Hey there, Neema! Welcoming you to our wonderful collection of guitar teachers at Philly Music Lessons.
With interests in blues, jazz, and rock, Neema teaches guitar lessons at Philly Music Lessons. He is also a great teacher for piano, bass, and drums, having a solid, well-rounded musical background. Currently, Neema is pursuing a degree in guitar performance from The University of the Arts. You can check out Neema playing a piece on electric guitar, following the short bio and interview below:
I teach Guitar, Piano, Bass and Drums. My first musical experience was singing, then playing hand drums while I was young. I have formal training in guitar from University of Houston and Berklee College of Music after high school. I am currently studying guitar performance at The University of the Arts. I have very many goals for my life and one of them is to continue teaching music. I have been teaching for 4 years now, and I consider myself to be a professional educator. My strength as a teacher is to quickly identify how the student needs to learn to best show him or her the steps to success. I also have experience with group lessons in guitar and piano. I love to teach songs, riffs, scales, proper technique, proper theory, and how to get the most out of your practice. It is very important to play music everyday and to have discipline in your practice. Recording yourself, listening back, and planning what to do for the next day are all good practice habits. I practice jazz and classical guitar at least 3 hours a day.
When did you begin playing guitar, and why?
I first started to play the guitar on September 1, 2008. I’m from Houston Tx, and when Hurricane Ike landed ashore, I was safely in College Station Tx at a friends house. He had a guitar, and I played a Cold Play song. I always wanted to learn to play the guitar, and I did!
What are your personal goals as a musician?
My personal goals are to perform my own songs with a band, be a successful song writer and performer and to become a top entertainer!
Do you have a memory of a time when a music concert or technique really clicked? Something you’ll remember forever?
The first time I had a click that maybe music and sound could be the story of my life was when I was a kid singing a song on the radio and my brother told me I sounded exactly like the lead singer.
What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) or current teachers?
The piece of advice that stuck would have to be “play that tune all day long.”
Whats your most challenging musical moment?
The first time I picked up the guitar. And the hardest thing will be the next thing I play, because I am always trying to challenge myself.
What is your biggest musical achievement?
Music itself is a reward, so just the act of playing music is an achievement for me.
Favorite thing about teaching?
Teaching is always earning me experience with new people with different backgrounds. It’s rewarding to teach music, to talk about music and always to play music.
What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?
Many people think they can’t play music, like its something out of reach. I would like to share with those people that they can and should learn music. It expands the mind, you become smarter, and even begin to solve life’s most difficult problems better.
Currently I am looking for a band and I’m writing my own songs and lyrics.
Philly Music Lessons | Student Recital, Rittenhouse Square –
Come support local educators and join families, students, teachers, and those from the community at the Church of the Holy Trinity for another Philly Music Lessons recital. This year, with even more students in the lineup, you’ll be in for a treat as beginner to advanced students perform their best.
On December 6th at 3pm, stop by to hear cello, violin, piano, voice, drum, and guitar students perform in a gorgeous 19th century church on Rittenhouse Square. Tickets are $5 at the door for non-performers. Families and friends of students, and anyone living in the greater Philly community are welcome to join us!
Hope to see you there!
Here is a piece about the last season’s recital:
This past Spring, we held our recital once again at the Church of the Holy Trinity off Rittenhouse Square. We had fallen in love with the space and its acoustics during our winter show, and so we jumped on the opportunity to perform here again. The sanctuary of the church is full of natural reverb and boasts historic and architectural beauty to complement its top-notch acoustics. The church also sits center to many of the areas where we teach lessons, making for a fun day trip for the Main Liners, and a short rendezvous for the local Philly folks. Its not often students get to perform in such impressive spaces, and so we hope to bring everyone back again next recital!
Since the debut of our student recitals in the Fall of 2013, Philly Music Lessons has been hiring teachers to offer a broader selection of instruments. While we can’t wait to showcase our new violin, cello, and flute students this Fall, we were proud to have some electric bass this time around! And so that’s exactly how we kicked off the Spring show:
Jeremy Watts and Brandon Watts had been taking lessons with our own Donnie Felton for just a few months. Traveling to our Fishtown studio week after week, the Watts brothers had been exploring R&B, combining a natural ear for music with their new-found technical comprehension of note reading and chord changes. The young duo (accompanied by their teacher on drums) killed a rendition of “Red Baron”, by Billy Cobham. If you aren’t familiar, “Red Baron” is a jazz-fusion tune from 1973. Its a song that requires a lot feel n grooviness, which Jeremy and Brandon surely brought to the table. As the brothers played together on electric bass and piano, improvisation on the keys was a highlight, in addition to the strong sense of rhythm provided by the bass. There’s nothing like opening a performance with this old-school tune and a family band!
This was just the beginning of a very cool set-list made up of original compositions, classical piano works, familiar modern pieces, some jazz/blues improv’ from an advanced jazz guitar student, and more. Someone even mastered a classical piano rendition of the theme song from the old nintendo game, Zelda (my personal fav)!
This Fall, we’re looking forward to having another great mix of instruments and an equal the variety of musical disciplines from our students. See you at the next recital!
