Thanks very much to Rusty for this retrospective. Its a great read!
My path to the University of Akron to enroll as a master’s
student in Stephen Aron’s guitar studio from 1996-98 was an unlikely one. After
all, I was convinced I was well on the path to becoming a rockstar.
(I had forgotten how cool I looked back in the day!) In
pursuit of this dream, I moved to Hollywood, California at the age of 19 to
study at the Guitar Institute of Technology at Musicians’ Institute. After
completing the one-year program, I knew I had to move in a new direction. The
onset of bands like Nirvana was changing the musical tide away from technical
proficiency, and I didn’t like the long-term prospects for making a living as a
rock-fusion guitar shredder. Additionally, Hollywood was expensive, so I moved
back to my home state of Florida, eventually matriculating at Florida State
At FSU, I discovered a passion for music analysis and the
discipline required for being a classical musician. I completed the BA degree
with a heavy emphasis in music theory. I then moved to Texas, where I had been
offered a full assistantship to study music theory at the University of Texas
at Austin. I was well on the path to a career as a theorist, but something was
missing in my life—the guitar.
After finishing my MM degree at Texas in 1996, I was
fortunate to be offered assistantships in both guitar and theory at the
University of Akron. While I had no intention of being a lifelong college student, the self-indulgent opportunity to focus
exclusively on the classical guitar for two years was too great to turn down.
It was a life-changing experience that has shaped every aspect of my life
My background story is dreadfully boring. What you’re
probably really wondering at this point is whether or not I still had the curly
A promotional photo I was using for gigs at
(Oh yeah. I probably single-handedly kept Paul Mitchell in
business through the 1990s.)
For those considering studying guitar with Steve, let me
provide an enthusiastic shout of support. Here are just a small number of the
benefits I gained from the experience:
· ---I obviously learned a lot about music, but I
learned even more about myself. The discipline required to perform at a high
level taught me invaluable skills in perseverance and goal setting that I use
on a daily basis in my career.
· ---An abundance of performance opportunities. I
booked a concert tour and performed full-length solo and chamber recitals for my degree.
From a recital in Florida
--Unquestionably, though, my most memorable performance experiences were not even
on the guitar. Steve introduced me to the music director for the Ohio Ballet,
and, through an unbelievable series of events, I ended up touring as a banjo
player with the ballet troupe at the Joyce Theater in NYC in 1998 and at
Playhouse Square in Cleveland the following year. I even received a review in
the New York Times from one of the
NYC gigs. (Oh, how I wish I had a picture from one of these shows!) Perhaps
most amusing was the fact that I didn’t
know how to play the banjo when I was hired, but that’s a story for another
Classes in guitar history, arranging, and
fretboard harmony inspired me to think about the guitar from a theoretical
perspective, which has proven to be the main research focus of my career.
· ----Lifelong friendships, including with Steve, who
remains my most treasured mentor to this day.
· ----I learned that marrying a flutist is what
guitarists are supposed to do. Years later, I married a flutist I met in Missouri.
After Akron, I took a number of adjunct teaching jobs at
several colleges around northern Ohio for a year, but I resumed my student life
immediately thereafter with a full assistantship in the Ph.D. music theory
program at Indiana University. My dissertation provides a new means for
interpreting nineteenth-century guitar music through a greater understanding of
With the Ph.D. in hand, my student career was finally
complete, and I accepted a job at the University of Missouri-Columbia as an
Assistant Professor of Music Theory. During my time at Mizzou, I performed a
number of solo and chamber recitals, including a lecture/recital as part of the
Elizabeth: Ruler and Legend traveling exhibit sponsored in part by the Newberry
Library. I remain passionate about the classical guitar, and I continue to
publish and present theoretical work related to our core repertoire.
Undoubtedly, the guitar-specific coursework from Akron, along with Steve’s
relentless drive to arrange and perform new repertoire for the guitar, are my
inspirations in this regard.
After six great years at Mizzou, I accepted an Assistant
Professor position at Butler University in Indianapolis. I received tenure and
promotion to Associate Professor a few years later, and I have currently
accepted a full-time administrative position working with high achieving
students from the entire university. I still maintain a private guitar studio,
which includes one of my students from my time in Akron!
Yeah, the hair finally had to go.