, we started looking for a tutor. By a stroke of luck, we found Russell.
“Russell combines all important attributes for a music teacher: he is young and friendly but also serious and firm. He is also a virtuoso guitar player classically trained but equally excellent in many genres. He has a great voice, he composes and records his own music and teaches his pupils how to do it. The first time they had a lesson, we felt like we were at a Carnegie Hall concert.
“Matthew is now 15. Russell has been coming to teach him every Wednesday, rain, shine or snowstorm! He is almost a member of our family. They play, they record, they talk, and they laugh. Over the years, Matt transitioned from classic rock, to jazz, to advanced Spanish music pieces. He has three guitars and is now thinking of having a band in college. Whether that is going to happen or not, we are thrilled that Russell has given our son and us, as his parents, a gift of playing and listening and appreciating what hard work, dedication and talent can take you to, if you are committed to having fun while learning how to play guitar.
“Russell is uniquely qualified for either beginners or advanced players, and we highly recommend him to become a member of your family.”
-Ella and Greg Zinkevitch, parents of Matthew, age 15
“Before my lessons with Russell I was just a kid that got a guitar as a gift with the dream to one day learn how to play. That dream became reality with his help. Not only did my dream become real I learned much more than I ever thought there was to know about music and guitar. I became able to read music, hear music differently, and play music. This was all thanks to Russell and his patience and dedication. Without his teaching I would have probably left my guitar in a corner, but now I pick up my guitar every day and I thank you Russell for all I have learned.”
-Elijah Ramos, age 17
“Two thumbs up! If you’re looking for a great tutor to learn guitar, Russell is the perfect one. When my eight-year-old son, Calvin, wanted to learn guitar, we luckily found Russell. He is a very professional guitar teacher. His guitar lessons are exactly what my son needs. He created a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. My son really enjoys learning guitar with him. I want to thank him for his patience, warmth, and professionalism.”
-Fan Zhang, mother of Calvin, age 8
“Russell. How can I explain the guy? He’s the reason why I love doing what I’m doing now. Hi. My name is Francis and I am 13 years old. Currently, I’m taking guitar classes with Russell and I have been for 5 years. November 7, 2009 was the first time that I took a trial class. I knew nothing of guitar, but my family noticed I was a very musical person and I had potential. That day, I decided to learn guitar for the next few months. During those months, I never wanted to touch my pink guitar. Yes, pink. I was a very shy but girly girl. I never wanted to stand up for myself. My parents used to force me to practice playing my guitar. My dream was to be on stage performing with my band or at least someone because I never wanted to go solo.
“Well, guess what? 5 years later, here I am. I’m even more confident than I ever was. Now I go to my old elementary school and perform for the younger children at different occasions. I also sing at church, which I love doing. And lastly, I’ve been performing for my middle school, relatives and many others. This is what I’ve wanted for my whole life. And maybe you can see me on stage one day. But all this is happening thanks to Russell. He’s the best teacher I have ever known. Ever since November 7, 2009, I have become confident and in love with my guitar. Thanks, Russell for all you have done for me and my family. You have helped me through these 5 years and I am very thankful for it.”
-Francis Quinonez, age 13