Reality-Based Instruction

Learning a musical instrument doesn't have to be a complicated process. Tom thinks it’s really quite straightforward: either you can play it or you can't. If you can't, then something is wrong. If we admit that and then identify the problem, we can solve it. The process of learning to play an instrument is a process of solving many little problems. If you become good at solving problems, you can become good at playing the instrument and vice versa. Tom’s role in teaching is to smooth the way as much as possible and save you time in the long run.

Tom's Teaching Method

The eventual goal for each student is to sound better and to do so in the most efficient time tested manner possible regardless whether he or she is playing just for fun, or to go on to advanced studies and possible career. Many students become frustrated when they come up against obstacles and often they quit, but in Tom’s many years of experience he has found ways around these junctures. The point is to truly listen to and alter the curriculum as needed. He uses method books ranging from 19th century works to the most recent electronics and recordings in order to tailor the curriculum to fit the student's needs and desires. Using this approach many students are able to achieve more virtuosity than they ever imagined.

Developing Musicianship

Tom also thinks playing with other musicians and performing before live audiences is at the root of developing musicianship. As host of a nearly two-decade-running public access call-in guitar show, Tom provides his students with opportunities to perform before the live camera and on stage in addition to traditional ensemble group work. He encourages all his students to strive for excellence and also guides the more advanced ones through the process of producing their own recordings.


Classical Guitar

Begin with Aaron Shearer's books I & II and then branch out into classical guitar pieces such as those by Bach, Sor, Tarrega and Guiliani [download Carcassi]. Students as young as age 4 ½, and anyone from absolute beginners to advanced players are welcome.

Contemporary Fingerstyle

Learn fingerstyle steel string guitar with standard and alternate tunings.

Folk Guitar

Everything from basic campfire guitar songs to flat picking to traditional styles of the 19th and 20th centuries. Learn ear training and accompaniment styles.

New Flamenco

Explore music from Spain and Latin America. Learn tangos, rumbas and boleros.

Jazz Guitar

Chord theory and improvising techniques. Explore standards and learn how to play in a combo.

Rock and Blues Guitar

Fundamentals of rock and blues guitar, including how to jam with the aid of numerous jam tracks.

Twelve-String Guitar

Basic and advanced technique for twelve-string including backstrokes, high octave playing, and walking bass lines.

Ten-String Guitar

The grand piano of classical guitar. Learn fingering and technical issues specific to this instrument.

Bass Guitar

Tom will get you grounded in jazz, rock and blues bass with a strong emphasis on music theory. Students learn the fundamentals using a variety of method books and playing music in a number of different styles. The object is to become a solid bass player.


Tom teaches mandolin from a classical perspective using Gíuseppe Branzoli's method book from 1892 [download Branzoli] (thanks, Tim) and advanced plectrum technique. He also teaches old time and bluegrass mandolin using Mel Bay and Hal Leonard method books. He prefers for young mandolin students to be at least eight years of age.


Most banjo students want to learn basic bluegrass and old time music, which Tom teaches using the Earl Scruggs, Mel Bay and Hal Leonard books. He also teaches classical banjo, requiring an ability to read music. His classical approach to banjo is noteworthy and employs a variety of bare finger and tremolo techniques.

String Bass

Tom's string bass instruction is best suited for (and has been successful with) local school-age students who play in orchestras or jazz bands. Tom uses Janice Tucker Rhoda's books I and II. He also teaches adults beginning to intermediate bass, especially string band and combo playing. Advanced classical students should look elsewhere for training.


Tom can take you as far as you'd like to go on soprano, tenor, and baritone uke from the principles of an absolute beginner, to advanced chord theory and complex strumming styles.