I love music, I love classical guitar and I love teaching. If I could give free classes, I would. As a matter of fact, I have! There are some issues though with giving free classes.
First, there is an issue of competition with other guitar teachers for students. Guitar teachers can argue that they make their living from teaching, and that by giving free lessons, it steals students from them and limits their ability to earn an income. Fair enough. That said however, how many classical guitar teachers are there in the city? How many of those teachers that actually teach classical guitar have classical guitar students? The answer to both questions is next to none. There are very few teachers that are teaching classical guitar in Regina, and of those teachers, they have very few classical guitar students. A quick search online and in music stores, and you won’t find any advertising for classical guitar lessons or performances. There will be some references that some teachers will teach all styles of guitar and they will include classical. However, ask them about what grade levels they have, or grade level they can teach up to, and most will be very limited and also unfamiliar with up to date RCM material. Generally, they will introduce some classical technique, but branch off into other more mainstream styles. So if they aren’t marketing classical guitar, and they aren’t maintaining their classical guitar technique, how can the offering of free classical guitar lessons steal students from those teachers which they never had, and are unlikely to have access to in the first place.
There has been a dramatic shift away from classical guitar in the city in favour of other guitar styles. This is due to the fact that classical guitar by nature is a more demanding formal style of guitar. That is not to say that it’s more demanding than for example, flamenco. ( Try to find a flamenco player in the city! ) Rather, other styles of guitar are more favorable and forgiving for an amateur player, and return a quicker reward for effort. Likewise there are far more guitarists who are excellent at those other styles of music. As for the school system, when I was young, my school offered a classical guitar classes. Long ago, the schools have swapped out the nylon classical guitars for steel string acoustic guitars, effectively shutting out access to classical guitar for students.
Now if any given private teacher has an issue about free classical guitar classes being offered to the public by a private teacher, how do they take to free guitar classes being offered to the public in the school system? There are also free lessons for students in after school and lunch room programs. These students are also being taught non-classical guitar, and some electric guitar too which is in direct competition to the private music teachers. In fact, in discussion of this matter, one local teacher I’m in association with related to me just such a situation. Once his regular student was old enough to take the guitar classes in school, they dropped classes with him.
In the summer of 2012, I offered a free classical guitar class, open to anyone. The only requirement was that the students had to have a classical guitar. Many students inquired. Lots were amazed, and some thought I was crazy to give the lessons for free. There were lots of calls and emails, and many signed up for the class. Lots dropped out even before the first class as they had changed their minds. Others dropped out after one or two classes. Still, others would only show up once in a while. There were a few who worked through the lessons and continued on from start to finish. There were even some who felt obligated to pay for their lessons. This was a really nice touch and an affirmation for my project. The free classes served several purposes. It promoted classical guitar, and it got me back into the mind set of teaching regular classes. Also, it showed me where classical guitar stood in the grand scheme of things in Regina and outlined the next steps I would have to take as an educator for classical guitar.
Some of the important lessons I’ve learned was that everyone wants something for free and will jump at the opportunity without thinking. Things that seem too good to be true are too good to be true. People found out that what seemed like a perfect opportunity to get something for free, in fact required work, commitment, passion and time. Something that each person who quit found they were lacking in one form or another.
I also learned the value of my own time, and what I have to offer, and neither should be wasted. As I begin the New Year teaching with 8va Classical Guitar Studio, will I continue to give free lessons? Yes and no. Giving free lessons is completely not fair for my students that are paying. Also, as my schedule fills up, I won’t have as much time available to give free classes, after all, I have bills to pay, and a family to feed and house as well as anyone. I still wish to promote classical guitar and to make access to learning available to all who truly wish it. So I will look to the school systems for after school and afternoon classes that wish to incorporate classical guitar training. Also, for those in the community, that are indeed in true financial need, who have kids who are passionate for learning, and have a desire and are committed to working with classical guitar, there will be room in my studio for them. For them, they would have no money to pursue private classes or formal classes through an institution, and it would be a loss to the community should we fail to reach out and provide them what they humanly deserve.
If you know of anyone who wishes to study classical guitar but are hindered by fiscal or personal hardships, have them apply to 8va Classical Guitar Studio with a letter outlining their situation, their need for assistance and their desire and commitment for music lessons. Arrangements can be made for lessons at a reduced cost or for free depending on a case by case situation and class availability. I know of other teachers who have made extraodinary efforts to reach out in similar fashion, and I hope there will be more. For truly, no child should be left behind!