If at First You Don’t Succeed …

There was little boy who became fascinated with the guitar and badly wanted lessons. Finally, when he was in first grade, his mother bought him a guitar and set him up with a teacher.
It didn’t last long, though. The teacher wasn’t very good and had no idea how to teach a seven-year-old. There wasn’t any assistance at home. After a few months, he quit taking lessons.

But the story doesn’t end there.

The boy still had his guitar and still had that fascination. He kept the guitar book he was given for lessons and could still play a couple of songs in it, using the three notes on the E string he had learned. He even created a couple of awkward chords and wrote a song using them. Then someone showed him how to play “Smoke on the Water.”

Still, it wasn’t enough.

When he was ten, he started begging his mother for guitar lessons again. She reluctantly agreed as a gift for his eleventh birthday, but she didn’t think it would last.This time he worked harder. He was more mature, and he liked to practice. As time went on and his skills improved, he started practicing more, because it became returned.

After some time, he began getting a lot of positive feedback not only from family and friends, but also teachers and music professionals. That was very encouraging and really built up his self-esteem. In the end, he de-cided to study music in college and in graduate school, and became a professional musician.

I know all this because I was that boy.

I am so grateful for the gift of music lessons and that I was given a second chance. In addition to leading to my career in music, taking lessons benefitted me in a number of ways. It’s given me discipline. It’s taught me that you’ve got to work hard in order to do something well. In my teens, I was spending an hour or two every day practicing; in my twenties, I was typically practicing four hours a day. That took a lot of discipline to be able to give that kind of focus, and I think that has given me a stronger work ethic.
















DAN CONWAY: Spring 2015 Featured Student

How old are you?


How long have you been taking lessons?

I think I’ve been taking for five years, maybe?

Yes, you started taking around your ninth birthday, right?


What style of guitar do you play?


Do you remember why you wanted to take lessons?

I wanted to play an instrument and do something new, and I thought the guitar was going to be really fun.

So why do you like to practice—and I’m guessing that you like to practice?

I guess being able to play music I think is pretty cool, just being able to play in front of other people … is pretty cool.

Do you like to play the guitar more for your own enjoyment, or family and friends, or do you hope to play for the public more?

For my own enjoyment, actually a lot.

 You do like playing for other people too?

Right! Yeah.

And how much do you practice?

About half-hour, forty-five minutes.

Is that every day?


Okay; good for you.

And do you have a favorite piece or favorite song you like to play?

“Ukrainian Melody.”

Now you also play a lot of sports; what sports are you involved in?

Wrestling, baseball, track, and cross-country.






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I am happy to announce the birth of a new entity in town:The Cleveland Guitar Orchestra. I am also excited that the Cleveland Classical Guitar Society (CCGS) hired me to be the orchestra’s conductor. Our first performance is on Sunday, December 7, at the Cleveland Classical Guitar Society’s Open Recital.

The idea of a guitar orchestra might be new to some, but such groups are becoming very popular. They accommodate

guitarists of a variety of skill levels as the pieces are arranged into parts of varying difficulty.

Member Diane Konyk, who has played with guitar orchestras before, enjoys the community feeling: “Playing with an ensemble is fun because you’re playing with other people.” Marlene Goldheimer says, “I’m doing it for the joy of making music with others. Performance is the hard part for me. Here you don’t have to be an absolutely fabulous guitarist; you just learn your part.” Charlie Thomasson points out, “It improves your reading music skills, rhythm, and knowledge of overall music. The beauty of the music together is just tremendous. It’s wonderful to hear all the guitars together.”

At our premiere, the Cleveland Guitar Orchestra will play an upbeat pair of allemandes by Renaissance composer Anthony

Holbourne, followed by a more serene and substantial piece—a Brahms piano intermezzo transcription, and will conclude with Debussy’s lighthearted “Golliwog’s Cake Walk” from his “Children’s Corner” collection.

The CCGS has been discussing the prospect of starting a guitar orchestra for a few years. When they decided to move

forward, I was very pleased to be chosen as conductor. The orchestra was launched in September with nine members, mostly adults and one teen. We rehearse weekly at the Church of the Covenant, near Severance Hall. The members range in skill from upper-beginning level to advanced.

The Cleveland Guitar Orchestra offers two 10-week sessions and two performances per year. Our second session will begin in early 2015, culminating with a spring recital. We are always open to new members, of all skill levels: from beginners to accomplished players. The requirements are not stringent; the only real prerequisite is the ability to read music at a reasonable level.

If you’d like to join us, let me know!



MARTI WEBSTER: Winter 2015 Featured Student


How long have you been playing guitar?
Off and on since college–45 years.

How long have you been taking lessons with me?
Three and a half years.
What you do well … it really feels like you want to be there. Some guitar teachers
know their stuff, but you get the feeling they’d rather be doing something else. And one time you said, “I like to listen to you as you’re learning,” and you were so sincere. Wow, that’s meaningful: even
when people are stumbling along you want to listen to them. So many musicians are teaching because they don’t have enough gigs … so they’re not really teachers. Whereas I think you are really a teacher.

You started out in folk, but eventually I convinced you to take classical, based on where you wanted to go. How has that transition been for you?
Actually it’s perfect. I’m so glad I did. I kind of regret that I didn’t do it sooner.

Why do you like to play the guitar—for your own enjoyment, for family and friends, or for the public?
For my own enjoyment and to play with my husband. It would be a little bit of a goal for us to perform together at an open mike.

Now your husband, Bob, is retired, and how much does he practice every day?
At least 8 hours. I got up at 4 am the other day to get a glass of water, and he was
standing in the kitchen in the dark, playing the guitar. I couldn’t even believe it.

How much do you practice a day?
An hour, to an hour and a half.

Do you have a favorite song or piece in your repertoire?
Christmas carols.

Click here to see the entire newsletter: Flood guitar newsletter-Dec 14


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