Teachers Blog

HessFest 2016 Part 7: Aug 21

Feeling much better after some extra hours of sleep :) Every year when I am here in Chicago seems to be the same story: I don't want to go to sleep, I want to spend more time with these amazing people!

Today is the third and last day of the Fretboard Domination Coaching. Some of the photos of the events (and my masterclass of few days ago) have started to circulate on FaceBook. We have a theater full of people, so the photos look really good :)

Tom Hess and I push our students with no mercy for the whole morning, and after lunch I take it to the next level with the elite of students that works with me in the afternoon. A couple of particularly brilliant students spot new patterns that can be used to navigate the fretboard in a different way. There is always something to learn!

We have our dinner to one of the fancy restaurant of the hotel (open only a few days a week) and the food is delicious. I spend part of the evening talking with people, but then I call it a day quite soon as tomorrow is a big day: we start the Guitar Creativity Mastery Week (6 days of 8/10 hours a day of improvisation and composition training for guitar players) and I need to be rested.

HessFest 2016 Part 6: Aug 20

It takes a longer cold shower and a double dose of coffee to get me started today.

The Fretboard Domination Coaching event is going great. The students keep telling us that they had more breakthroughs in the last day and a half than they had in the last years... others say that we made finally simple something that they believed was impossible. And we are not yet halfway through!

At a certain point one of the student jokingly says that he's tired. So I mention on stage that in the last 48h I had only 6 hours of sleep total. "How do you keep going?" "I sincerely don't know. I think it's just because I'm having fun... in torturing you"

This time at lunch I can't hide, so I have people ganging up at my table. I really don't mind the attention... it's just hard to eat with all these people that want to talk to you. But I am happy to oblige between one bite and another.

Like yesterday, in the afternoon we split. And again, despite the lack of sleep, people have to remind me that we have to take rests every hour or so :-)

After dinner I bail: this night I HAVE to get some rest. Just when I get to the room, my roommate Aldo lets me know that my friend Mike Philippov just arrived... ok, no, it's hard not to go right now, but I'll see him tomorrow. If I go down right now I will not come back for a few hours.. and I need at least 7 hours of sleep to recover if I want to survive tomorrow (the last day fo the Fretboard Domination Coaching event... but NOT the last one of the events this year)

HessFest 2016 Part 5: Aug 19

Ooook, sleeping only 3 hour was not really a good idea :-)

A cold shower wakes me up, and after solving a few tech problems with the microphones we are ready to go. And we kick the Fretboard Domination Coaching event off with a bang: these students are motivated (and we have a theatre full of them) and we are happy to push them as far as they can take it.

I have to go to lunch like a celebrity: by hiding from the public :-) Otherwise between the people that want to talk about yesterday's masterclass and today's lessons I would not be able to eat a bite!

In afternoon we split: Tom Hess presents the HessFest proper, and I get to teach a restricted group of students on the finer point of fretboard visualization. People have to remember me to take rests because when I am teaching that stuff I simply do not stop.

In the evening I get another "closeted" dinner, and then, while my teaching is done for the day, I keep going around (after dinner HessFest breaks up in 3 different events and attendees decide what it interest them most). Later, my friend Jake and I get out to grab another bite from IHOP (International House Of Pancakes)... it's been a long day and we really need a second dinner.

Then we come back to the hotel and we start talking... and before I realize it it's already 4am! Ok, I will sleep only 3 hours again... totally worth it, I see my friends here only once a year... but I can see how tomorrow is going to be hard...

HessFest 2016 Part 4: Aug 18

Woah, what a great day!

I spend most of the morning sleeping (for once we have the morning free... the only day in all the events) and going over my Masterclass.

This is the first day of HessFest proper. Tom Hess starts the dances with his legendary "let me have a CENSORED moment" on the ground rules to follow during HessFest. Every regular attendee of HessFest knows the speech by heart, and it's still as entertaining as the first time.

Then Tom Hess gives the first Masterclass of the day on how to create climaxes in music. One of the examples includes excerpts form Tristan Und Isolde by Wagner. That pieces get me every time I can't listening to it without shedding a tear... and Tom Hess knows it. After the first excerpt he goes: "if you want to see how this pieces feels like in context... look at Tommaso right now!" Thanks Tom for outing me in front of a theater full of people :-)

After that, it's my turn to do the Masterclass. Backstage, lights, wireless microphone... all very professional. I have A LOT of fun in giving the masterclass. I talk about how to be a creative artist without becoming a tortured artist... and the masterclass is a smashing success. I have trouble to get to the restaurant for dinner because everybody wants to tell me how much my Masterclass meant to them. I am not complaining :-)

After dinner, I give some one-on-one lessons on stage. I love doing these, and time is over way too fast. When doing these things I seem to have an unlimited amount of energy, I can keep going over and over.

