Teaching Philosophy of the South Bay Guitar Academy

by Dr. Alexander Milovanov

The Mission

     The South Bay Guitar Academy’s primary goal is to provide well-structured instruction which will help serious students prepare for college or university auditions. However, while many students will not necessarily choose to become professional or dedicated full-time musicians, the correct training under proper guidance will still provide them with valuable self-discipline and an appreciation for music that will influence and shape their lives in a positive way. Quality music education also assists children in their overall academic performance.

Why Take Lessons at the South Bay Guitar Academy?

     I take guitar instruction very seriously. I believe that the only resultative way to teach is   to teach by example. I always treat each student as a unique individual and construct the curricula according to his/her specific needs and abilities. My goal is to offer an opportunity for people to learn the correct and solid technique when playing the instrument from the very first lesson. In reality, when it comes to the guitar instruction, there are only a handful of teachers out there who actually place appropriate emphasis on the development of proper technique and good habits. For a student who is an absolute beginner this aspect is of crucial importance, and for an intermediate or advanced player, this would be a rare opportunity to improve and expand his or her skills together with achieving a better command of the instrument.

“I have found that the people who claim that technique is not an important thing in playing an instrument simply do not possess it.”

-Moritz Rosenthal (distinguished American virtuoso pianist)

The Biggest Flaw of Many Modern Private and Corporate Music Schools

     Unfortunately, nowadays it is not uncommon when people are looking for music lessons, either for themselves or for their children, they often encounter dozens of so called “music schools,” music stores or “music teachers” that try to sell their lessons by claiming that they can instantly help you or your child learn to play any song they wish. However, in reality, most of the time, after this so-called “fun training” a student is either unable to play even a simple complete piece of music at an acceptable level or even worse, the student’s technique is ruined by the development of bad and difficult-to-correct habits as the result of ignorant or careless instruction.

     The main problem here is that the vast majority of such “schools” often hire so-called “instructors” who are highly unqualified and, quite often do not even possess a specialized degree in music or in the instrument they are trying to teach. Beware, because most of these “teachers” often happen to be either amateur or wannabe “musicians” trying to earn some extra cash, or are so-called “well-rounded multi-instrumentalists” who are not living up to professional standards. Nevertheless, they try to “teach” ten different instruments or ten different styles in order to attract as many students as possible and generate as much profit as possible without being truly proficient in any single one of them. Even worse, they often teach without having a clear idea of how all these instruments or styles ought to be taught properly!

An Important Notion for Students or Parents

     Let me please give you a small piece of advice here. Of course, this would only apply to you if you actually care about receiving good quality guitar lessons or good quality music lessons. Whether you choose the South Bay Guitar Academy or some other place for lessons, please try to stay away from a teacher who is a “Jack of all trades and master of none” such as those described above. Studying with such people serves to destroy the quality of elementary music education in this country! If you are genuinely looking to receive a good value, look for someone who is a professional musician and an experienced teacher; someone who is an expert in his or her field specializing in one instrument and who has some kind of career in music combined with the proper education and credentials. Never settle for a wannabe who needs to get good instruction himself or herself!

     Keep in mind that the development of bad habits as the result of poor, incompetent or ignorant instruction in the beginning can eventually lead to frustration, technical limitations or even worse, can often become the cause of potential injuries in the intermediate or advanced stages!

An idea one so often hears expressed in America: “Since my daughter is only beginning her studies, any teacher will do!” This has been the reason for a great void in American musical education. If a father would transpose this same thought to the building of a house, he might be surprised to find himself saying: “Since I am only laying a foundation, any kind of trashy material will do. I will use inferior cement, plaster, stone, bricks, decayed wood and cheap hardware, and employ the cheapest labor I can procure. But when I get to the roof, I shall engage the finest roof makers in the world!”

-Josef Hofmann (the greatest pianist of the first half of the 20th century)

     Finally, be aware that the achievement of adequate results in the process of mastering any musical instrument will always require a certain amount of dedication, discipline, and thoughtful work. If you’ve decided to learn the guitar, then you have to acknowledge the fact that there are no shortcuts to becoming either a virtuoso or even a modest amateur musician. Learning to play any musical instrument is always a step by step process demanding patient practice together with a certain amount of repetition and drill.

"Technical mastery cannot be won in a month or a year, it is the result of many years of ceaseless study. But even if the student does not wish to enter a public career, there is no reason why musical studies should not be pursued along correct lines. Why should not the student go thoroughly even a part of the way? If students attempt the study at all, they should bend all their mental powers to the tasks they have set themselves."

-Sergei Rachmaninoff (the great Russian composer)