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New Guitar Teacher: Phil Smith | Philly Music Lessons

Philly Classical Guitar Teacher: Phil Smith

Classical Guitar Teacher: Phil Smith

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.

Meet our Cello and Violin Teacher!

Cello Lessons Philadelphia

Cello and Violin Teachers in Philly | Philly Music Lessons

Veronica Hudacek is one of the most recent and impressive additions to the Philly Music Lessons staff. Teaching cello, violin and piano, Veronica carries in-depth knowledge of stringed instruments and is classically trained in piano. She holds a BM in Cello Performance and a Masters in String Pedagogy. In addition to being a highly trained musician, Veronica also boasts honors in teaching. Veronica’s former students have won regional awards and many have gone on to pursue degrees in music. One of the things that makes Veronica’s teaching unique (in addition her musical knowledge spanning three different instruments) is that a great amount of her experience has been teaching homeschoolers and homeschooling families for several years. Coming from a homeschooling background herself, she knows a more than bit about the process. She shared some words with us about her own experience, which led her to a generous exposure to the arts from a young age:

“I understand how difficult and rewarding the process can be. I came from a rather large family and while our family dynamic was chaotic, we were very close knit and supported each other. In addition to homeschooling, my siblings and I were also involved in lots of activities in the fine arts: music lessons, dance lessons, and several theater productions, sometimes with a few siblings at one theater in a certain part of town and another couple of us in another production across town. It’s no wonder our mom quickly earned the title “Super Mom” within the theater circuit since she could seemingly be in several places at once! Overall I was very grateful for the experience and learned a lot about myself and how to be capable and independent, yet part of a larger community.”

While not everyone is able to take lessons during the day (especially during the school year), Veronica is excited to announce her availability during daytime hours. This may be particularly appealing to families with children being home-schooled, but would also be relevant to those with summer break and adults with flexible schedules. Anyone for a cello lesson? Coming from Veronica after a brief interview are some thoughts about learning music:

 

When did you begin playing cello, and why?: The cello was actually a Christmas present when I was 14. The gift consisted of a plywood cello and bow, a methods book, and a VHS of How to Play the Cello. Like so many people out there, I loved the extensive range and overall sound and tone of the cello. Also Yo-Yo Ma was making regular performances in the Twin Cities in Minnesota and I made a point to go to every concert I could. I guess my Mom took notice!

What are your personal goals as a musician?: To continually improve my technique and skills in teaching and performing, and to pass along that knowledge and experience on to my students. Specifically here in Philly, to use music as a means to better the lives of individuals from all walks of life.

What was the most difficult of your instruments to learn – piano, violin, or cello?: Probably violin, I started at an early age with piano and pursued it as a secondary instrument in college but didn’t pick up violin until I was well into my cello studies. The technique concepts are similar, but the weight and balance distributions take some adjusting to!

Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked?  Something you’ll remember forever?: VIBRATO! I learned a certain approach and positioning in my early years, and it wasn’t until much later in my studies and careful observations of talented and successful musicians that I realized my positioning needed to be adapted. Observing and experimenting with technique is something I always encourage my students to do.

What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?: Make a great sound, and don’t injure yourself. (Jeffrey Solow) Words to live by!

What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?: Practicing! Always a challenge.

What is your biggest musical achievement?: The recent completion of my Master’s Degree at Temple University, more specifically the lecture recital I gave in early May which was the culminating project of my two years of studies.

Favorite thing about teaching?: Seeing the expression on my student’s face when something finally clicks and they get it! I feel very proud of them, and myself for getting them to that place.

 

 

Cello Lessons Philadelphia

Cello Teachers in Philly | Philly Music Lessons

I teach cellopiano, and violin. I received my BM in Cello Performance from the University of Minnesota, and recently graduated from Temple University with my Masters in String Pedagogy. While at Temple, I taught private lessons through the Community Music Scholars Program (CMSP), where several of my students won top positions in the regional All-City orchestras, with one graduating student pursuing her BM in cello this fall. I have over 10 years of teaching experience working with a wide array of ages and abilities, from students as young as eight years old to adult beginners as well as pre-conservatory students. My teaching method puts focus on the individual and what they hope to gain through their musical pursuits. I emphasize playing in a healthy and relaxed manner, and finding what works best for the student. I incorporate my extensive knowledge of music theory and technique to build a solid foundation for a lifetime of musical enjoyment. I teach beginner violin, beginner to intermediate piano, and beginner to advanced cello. In addition to my teaching schedule, I also perform with several orchestras and ensembles in the greater Philadelphia area.