Regular classes at Fair Haven Middle School end at 3:00 pm every weekday. But on Tuesdays and Thursdays, seven students get to stay an extra hour for group guitar classes taught by Ian Tuski ’15 MM.
Tuski, a first-year student at YSM, has several years of experience teaching guitar in private lessons at the Wauwatosa School of Music in Wauwatosa, WI. However, this experience with the Music in Schools Initiative is the first time he’s taught both in a group setting and in a public school. About the program, he says, “most students don't need much convincing to come learn guitar due it being such a popular instrument. The challenge comes with so many students thinking guitar is only a part of popular music.”
He starts his beginner students with simple songs like “Hot Cross Buns” and “Ode to Joy,” and is currently also attempting to ease them into more complex chamber playing with a simple Bach chorale. He sees it as essential to start teaching them chamber music early on because “in guitar education there is often a huge emphasis on playing solo, and ensemble playing is secondary. Therefore, many guitarists are extremely behind in chamber music situations later in life. I think it is vital to reverse this trend and teach students how to cue, listen while they play, and learn the difference between accompanying someone and having the melody.”
Besides seeing progress in his individual students, Tuski also hopes to eventually see change in the ways classical guitar is taught in the United States: “Classical guitar pedagogy and education is the U.S. is very weak in comparison to orchestral/band instrumental training and guitar education abroad… Students are taught to put their fingers in certain places and to make sound come out of the instrument, but basic physical elements are left unaddressed, leaving many guitarists with inadequate technique and with an inability to adequately take part in chamber music. Basically, many young guitarists are taught ‘what’ to do without being taught ‘how.’ Furthermore, most guitarists are poor sight-readers and don't have a knowledge of a lot of classical music outside of guitar repertoire. These are all issues I have personally dealt with in my own education and have had to work very hard to fix. Therefore, I really want to continue working with kids to give them solid musical and technical training from day one, to hopefully over time help elevate the guitar's status in classical music.”