Philly Music Lessons Additions | Classical Guitar Teachers – Please welcome our new and incredibly versatile guitar, bass, ukulele and banjo teacher, Phil Smith. Phil is a music producer, composer, guitarist, and teacher with a rich background in many different musical styles. He has a B.M. in Classical Guitar from the Oberlin Conservatory, and has extensive performance experience in Rock, R&B, Pop, Gospel, Latin, and World Music. As a producer he has recorded and written with many of Philadelphia’s finest musicians and artists. Phil says the following about his passion for music and teaching:
“My head is constantly filled with music, and my days are usually spent making that inner music come to life. It’s a joy to guide others into their own discovery of music, and it’s my duty as a teacher to equip students with skills (both technical and theoretical) that make playing music joyful and effortless.”
Continue reading for a full interview with Phil, where he explains his musical history, how it applies to his teaching style and his personal growth as a producer, composer and performer:
When did you begin playing [instrument], and why?:
I started playing guitar at age 9. I had recently quit violin, which had temporarily ruined the joy of music for me. But luckily when I was young I became obsessed with my mom’s record collection. I had been listening to a lot of Beatles, Eric Clapton, and Fleetwood Mack, and then one day we saw a guitar at an auction and I coerced my parents into getting it for me. The rest is history!
What are your personal goals as a musician?:
My personal goal is simply to make excellent music and get better and better. That can mean making more moving and convincing records, writing better songs, playing guitar with more ease and expressiveness, or helping other people do those same things. Cross-pollination is also important to me. I want to bring the same sensibilities and skills that I use when playing Bach to the world of pop music, and when playing classical music I want it to groove like my favorite rock records. And I definitely want to leave my mark on the world by making amazing records and putting on great shows!
Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked? Something you’ll remember forever?
I have many….but I’ll name one. My best friend in college was an outstanding jazz pianist. We used to jam together constantly, and I was often a little timid because I had nowhere near the level of harmonic knowledge that he had. But through our playing together he taught me the art of being a “baller,” meaning, playing whatever came to me with complete confidence, effectively blasting through layers upon layers of self-consciousness. Being completely okay with playing wrong notes and sounding “bad” is the quickest way to liberate your inner voice as a musician. Just learning how to get into a creative flow can speed up the development process exponentially. If you can tolerate a year or two of sounding so-so but being fearless about it, before long you will sound fluid and creative and great!
What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?:
Just after college I took some lessons with a world renowned Polish guitar player named Lukasz Kuropaczewski. He taught me EXACTLY how to practice in order to MASTER pieces. It’s a really simple process….Just go very very slowly, work on every single measure of music many times, eventually tying everything together, and make sure that the hands and body are ALWAYS relaxed, secure, and comfortable. It’s time consuming, but suddenly very hard pieces of music can become really easy to play. The key also is to only repeat good habits….If a passage of music or an exercise is too difficult, you need to slow down or break it down into smaller chunks until it is easy to execute….only then should you start repeating, and never speed up until it is easy to do so.
What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?:
Studying classical guitar at the college level was very hard, and there were many times that I wanted to quit. I would often procrastinate or not practice enough and feel like I wasn’t making any progress. But i stuck with it! These things take time.
What is your biggest musical achievement?:
It’s hard to say and depends on the era. In high school I got an amazing opportunity to go on tour in the west coast and to Germany with members of Frank Zappa’s band. I was OBSESSED with Frank Zappa in high school, and that was pivotal for me and felt like a big achievement at the time.
My senior recital as a classical guitarist was a huge achievement because I proved that I could perform at a really high level, even after having slacked off for a lot of my Senior yearn college.
I’ve been recently making some recordings, both of my music and others’, that I’m very proud of. I feel that I’m starting to come into my own as a producer and mixer. Not a lot has been released yet though. By biggest achievements are yet to come!
Favorite thing about teaching?:
I really like the feeling of progress. When a student is on a roll, and they’re practicing, and i see consistent improvement week to week it excites me. Also, sometimes lessons may be stagnating, and then there’s an “aha” moment, where the student or I discover a new technique or idea that suddenly propels everything forward.
What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?:
Be Patient, Go SLOWLY, and DON’T QUIT (unless you decide, after long hours of contemplation and many heart to hearts with family and friends, that you simply don’t like music enough to want to learn how to make it.)
Also, Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift ARE NOT the paradigm! You don’t have to be a star by the time you’re 16, or 18, or 25, or even 35! In music you can hit your peak at ANY AGE. Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa when he was 65. Remember the tortoise and the hare? etc. etc. you get the point….
Personal music projects: i.e. bands, groups, shows, recording, etc. (if any):
I’m currently working on numerous projects with Tony Moore, Pablo Batista, George Spanky McCurdy, and Junius Bervine. We are in the midst of opening a new studio. The company is called “The Breed” and we’re about to usher in a new era of live recorded music in Philly!!! (that’s just excitement, not hubris ;))
And I’m always working on my own compositions under the name “Laughing and Screaming” and plan to release some new music soon.