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Blog #7: From Student to Pro - the Learning Never Stops! 

My mother was a career teacher for the Princeton School District in the city of Cincinnati, Ohio. 

Though I did teach guitar in my late teens for Howard Early Music, a chain of Cincinnati-based music stores, I never intended to teach for a living. But that changed in 2003 when I began teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) full-time for Berlitz Language School in Japan. In Japan from 2003 until 2009, when I returned to the USA for my Masters in Music degree, I taught over 5,000 English lessons and completed 80 hours of formal teacher-training. I experienced first-hand how I can learn from my students, and how rewarding it is to see them achieve fulfillment under my direction.

In 2020, when we ‘gig-workers’ lost most if not all of our employment due to Covid, my online teaching took off like a rocket! Student enrollments steadily increased and by 2022, I was teaching at The Oxford Music Academy, The Guitar Center, and at my home online and in-person. My students were telling me that they wanted more opportunity to play music with others, so I began a series of weekly ‘garage-band’ ensemble workshops. I provided all the materials and a rhythm-section, and my guitar students  jammed on any music they wanted, but with my professional guidance and critique on how to best function in an ensemble. 

I met vocalist Al West Jr. after he called in 2022 to say how much he liked an article I had published (see the article here): He began taking private lessons from me on piano and overall musicality. In February of 2023, I began a weekly vocal workshop on Wednesdays with Al in mind. Focusing this second weekly workshop around a singer was beneficial to my guitar students, because since the singer and not the guitarist was performing the ‘lead' role in the group, the guitar students had a great opportunity to hone their accompaniment skills.

Our humble beginnings in my garage over a year ago has evolved present-day in truly ideal fashion: the student is now also a professional collaborator! With my help as Executive Producer, Al West Jr. is soon releasing his first-ever album, titled “I Wish You Love.” We expect to have CDs within days, and the official world-wide streaming release date is Friday, April 19th, 2024. We will have a CD-release party on Thursday April 18th live at Cafe Vivace in Cincinnati. 
Al and I have been performing professionally since the middle of last year, in a duet-format (Guitar/Vocals,) and as a quartet (Al West Jr. & The Greg Chako Trio). Our next quartet show is in less than 2 weeks, at Cafe Vivace on February 22nd (details here:) 
Indeed, this is the best possible result for any student-teacher relationship. I couldn’t be happier for Al’s success, but of course, he has to be given all the credit for putting such serious work and dedication into his dream of becoming a skilled and well-informed jazz vocalist. To view the video for the upcoming album, go here:
Al and I look forward to seeing you at one of our upcoming shows in Cincinnati, where we hope you also intend to pick up a copy of the new CD and tell your fellow jazz fans and friends! 
I continue to accept new students, in-person or online. I love teaching almost as much as playing! Future blog posts will include some tutorials under a new blog category to be titled “Instructional & Inspirational Articles.” For details about Greg's lessons, please go to: 

Blog #3: Reuniting a 20 year friendship - from the Far East - to the Midwest! 

20 some years ago Brooks Giles was playing 6-nights a week with former Ramsey Lewis bassist Eldee Young's group at the Westin Singapore's Somersets Bar, while I was playing 6-nights a week leading my trio at The Bar & Billiard Room of Raffles Hotel. We were playing right across the street from one another and met for the first time then. We became friends and saw each other every now and then after his 3-month contract came to an end, when one of his tours would bring him through Singapore again or when I would come through someplace like Thailand where he held down a residency for a while. Even after we each left the Far East for home in America, we kept in touch intermittently by phone. When I returned to my hometown of Cincinnati in 2017 Brooks was in Frankfort KY taking care of his elderly parents. He gave me my first gig in the area at Jimmy Can't Dance in Louisville sometime shortly after I got here. We don't play together often, but I have played in his band in KY and he has played here with me at The Greenwhich or The Washington Platform, and Brooks did appear on my 2022 album, Friends, Old & New

Organist and pianist Wayne Yeager I have known even longer than Brooks, from when I booked jazz 4-nights a week at Doc's Place in N. College Hill in the mid-1980's. Wayne was also on my Friends, Old & New release. Drummer Isaiah Cook is a 'Young Lion' who I've had the pleasure of playing with a few times in the Cincinnati area, when I can get him(!) . . . when he isn't on tour with singer and violinist, Emmaline. Almost 250 years of experience will be on display this Friday Jan. 19th @The Jazz Spoon

Free off-street parking on-sight. Authentic Mexican Food. Besides Brook's awesome vocals, Blues & Jazz, we will also be playing selections from my album Friends, Old & New!