I wasn’t born with a guitar in my hands.
When I started taking guitar lessons at six years old, my older sister had already been taking piano lessons for a year. I was so jealous of all the fun she seemed to be having. I had already loved listening to music prior to my first experience playing an instrument, but something about being able to make music with my own two hands got me so excited. And so what started as an early curiosity quickly developed into the main interest in my life. Performing in front of family, I was fortunate to find endless encouragement and support. My first guitar teacher and childhood hero, Scott Williams, helped foster a learning environment that was fun by teaching me all of my favorite songs. And he still managed to coax weekly progress out of me.
I was asked to play guitar in my middle and high school jazz band. I played rock and roll in several garage bands with my friends. I listened to music constantly, attempted writing my own songs and tried to broaden my musical horizons by playing music with whomever I could. At some point I realized that I wanted to spend my whole life making music.
At 18 years old, I was beyond excited to be accepted to Northern Illinois University's prestigious jazz guitar program, where I studied under world-renowned guitarist Fareed Haque. After graduating in 2007, I set my humble sights on being a professional music teacher and local gigging musician. My hope was to try to inspire and encourage my students in much the same way my first guitar teacher, Scott, did for me.
I maintained a clientele of nearly 50 students a week until 2015, when the incredible opportunity to join the internationally touring, Chicago-based bluegrass band, "Henhouse Prowlers" came to me. With the Henhouse Prowlers, I performed all over the US and Europe at clubs and music festivals, sometimes for thousands of people. Even more incredible was the opportunity to work with the US State Department and travel to countries like Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kenya, Uganda, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and Russia to perform for dignitaries, ambassadors and local musicians alike. I was given the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to present one of America's homegrown music forms for people from a completely different part of the world.
In February of 2018, I stepped away from touring in a band. I loved and am grateful for every opportunity I've had to perform all over the world. But I realized my true calling didn’t require a cheering crowd or a big stage. I get so much satisfaction watching a music student understand a new concept for the first time. I love encouraging new students to get on stage for the first time. I suppose I realized my real calling is to help people remember that they can accomplish incredible feats by just believing in themselves and being persistent.
To all the people who stood by me to make my dream of being a musician possible, I sincerely thank you. A special thanks to my parents Al and Irene, Scott Williams, Scott Anderson, Jeff Slepak, Scott Simon, Fareed Haque, Jon Goldfine and Ben Wright.