An Open Letter to my Students and Friends
I have been more than a little dogmatic and insistent in my teaching for several years now. I’ve insisted on directing the guitar development for my students, exhibiting a dominant focus on technique and on playing in a pure, traditional flamenco style. Because those things have been my personal focus, I’ve directed those that have chosen to study with me in that direction. But, my own playing reflects a strong background in folk and blues styles, also 2 decades of rock performance (tons of improvisation!), 5 years of classical guitar training, as well as 10 years of Argentine tango. When I came to flamenco, at age 32, I’d been a professional guitarist for a long time and was obsessed with the modern, the hip, the cutting edge.
Small wonder I needed a strong focus on traditional flamenco style and on developing a solid flamenco technique. Technical workouts dominate my daily practice still and, likely, always will.
Well, in short: I’ve changed. Profoundly. And,it’s about time!
My journey, my path, my trajectory is, most assuredly, not yours.
So, first off, I apologize to each and every one of you for my insensitivity to your personal needs, goals, aspirations; for my insistence on “my way, or the highway.”
I do recognize that each of you are intelligent, autonomous individuals with, often, quite specific and well thought-out ideas about what you want from the study of flamenco guitar. Examples: are you desiring a career as a professional flamenco guitarist? As a soloist, an accompanist of cante (song) or baile (dance)? Do you seek to enrich your playing with some flamenco techniques and atmosphere (an injection of flamenquismo)? Is your’s a more philosophical quest, like Yoga or Zen (I love and appreciate that; flamenco has become my spiritual practice)? Are you seeking more discipline and focus in your playing? Are you a hopeless Romantic, a Dreamer? Are you a combination of some, or even all, of the above?
I truly believe each of us needs to take control of our own lives: to move towards what we want and what we feel we need. Of course, it can be liberating to surrender oneself to the instructor, guide, guru, whatever. Still, I believe everyone needs to hang on to a strong sense of self, throughout it all. To that aim, I pledge to help you, to listen to you, encourage you, and to be ever more sensitive to your needs.
Please, I encourage you to leave a comment. It will, likely, be helpful to others. End of rant.
(thoughts collected, organized, and dumped from Antigua, Guatemala)