Teachers Blog

HessFest 2014 in Chicago - Part 4 and 5

These last two days at HessFest were so intense that I actually did not have time to write about them! 

It is incredible how year after year this event blows my mind off more and more. It's literally better every year. And now that as a trainer I can see some of the "behind the scenes" I am more and more impressed by the level of organization and planning that Tom Hess and his collaborators can pull off. 

And the really scary thing is that the event for next year (that Tom Hess announced in these last two days) promises to be even better: a 6-days, 8h/day workshop for music teachers. Of course, I already booked my place. :-) (Hey, I owe my students the best!!)

In these two days we continued and concluded the Fretboard Domination Mastery and Bootcamp events. We were really pleased at the results and progress of the students who attended it. I am really happy of being the trainer of this course, as fretboard knowledge is one of my areas of expertise. 

Another attractive (for me) of this kind of events is the people who attend. I am sleeping VERY little because we are having the most interesting conversations with all these wonderful people from all countries. I mean how many times you had a conversation with half a dozen people about how to realize your dreams (for real) while eating a double-decker 4-pound Chicago-style pizza in the lobby of a hotel.

(for the record, the pizza was shared among 10 people. One of us bought it for $42 - seriously! -  and insisted that we should all partake for free).

Ok, now I'll go get my 5h of deserved sleep. I guess tomorrow it's double coffee day too...

HessFest 2014 in Chicago - Part 3

This morning Tom Hess and I started the Fretboard Domination Coaching program: a 3-day course where we teach guitarists how to be completely free when playing guitar and not be confined to one or two "favourite" zones of the guitar fretboard. 

Today we used some innovative techniques to teach how to visualize scales and notes, and the response from the students was just great. These guys are hungry for knowledge!

The morning class was 4 hour long, then we take a well-deserved lunch break.

In the afternoon, I keep teaching/training the Fretboard Domination Bootcamp, while Tom Hess gives a masterclass, followed by another lesson by Simon Candy (another great guitar player from Australia! - the HessFest is truly "international")

After teaching for 8h I am quite exhausted, (and the fact that last night I slept 5h did not really help...). After dinner I pass by my room to grab a couple of things, I lie down a moment... and when I open my eyes one hour has passed! I go back to the event to chat a bit (and to see some great musical performances by people attending HessFest), then I head straight into bed. 

Tomorrow is going to be another intense day, we have great ideas for the training sessions. Can't wait to see how much progress the students will make in these days!

HessFest 2014 in Chicago - Part 2

The morning starts off with my search for a mobile phone that I can use in Chicago. There is a T-mobile store close by or at least Google maps says so... even if the indications are to "enter into the Home Depot store". Of course the T-mobile store is not in the Home Depot, but after a while we find it. 

Return to the hotel in a rush, only to discover that the hotel's restaurant is NOT open at lunch. Are you freakin' kidding me? So run out again and get something to eat. 

The HessFest starts at noon, and opens with Tom Hess giving us a masterclass on how to play fast even if you are a beginner. Lots of great ideas there. Electric guitar students, expect lots of good material for your shreadding pleasure :-)

After Tom Hess, it's my turn to give a masterclass on theory and songwriting. I spend a couple of hours explaining the basis of Schenkerian analysis as it applies to composition and songwriting, and the reaction of the public is REALLY good. It's very nice to get this kind of feedback on a masterclass, and I had a lot of fun preparing and giving it!

After a dinner at Red Robin (Tom Hess' favorite restaurant on the face of the planet) we go back to the hotel for some 1-on-1 lessons and performance critiques. After the event a few of us stay in the lobby an we jam out a killer version of Little Wing. 

I will have only a few hours of sleep tonight (I have to be up early to train the guys in the Fretboard Domination program), but today it's been A LOT of fun... and I can always catch some sleep back in the next days.

Or at least, taht's what I'm telling myself now. I know it's not going to happen :-)

HessFest 2014 in Chicago - Part 1

And here I am in Chigago again to be 2 weeks with my teacher Tom Hess and a number of other outstanding guitar player coming from all over the world. And DO I mean "all over". Just to name a few, people here came from: Australia, Belarus, Netherland, UK, US, and of course Canada. 

This year I am coming not as a student of Tom Hess but as one of the teacher/trainers of the event. This means that I will be teaching/training guitar players from all over the world (see above) for 8/10h a day for 14 days. Bring it on!

The flight today has been uneventful, and since I'm such a nerd I spent the whole flight doing counterpoint exercises (well, better this than playing solitaire on an iPad like my seat neighbour did...). What can I say... I love music theory!

I was traveling today with Dan Smith (another guitar teacher at the Edmonton Guitar Music School) and our student John Loder. After we landed we also met at the airpost serendipitously one of my ex-students Adrian who is regularly coming in Chicago every year. And it was a good thing we met him, since the cab company messed up our booking! So Atrian called in the cab company he booked with and told them to bring a var rather than a car. 

