Like many artists, lifelong guitarist Christian Johnson found himself stuck in an office job for several years. But it wasn’t enough to silence the music in his head. Motivated by his frustration and his encyclopedic knowledge of the ax, he opened Adrian Guitars in 2002 before changing the name to Blue Dot Guitars. During lessons, Johnson pulls from three decades of playing and teaching experience to assist students of all ages and skill levels in tackling the guitar. He honed his own musical prowess at Musicians Institute, where he studied with virtuosos such as jazz great Joe Diorio. As a Fender-authorized warranty technician, Johnson also specializes in guitar repairs, including regluing broken bridges or replacing snapped strings with durable strands of spaghetti.
Most people fall in love at some point in college, and Bill Edmund was no exception. He can still recall how his heartstrings tightened when, in 1983, he was introduced to the classical guitar. As his burgeoning career in geology led him to Louisiana and California, Edmund carved out time to pursue classical and flamenco guitar. While studying new fingerpicking techniques and improving his musicianship, he managed to accumulate a sizable collection of fine and rare guitars. In 2010, this collection helped him to open Vintage Guitars International, where he now devotes his full attention to the love he first discovered back in college.
As one of the top guitar retailers in the Northwest, Edmund’s guitar emporium stocks a selection of classical and flamenco guitars and ukuleles crafted by luthiers from across North America and Europe. Alongside its most sought-after instruments, the store also sells intro-level guitars, sheet music, books, and cases—each of which includes a complimentary air guitar.
In the Just for Fun piano workshops, key-strikers step away from the piano for demonstrative lectures on chord-centric playing techniques. Created for new players, students will learn to play chords by feel, much like touch-typing or finding ice-cream stashes during darkened midnight freezer raids. Each student receives a workbook to follow along during a three-hour demonstration from the instructor (a $60 value), and afterwards each student gets an instructional audio CD (a $25 value) for at-home practice of the day's lessons. The workshops are also meant to provide aspiring players with the confidence to stylize their favorite songs, improvise melodies, and attempt one-fingered renditions of "Chopsticks."
Owner Mike Urquhart takes his business's name to heart: the learning center draws on the talents of three generations of Urquharts, from his business-manager father all the way down to his grade-school-aged daughter Julia, who assists with piano lessons and administration. Signs bearing messages such as "No practicing: only play for fun" and "Mistakes are always welcome" embody the teachers' philosophy that no amount of technical skill can substitute for the sheer joy of playing, singing, and finally figuring out how to snap the fingers on both hands at once. The school's specialty group classes—some held in the new, 2,500-square-foot piano learning center—foster self-confidence with weekly performance opportunities, and the curriculum of songs can include anything from classical compositions to classical rock.
Traversing the notes and frets of guitar, bass, drums, keyboard, and vocals, the faculty of professional musicians at School of Rock instructs junior jammers of varying statures with an eye on achieving live-performance skills. Aspiring autograph signers of all ability levels learn the rock 'n' roll ropes during 30-minute private, weekly lessons. Drawing sonorous swells from instruments or their own Mohawk-sporting vocal chords, pupils practice progressions, riffs, and more. Members Only jackets, access to members-only events, and discounted show tickets place strummers and crooners in the heart of the popular-music scene.
Each of the guitar coaches at American Guitar Academy are certified in the school’s signature teaching method. Developed over 25 years, this house-honed instruction technique incorporates scientific research to help fingers learn to shred frets up to eight times faster than alternative methods. During private half-hour lessons, instructors guide budding rock stars aged 4 years and up through the basics of strumming chords and seamlessly stitching together riffs. These comprehensive lessons on classical, electric, or acoustic guitars are offered once a week with a live instructor or online and guarantee that students will be playing their favorite music within six months of training. Students may begin lessons without owning a guitar, but are encouraged to gain access to one quickly for mastering scales and the ability to solo with their teeth.