Guitar, Bass & Piano
I am a guitarist and composer who utilizes music as a vehicle for interpreting various aspects of life and art, for engaging students in exciting learning experiences, and for connecting with other people. My background in guitar includes experience in genres such as rock, blues, jazz, bluegrass, and classical. In 2013, I received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Technology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where I first studied classical guitar and music theory, and learned important fundamentals of recording technology and digital music production. The following year, I moved to Denver, Colorado, where I earned a Master of Music Degree in Guitar Performance and Composition. After my master’s, I spent a couple of years teaching with ArtistYear (an AmeriCorps program dedicated to making a positive impact on our nation’s students and communities through arts education) in both Colorado and Philadelphia. Since moving to Philly in 2018, I have enjoyed connecting with the local music scene and working with all my new students.
It is my strongest belief as an educator that each student has their own special way of learning and connecting with music, and that students’ personal needs take priority over all else in the studio or classroom. As a result, I actively take note of what works best for each person or group, and adapt my presentation of the learning material to best fit those requirements. Lesson plans revolve around a healthy balance of technique, music theory, and exploration into various styles or composers from which students may benefit. My vision as a teaching artist is to ignite musical artistry and passion in every one of my students, and channel it toward improving upon their own personal goals.
When did you begin playing Guitar, and why?
When I was in sixth grade, I became totally fixated on the guitar after hearing the self-titled album by Black Sabbath. I was determined to learn the “secrets” of the instrument and to reproduce the sounds I heard on that record. I received my own guitar when I was thirteen, and have played it just about every day since!
What other instruments do you play, and what is your experience with them?
The first instrument I ever played was piano. I still enjoy learning to play songs on the instrument for fun, and it is by far the most valuable tool for me when composing music. Around the time that I started playing guitar, I also began learning percussion in my middle school symphonic band. There has always been a special place in my heart for drums and percussion instruments since, and I enjoy playing them whenever I have the chance. Having played the guitar for many years, I have also become comfortable playing all other fretted instruments, such as the bass guitar, banjo, mandolin, and ukulele. I also own a sitar and have experimented with it in several of my recordings.
What are your personal goals as a musician?
It is my immediate goal to continue creating as much music as possible, perform more, and settle more into the music scene here in Philly. I plan to go back to school for a doctorate in composition, and to one day teach music full-time at the university level.
Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked? Something you’ll remember forever?
I remember many concepts clicking for me in my Music Theory I course when I began studying music in undergrad. Having already spent years listening to music and teaching myself guitar, many of the concepts we learned in class were things I had already thought about but did not have a full working knowledge of. One example is the fundamental music theory concept of the circle of fifths. I already knew about the different keys in music, and how sharps and flats are used. However, it sort of blew my mind when I was able to put it all together and begin understanding the patterns that exist in music, making it easier for me to study music from then on.
What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?
One thing that really changed my playing and practicing came from Jonathan Leathwood, my guitar teacher in grad school. He always emphasized the importance of feeling the meter in all the music you play. The first beat in each measure should be regarded as the most important. This gives the sound of your playing more liveliness, energy, and drive. In addition, thinking in terms of larger groups of notes will improve your rhythmic accuracy make fast passages feel more manageable.
What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?
Switching from playing primarily electric guitar to classical guitar was a big challenge for me. Suddenly I was holding the guitar differently, learning all new techniques, and reading sheet music a lot more. In a sense, I relearned the instrument entirely. This was a challenge that I accepted with much excitement, because I felt that I was taking my playing and understanding of the instrument to the furthest capabilities in terms of musicality and technique.
What is your biggest musical achievement?
I would say that my biggest achievement was obtaining my Master of Music degree with two different majors: Performance and Composition. In pursuit of this achievement, I received awards in both concentrations, wrote a substantial final paper on music inspired by art, had several original compositions performed, and put on a solo Graduate Recital.
Favorite thing about teaching?
My favorite thing about teaching is being able to directly witness music positively affecting my students. I always love when clear and sudden connections are made in a lesson or class–seeing the light bulb turn on when they suddenly get it. It is such a mutually rewarding moment for both the student and the teacher.
What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?
No matter whether you are a beginner or you have been playing for twenty years. The most important thing is not to get discouraged with your playing, and not to give up. As much as we love music, it is supposed to be hard–if it were easy, everyone would be doing it. However, it is important to embrace the challenges and know that you WILL get better if you keep working. So, be patient and just have fun with it!
Personal music projects:
In addition to playing and teaching guitar, I am an active composer and am currently working on a substantial piece based on art and poetry. My compositional work, as well as video and audio recordings of my guitar playing, can be viewed on my website, willbrobston.com.