Lessons and teaching experience
I teach music at Elmhurst College and at the University of Illinois at Chicago. At UIC I teach Jazz Guitar Ensemble and Jazz History. At Elmhurst I teach Freshman Fundamentals, Sophomore Jazz Improvisation and combo as well as private lessons in Jazz Guitar and private Jazz Improvisation on all instruments. I also make room for a few private students outside of the colleges.
I am also on the staff of the summer jazz camp at the Interlochen Arts Academy, near Traverse City, Michigan. Bill Sears put a beautifully integrated program together, and the kids learn so much in three weeks that it's scary. They couldn't believe how much they learned. If you are a high schooler and are serious at all about learning to play jazz, you must come to this camp.
Over the years I have taught at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Jack Cecchini Studios, the Jamey Aebersold Jazz Camp, the American Conservatory of Music, Triton College and Midwest Young Artists (founded the Jazz Program and the Chicago Jazz Workshop).
When giving a guitar lesson, I almost never feel like I am giving a "guitar lesson." If the student is a beginner then, yes, you work on fretting, picking, co-ordination, folk chords, etc. But many students already play and usually studied with someone else before I get them. What I notice is that they relate straight to the instrument and not to the music. They move their fingers and sounds come out. It is like they are reciting Latin without knowing the meaning of anything they are saying. Sometimes they can play the chords to a song but can only name them with difficulty if at all. And they can't see how the chords, melody and improvisations over a song relate to one another, which is mostly just about not knowing the neck. 95% of guitarists do not know the names of the notes on their instrument. They play by sight and by ear and by touch, but the brain is not involved, which is fatal when it comes to jazz. Students tell me that I teach them how to think, which makes me think I am doing my job.
Most guitarists do not read music. If you are highly motivated but sick and tired of not knowing how to read, I can show you how. I have my own materials that I started developing in 1995, and I tried it out on students for ten years before I printed it in textbook form in 2005. It always worked but now it is perfected. The other big subjects are technique and scales, picking, harmony, learning tunes and knowing the players and the recordings.
I teach others besides guitarists. Many of my students are wind players, drummers, violinists, vocalists, etc, who want private lessons in theory, jazz improvisation, sightreading, pedagogy or other aspects of learning music. I will work with anyone who has good basic technique but does not know how to play Jazz and wants to. Such students often study with me at the same time as their instrumental teacher.
Typically a student who will succeed displays certain things early on. They discover music as a personal pleasure and develop a relationship with it. They are curious and do not need instant gratification to motivate them. They don't wait for someone to give them permission to try something. If they don't know what recording to buy, they get a music magazine, look at some reviews and get something. They develop their ears. They are at the concerts and shows. They hang around other players and discuss and ask questions and argue and most of all they jam. They learn to trust their own instincts rather than believe what they read or hear, and yet they know good advice when they hear it. They are often good in math or language, and they have or they develop good study habits. Finally, they accept responsibility for their own success or failure.
A good, organized teacher will save you time and point you in the right direction. Good teachers are not always the ones who are the most convenient to get to, or even the ones who are the best players. To find a good teacher look for six or seven people who can really play, who are in the midst of satisfying careers, people who are living the dream. Ask them who they studied with, and the same names will keep coming up.