Teaching, the noblest of professions.

My mother was a career teacher for Cincinnati Public Schools and I never thought I'd follow in her footsteps as a teacher, but I did! I received my first formal teacher training more than 20 years ago, with courses such as “Effective Communication Skills,” and “The Learner-Centered Classroom,” among others, while teaching over 5,000 English lessons in Japan for Berlitz Language School. I taught private and group lessons to students ranging in age from 18-80, and “Business English” classes to groups of 6-15 students for top Japanese companies such as Hitachi, Shiseido and Nissan. My teaching evaluators at Berlitz wrote that I was, “ . . . excellent; gifted . . . With an intense interest in the personal development of his students and a great sensitivity to their individual needs and cultural background.

My very first experience as a private guitar teacher was back in the early 1970's, when I taught for the Cincinnati-based music store chain, Howard Early Music. I am a passionate life-long learner and musical artist who, after establishing a successful international career as a performer, recording artist and entrepreneur, returned to school at age 50 to achieve the academic qualifications  that would better enable me to “give back” to society by educating and inspiring others. 

I believe that I have a “teachers heart,” that is, an innate ability to build rapport with students and lead them to their highest potential. And importantly, I am cognizant of and grateful for the “two-way street” of communication which should exist between any student and teacher, as each collaborate on the learning process together. Nothing is more gratifying to me than to witness my student find their passion and exceed their initial expectations. I like to compare my teaching philosophy to the parable about teaching someone to fish so that they can eat for life, as opposed to feeding them one fish meal. I say that I want to teach you how to play, but not what to play . . . I teach you how to figure out things on your own rather than merely copying what I do without the knowledge of how I came to do what I do! I believe that the formal terminology is that I favor student-centered, constructivist teaching methods in which students are actively involved in the learning process, as opposed to being passive recipients of information that is lectured “down” to them.

For anyone interested, details of my formal teaching experience (1973-2009) can be found on pages 4 and 5 of my CV (curriculum vitae), which can be seen on the “Academics” page of my website: https://gregchako.com/academic Just scroll down the page until you see the hyperlink titled: “Greg's Academic CV

Covid came as a blessing in disguise in 2020 because I obtained an online teaching position which in turn prompted me to seriously upgrade (digitize) my teaching materials. At the same time, I composed 

a series of chord-melodies for Beginner to Intermediate to Advanced levels for popular songs such as The Birthday Song, Amazing Grace, Love Me Tender, Silent Night, etc… as well as a many jazz standards that my students said they wanted to learn. I use music notation, but augment it with chord diagrams showing where to put each finger, and if needed, finger markings on individual notes that do not have a chord diagram above them. I teach weekly at the Oxford Music Academy in Oxford near Miami University, and a few days a week privately at my home studio. Here's the notation with chord diagrams for The Star-Spangled Banner (intermediate level) and also a video link of my performing it (impromptu) as a guitar solo. Here's the video link: https://youtu.be/zg4Hinbr9Tc?si=R-lJ5qBnlixDu9Pv and here's a link to the music notation: https://gregchako.com/files/1118962/the-star-spangled-banner.pdf

In 2022, multiple students had been telling me that me they were not getting enough chance to “play” with other people. Not surprising, since even professionals like me don't feel that we play enough! I saw a need and I addressed it that same year, starting a 2-hour instrumental workshop in my home studio every Tuesday. I provided a professional drummer and bassist, amplifiers and P.A., and two or three of my best students would come and jam on whatever tunes they wanted to work on. I would coach them on comping for each other, improvisation, dynamics, phrasing, song selection, and generally how to best play with each other in a group context. I charged next to nothing, with the one condition being that they take one private lesson with me per week. If they did that, they could attend the workshop. That way, they got the theory they needed in the private lesson, along with the practical application of that theory in a real band-playing situation.

On Wed. nights I used to to teach at Guitar Center, but the success of the Tuesday night ensembles grew into the need for a second weekly group. Therefore, in Jan. of 2023, I quit Guitar Center (with adequate notice and on good terms!) and began teaching a weekly vocal ensemble on Wed. The primary vocalist who began these Wed. workshops with us (my guitar students are invited to this ensemble too) reached out to me because he had read an article that I'd written for Jazz Guitar Today (https://jazzguitartoday.com/author/gregchako/) which he said “spoke to him.” He began taking private lessons with me (piano, theory, repertoire and musicianship) and attending the weekly workshops. After a year and a ½, he released his first album, which I produced, and the student-teacher relationship turned into multiple professional collaborations. This is indeed the best possible outcome for any teacher, to witness the student turn professional and/or exceed their initial expectations! 

I am most proud of the fact that among my students are multiple professionals and semi-pros . . . some of them are working even more than me! But they are getting information from me that they likely cannot get easily and affordably from anyone else nearby. In addition to jazz guitar, my lessons have included those on electric bass, vocals, piano, theory and reading. My life is full in part because of my students and their commitment to learn. At 65 going on 66 in June, Tue. and Wed. have become my favorite days of the week because of the private lessons and ensembles I teach. My mom passed away in 2020, but perhaps she'd be proud of me . . . Lord knows I wish I'd taken more of her advice to heart a lot sooner than this! 

I've also really enjoyed writing educational or inspirational articles to help people along their path - I don't get paid for it - it's at-once a public service and a type of feel good therapy for me! Here's a link to my most recent article in JGT, titled “Networking for Success” - https://jazzguitartoday.com/2024/05/how-to-network-for-success/

Please follow me, read my articles, comment on my blog posts, come to my gigs and buy my music! All of this helps me to continue my work . . . and because:

Music is a healing art form: Learn it! Share it! Do it!

Greg Chako, Blog Post #16, from “Education & Inspiration”

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