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Greg Dayton Teaching Music Lessons

Growing up, my admiration for teachers was immense. My older sister was a kindergarten and first-grade teacher, and my high school educators were truly exceptional. Among them, Doc Arnold, who taught Spanish and philosophy, left an indelible mark on me. His passion for teaching and learning was infectious; he'd even meet students beyond class hours to discuss philosophy. His humor and some of his jokes or gestures associated with certain Spanish grammar rules, stick in my mind to this day. I recently reconnected with him at a reunion, a heartwarming experience.

My guitar teacher, Jeff Wyman, at the Lexington Music shop, made a lasting impact too. A Berklee graduate, he dedicated himself to teaching genres from classical to Zeppelin. I wish I could have continued lessons throughout high school, but sports took over my schedule. These early mentors continue to influence me.

In private teaching, adapting methods to individual learning styles—be it kinesthetic, auditory, or visual—is key. Tailoring content to students' preferences, even if it's simple, motivates them. The quicker one feels that they can do something musical within their taste, no matter how simple, the more motivated one becomes to spend time on their instrument.

My time at Berklee exposed me to diverse music styles but adapting them was challenging. I felt like an outsider due to my limited jazz experience. I gathered so much information in the two years I was there that it was a bit overwhelming, feeling the pressure to be able to master any and every style of music. Not everyone can do that. In teaching, I’ve focused on simplified concepts, enabling students to enjoy playing and building skills at their pace.

Accompanying oneself while playing creates musicianship, as we learn melody, rhythm, and harmony simultaneously. Over time, once we learn a lot of easy songs, we naturally gravitate towards things that challenge us more. If it’s too hard at first, it becomes overwhelming and discouraging. So many of the greatest musical traditions in this country were passed along in backyards, porches and from watching great players. If you know three or four chords on guitar you can follow a lot of great songs, and if you sing, you can command a wonderful heartfelt performance.

My student recitals inspire learners of all ages. Collaborative playing teaches teamwork and listening. When I was teaching at the Belmont Hill School, we created rock bands for every grade from 7-12, as well as student-run coffeehouse performances in the theater twice a year. The band performances at school meetings were frequent and always exciting. In NYC, I always run my recitals at the Triad Theater on West 72nd street, a building which I called home for 10 years. These performances were especially inspiring for the families and younger students watching the more experienced ones. The lessons learned and confidence gained by stepping on a stage under the lights and performing a song to a receptive audience are innumerable. My students always immediately ask “when is the next performance?”

Being in a band around age 12 was fortunate. I learned so much about rhythm playing with the drummer, who would later become the drummer for Max Creek. I’ve instilled my band experiences in my students, making them independent learners and leaders in their musical communities. Many of my students remain collaborators, turning music into an extended family.

It is incredibly rewarding to get to know people in the context of music and to watch them grow. It makes me feel like a proud dad or uncle.

To name a few:

Anson Jones started recording with me when she was just 16. She is now critically acclaimed award-winning jazz singer (Downbeat Magazine) with a Jazz Composition degree from Princeton and a Fulbright scholarship to write in Paris. Max Rifkin co-wrote and performed “Out of Your Element” and “See My Baby” with me on my last two albums. Henry Cornell started self-producing his own Spotify channel at 15 and plays most instruments. Freeman Bradley is halfway through a Berklee College of Music Bachelor of Music degree. Charlie Kramer, my first student in NYC, who was 10 at the time, is now a successful manager for artists including Brass Tracks at Capitol Records. Countless others are performing at boarding schools, colleges, and stages around the world.

Teaching music isn't just about imparting skills; it's about nurturing passion and seeing students thrive beyond classes!

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