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: 

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