I stay up late chatting with all these friends that I see only once a year, and I go to bed REALLY late... I need to get at least a few hours of sleep, because tomorrow Tom Hess and I start teaching a 3-day course on guitar fretboard visualization.

HessFest 2016 Part 3: Aug 17

Second and last day of the Elite Guitar Teachers Mastermind. In the morning Tom Hess gives us a short and on the point lecture, and then we break our in discussion groups. Lots of great teaching ideas all around the room.

At lunch we confirm - after extensive observations and testing - that the servers of the hotel restaurant are incredibly slow. It's becoming something of a running joke in these few days.

In the afternoon, Tom Hess has different plans for us. He takes the most successful group of teachers present (among them yours truly) and sits them at a round table on stage. We are to discuss... anything that comes to our mind, while everybody else gets to listen and take notes. The discussion goes surprisingly far in discovering teaching issues and challenges and in finding many solutions for them.

I spend the evening in the room going over the Masterclass I am going to give tomorrow. Quite excited about that, not hiding it.

HessFest 2016 Part 2: Aug 16

This is the first official day of the events. The first 2 days are dedicated to Mastermind sessions for music teacher. Basically, I am meeting a lot of other music teachers from all around the world and we are going to discuss ways of teaching our students.

When I say "all over the world" I actually mean it. We have people from Australia (like my friend Greg who got married... yesterday and he brought his new wife with him. Don't worry they had a honeymoon just BEFORE the wedding!), from Europe, and of course from US and Canada.

The resort in which we stay has a 300-seat theater inside, and that's what we use for the full sessions of the event. And as usual for US hotels, the Air Conditioning is on all the time, 100% full blast. I should have brought more sweaters...

In the afternoon we break out for small group sessions where we discuss problems and solutions more in depth. Many interesting patterns emerge, and we realize that most of us are facing the exact same situations... and that many ideas on how to deal with them are already available and tested :-) It's the first day here and already I have a long list of things to do when I get home :-) I love when this happens.

We end the evening with some time in front of the bonfire just outside the lounge, and then to bed. Tomorrow is going to be a long and fun day.

HessFest 2016 Part 1 Aug 14 and 15

As every year I am going to Chicago to see grand master Tom Hess and his monumental events.

I leave Sunday afternoon, and my first very bumpy flight takes me up to Denver, then a second, much nicer flight gets me to Chicago. After a short taxi ride I arrive at the new location of the Hess events in Chicago: no more the Holiday Inn, but a resort named The Pheasant Run. A short tour reveals two swimming pools, a hot tub, a golf course, and other amenities. I'm liking this place :)

I arrive after midnight and get to meet immediately some old friends. I chat a bit with them, and after a while I am deep in discussion with my friend Jacob on ideas on how to make lessons more interesting for guitar students (yes, we don't beat around the bush...)

At a certain point, I say: "well, it seems to be quite late, I should get some sleep. What time you think it is?" We watch out of the window. The Sun is coming up. So rather than sleeping we walk to the closes IHOP (International House Of Pancake) and we eat breakfast. Then we sleep for a few hours.

More conversations follow in the afternoon and evening. And we get also to try the hot tub. I am really happy I decided to arrive one day early on the events, so I can recover some sleep :)


HAPPY BIRTHDAY BEETHOVEN! Our little Ludwig is 245 years young today!I am sad to be all out of beautiful piano sonatas to share with you all, but I am at the same time thankful that the great Maestro left us such wonderful works!Our last sonata, Opus 111 in C minor, was finished in 1822, just five years before Beethoven's death. As you might remember, C minor is "the Beethoven key." For Beethoven, this key is full of melancholy and gloom, and you can certainly hear it in the opening measures. The second movement oddly enough sounds like a boogie-woogie from the jazz idiom!Our final performance comes from Daniel Barenboim.Thanks for listening!


Opus 110 in A flat major is surprisingly traditional for a Late Period Beethoven sonata. The formal structure is quite obviously in classical sonata form. There are, however, many of Beethoven's new compositional ideas present here, for example, unifying themes that are present in all of the movements.Today we are listening to Héléne Grimaud, a French pianist. She is one of many artists who experience Synesthesia, or linked senses. When she hears sound, she also sees colours. She is also known for re-interpreting works.


Opus 109 in E major is a very interesting one. There are many themes and motives that appear in the first two motives but do not reach their full developmental potential until the third movement. Normally movements can be seen as individual units, where all the material develops within the confines of the movement. In a motivic sense, Beethoven united all three movements together by suspending final development until the end.  Claudio Arrau plays the opening so wonderfully!


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