A new student didn't show up to his lesson today. It comes with the territory. It's not the first time, and it won't be the last. I had a feeling he wasn't going to be here. This was an adult student – a really good blues player who wanted to play jazz standards. In our first lesson, he seemed resistant to improving his music reading abilities, which is a problem. He told me that he wants to be able to do what I do. Now, a big part of my rapid progress as a guitarist is my ability to read music. If you want to be able to do what I do, but you're not willing to improve your reading, then you're not going to be able to do what I do, period.
Many self taught guitarists seem to think that being able to read music is a secondary skill. They point to this guitar player or that guitar player as an example of a successful musician who doesn't read music. These are guitarists who have so much inborn talent and drive that they would have found a way to succeed whether the could read or not. Believe me, those players are the exceptions. I don't know of a single musician who wishes he could give up his reading skills.
Losing this student is my fault. I should never have accepted him in the first place. From now on, when an adult intermediate contacts me about jazz guitar lessons, I will make it abundantly clear that if they want to take lessons from me, they will be learning to read.
- 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.