A couple months ago I hung out my shingle as a private guitar teacher. To be honest, I didn't feel called to teach, or that I was serving some kind of high purpose. I needed the money! Since I began playing guitar, I've cut my freelance music engraving business way back. I had decided to make another run at a performance career, and I knew that I had to create enough practice time for myself to achieve a certain level of mastery on the guitar. As a guitarist, I improved in a hurry, but the trade-off is that my finances have suffered. I decided to begin teaching as a way to improve my money situation.
After I graduated from college, I bombed as a band director. I was an excellent conductor, but I couldn't deal with a room full of kids. On the other hand, I really enjoyed teaching private trombone lessons, and I was a good teacher, too. I had a high school student who came to me with a crappy tone and very little technique. By the time I was done with her, she was one of the best high school trombone players in the state.
Although I started teaching guitar for the money, I'm beginning to find other rewards, and my love of private teaching has been rekindled. I've only been teaching some of my students for a few weeks, but I'm already beginning to see progress. It'll be fun to see where they can take their guitar playing in another year or two. Unless it's recorded, a performance is ephemeral, and even then, a recording is a poor substitute for experiencing music in person. On the other hand, the skills and knowledge that I'm passing on to my students will stick with them for a long time, maybe even a lifetime, and you never know if you're helping train the next big superstar.
Right now I make house calls, traveling to each student's home to teach. My apartment isn't the ideal spot to teach. I just can't imagine mommy being willing to leave her 10 year old son or daughter with the large 44 year old man in the basement. My initial goal is to recruit 20 regular students. I'm off to a good start. I've only been teaching a couple months, and I have 7 students on my roster. As my student list grows, I'll eventually reach a tipping point, when it's going to be too much of a hassle to drive around. At that point, I'll look for a nearby music store or teaching studio to use as a base of operations. The downside will be that the store will take a percentage of my lesson fee. The upside will be that I won't have to drive all over creation, allowing me time for even more students. Also, if I teach in a store, the students will have easy access to any equipment or music they'll need.
I'll keep up the music engraving for now, but grand plan is to make a living solely from performing, teaching, and royalties. (I have an idea for a book.) One way or the other, I plan to make a living with a guitar in my hands.
- Tom Godfrey
- Atlanta, GA, United States
- When I suffered a lip injury that ended my career as a classical trombonist, I thought my life as a musician was finished, but I fell in love with music all over again when Santa gave me a guitar for Christmas in 2003. Even as I was struggling with my first chords, I was planning a new performance career. As a trombonist, I performed with the Heritage of America Band at Langley Air Force Base, the Ohio Light Opera, and in pick-up bands for touring acts that included Rosemary Clooney, George Burns, and the Manhattan Transfer. Reborn as a jazz guitarist, I sing and play my own solo arrangements of jazz classics, am half of the Godfrey and Guy duo, and hold the guitar chair in the Sentimental Journey Orchestra. I have been a freelance music copyist since 1995, served as Director of Music at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation from 2011 to 2017, and currently serve as Contemporary Band Director at the same congregation.