Once at the hotel I met a number of friends, old and new. I actually had to force myself to go to sleep... and I do need it because tomorrow I have a masterclass to give! It's going to be fun! 

Shaping The Future Generation... Part 2

My wife and I just spent a few lovely weeks visiting our parents in Italy, and of course our 3-year old daugher came with us. All parents and relatives (and friends, and acquaintances...) were of course thrilled to see how much the little one has grown. And of course all of them were asking her the usual question: "how old are you now?"

My daughter answered to all of them the same way: saying "three" and then holding out her hand with her thumb, index and pinky sticking out.

(Just picture it for a moment....)

Despite appearances, I have nothing to do with that (I swear) - and the little one has resisted every attempt of mine to "correct" her way of counting up to three.


But I can't say I'm not pleased that my daughter naturally does the metal horns.  \m/

Edmonton Guitar BBQ/Potluck June 2014

A few choice photos from the latest BBQ/Potluck here at the Edmonton Guitar School. 


Staff, students, and friends enjoyed together an afternoon and an evening of relax. The weather was our big concern, but luckily we didn't have (too much) rain. Besides, we had a few hilarious reading of Accuweather ("rain in 22 minutes! Get these sausages ready!")


Here on the left you can see the BBQ corner with our student Robert playing while our teacher Dan studiously ignores the grill :-)


An here on the right, still Dan proudly showing off his fashion sense. (note: I actually love Judas Priest too, so I should not talk...)


During the afternoon we also had some students and friends playing an singing, all of this spontaneous (I love when people make music just because they like to do it!)


We also distributed to students an staff the newest Edmonont Guitar Music School t-shirt, just out of the presses! Here on the left I am showing off mine while I man the grill. I couldn't find my apron: "don't need a recipe, I'm Italian" - so might as well go "official" with the school shirt!


Thanks to all students bringing some of their favorite specialties the menu was very varied: we had tandoori chicken skewers (incredibly spicy), burgers &  sausages, at least 3 different types of salad, sangria (yay!), cakes, and a lot of other things! The menu was suitable for both carnivores (as yours truly) and veggie lovers -  because it's fun to have a party all together even if we eat different things!


(and here on the right our voice teacher Amanda eating something that I identified as a veggie burger. But I could be wrong...)


We had also many friends and students bringing their kids, and at a certain point the party resembled more a kindergarden meeting than a BBQ... but it's so fun to have all these kids running around!


And here, final photo, some of the participants (we had people coming and going all afternoon, so this is just a fraction of the people. Apologies to anybody not in the photo). 


I'm definitely looking worward to another party like this! Maybe we'll be able to organize another one before the summer ends!

Shaping The Future Generation...

Tonight I was watching my 3 year old daughter as she was browsing through radio stations. She is already a music fanatic: she wants to listen to music all the time. 

So, she's changing stations and she is going right through stuff like Kathy Perry, dance music, etc etc without stopping. Then she hits a station playing Vivaldi's Double Violin Concerto.

And she stops.

She SITS DOWN on the couch and STARTS LISTENING. 

(Note: she usually can't stay still more than few seconds).  

When the concerto ends, she goes to grab a book, and now she's reading (ok, watching the pictures in the book...) listening to a Sibelius piece. 


I like to think I'm having a good influence on her :-)

Yes, We Do Studio Coaching Too

 If you ever wanted to record a song (either original or cover) and you need the help of a professional studio, we are here to help you. And, if this is your first studio experience or the song you want to record is a difficult one, you can have one of our teachers present in the studio to coach you to get the best performance.

In this video our student Shivansh is recording a cover and our voice teacher Amanda is there to help him.

Some thoughts on Dave Lamb's passing

I am saddened. One of my favourite musicians, Dave Lamb of Brown Bird, succumbed to leukemia yesterday. Listening to Brown Bird's music has helped me grow as a musician, especially in terms of arrangement of parts and construction of melodies/riffs. 


Today, to help me motivate myself after hearing the news (I have homework to do, after all... life goes on), I've been practicing guitar during my study breaks, and teaching myself their song "Bilgewater" off of their album, Salt for Salt. It's much easier than I had thought from just hearing it, and very therapeutic. 


It's time to SING!!

I know that many of you reading this blog are dreaming of going on stage and sing. Others here just want to be able to sing for themselves and their friends. And I know taht many of you are plagued with insecurities: "am I talented enough to sing?"; "I think I am tone deaf"; "I've never been good at singing, but I would like to", etc...

Well, here is a video of our vocal instructor Amanda Neufeld, who told me more than once: "I had no talent I had to work for it". Whatever your level is right now, you can sing as well as Amanda - and once you get started properly you might discover that in fact you HAD talent all along.

If you want to finally sing, contact us for your first free Voice session; you will discover that singing is easier than you think!


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