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Guitar teachers are busy this fall

by Jeff Green

Guitar instructor Chad Deagle (right) teaches at Sobers School of Music in Charlottetown.Dozens of budding musicians from the Charlottetown region are strumming new tunes on one of the world’s oldest instruments this fall, emulating their pop icons and songs downloaded from the Internet. Guitar lessons are the hottest trend in the city right now. So big, in fact, the majority of businesses offering private and group sessions will soon be booked solid for the next few months. It’s all part of what one instructor calls the “MuchMusic” rave. Eager students are pouring into M.J. Mullin’s PEI School of Guitar to learn the songs they’re hearing on speciality TV channels and radio shows. Mullin says he’s seen a steady line up of customers this fall—mostly from junior and high school students—wanting to learn the chords to their favourite songs.

“Once kids take an interest in radio and popular culture they get hooked,” says Mullin, who has run the School for the past 11 years. “They want to get involved in music and they want to play their songs. Guitar is big this season.”

And, he isn’t joking. It’s hard to get lessons this year since there’s such a huge demand from the students. But they’re not just learning rock and pop songs. They’re also taking an interest in country, folk, classic, jazz, blues and flamenco. “We’ve very busy, which is good,” says Mullin, who says students also want to learn electric bass, too.

Mullin isn’t the only one who’s “pleasantly surprised” by the surge in interest. “Guitars have always been our biggest seller and are hugely popular,” says Judy Lowe, owner and operator of National Music, which offers guitar lessons for children as young as 7 years-old. “It’s great to get students involved at that young age because it’s when a child’s attention is good and their motor skills are growing,” she says.

Although the instruments can run anywhere from roughly $199 to $1,200 and higher, students have a desire to duplicate the songs they love. Plus, guitars are a staple in most bands and it’s easy to find great sheet music. “In those terms the guitar is a very accessible instrument,” says Rob Drew, owner of Fretworks Guitar Studio. “It’s kind of all pervasive and ubiquitous and has a very personal sound.”

But Drew says it’s not just young people taking up lessons. He’s taught everyone from 6-year-olds to a 75-year-old retiree looking to fill up his days with a hobby to a paraplegic. “It’s great to see anybody take the first step and fall in love with this instrument no matter what their age. People take it up for personal reasons and artistic development.”

Guitar lessons—and other classes like piano and violin—are catching on so quickly it has forced one of Charlottetown’s best known music shops to expand its storage, studios and theatre space. Sobers Music teaches guitar in group sessions for people of all ages and has a special teen guitar group this season. “This year we’ll have anywhere from 200 to 500 students come through here and the majority want to learn guitar. But we do offer other classes like violin and piano,” owner David MacDonald. “I think students like the portability of the guitar and it’s not too hard to learn its music.”

MacDonald admits a large number of his customers taking guitar lessons are “young up-and-comers” who are very serious about music. “We encourage parents to get their kids involved early in all types of music,” adds Sober’s school administrator Maggie Clarkin. “It’s like learning a second language. You have to start young to develop knowledge of pitch, tone and rhythm.”

MacDonald predicts the obsession with guitar won’t go away any time soon, despite an abundance of other instrument lessons available in the Charlottetown region. “Guitar is huge and hot this year,” he says. “I get joy out of seeing people—no matter their age or instrument—succeed with their musical experiences.”

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