For the past two months, I’ve been meeting with six students every Thursday night for Jam Workshop, the first group lesson I’ve offered as a guitar teacher. Jam Workshop is a chance for guitarists who know basic open chords to venture up the guitar neck, learning how to play solos, riffs, and alternate chord voicings to such tunes as “Friend of the Devil” by Grateful Dead and “Harvest Moon” by Neil Young.

This class has been rewarding in so many ways. For one thing, it’s simply really fun to make music with a big group of people, especially when you’re leading everyone. I heard somewhere that orchestra conductors typically live longer, healthier lives than people in other professions. I believe it.

Returning to group teaching has also been a redemptive experience. For most of my life—ever since I was a sophomore in high school, in fact—I’ve thought that I was born to be a high school English teacher. I had this dream of a classroom full of laughter and enthusiasm, a fountain of creativity. Instead, I discovered that my enthusiasm was crushed under the demands of teaching 150 kids a day. After three years, I quit and cast myself adrift in a future without direction.

Thank goodness I discovered that I wanted to teach guitar. What began as a casual suggestion from one of my bandmates has become a truly life-changing job. But it wasn’t until my second or third Jam Workshop, watching my students talking and laughing as they worked in pairs, that I realized that I had finally created the classroom I had dreamt about in high school.

This spring I’m going to offer the Jam Workshop again, and also a Guitar for Absolute Beginners class. If you’re interested, you can go here to get details.

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