Blackstar Studios-Fox Lake Illinois-Classical/Acoustic/Electric Guitar Instruction


floridapicss 280 - CopyBiography:
I was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. My musical passion was first stirred by pop and rock music of the 1980’s. Initially I became a bassist and, unable to afford lessons, I learned to play by ear, from relatives, and by transcribing recordings and reading tablatures from magazines. By age fourteen I had dropped out of high school, and was playing bass in several local rock bands. Soon, I grew tired of band social strife, and breakups, and had became unable to perform in smoke infested bars and clubs-due to asthma, which made a career in pop/club music performance very unlikely. At age 17 I shattered my foot on an industrial accident, operating a ski lift (for a third fateful year), falling 30 feet, and I’ve had several surgeries since.
By age nineteen I had gotten a GED, was restoring musclecars, learning electric guitar, and had taken a couple of tech. classes at a community college in McHenry, Illinois. I then spent a year working at a steel mill in Crystal Lake, Il. By twenty, I moved to Wisconsin with relatives, to lead an ascetic life, and discovered classical music- first hearing the solo string works of Bach, Paganini caprices, and several famous concertos which immediately captivated. A year was then spent in retreat -watching PBS concerts of great performers, VHS videos, and collecting and learning to read sheet music, and then I decided to visit the conservatory of music in Milwaukee Wisconsin, to inquire about lessons, which were too expensive, but discovered that there scholarship competition approaching.
I entered the competition, and managed to perform solo pieces by J.S. Bach for the conservatory jury-somehow winning third prize in the advanced division despite having never taken an actual cello lesson. With this fortunate blessing came the ability to finally afford music lessons -at age 21. While studying ‘cello at the conservatory soon thereafter, I explored the music library and it’s collections-and discovered classical guitar repertoire -and a world of guitar music previously unheard in his life. The following year I won scholarships to study both classical guitar and cello, but made the difficult decision to quit studying ‘cello at WCM -because it was too difficult on the hands to practice long hours on both instruments, and even more difficult to procure accompanists(which are a necessity for a string players’ repertoire).
My first classical guitar lessons were Raymond Mueller, an amazing teacher who did a wonderful job of introducing me to standard repertoire, basic music fundamentals, and awareness of technique that had been previously unknown. Mueller was also the music librarian at the Wisconsin Conservatory, so much was learned about repertoire! Lessons were taught in the dusty library of the old mansion where the Wisconsin Conservatory is still located..
Next at the conservatory I studied privately with George Lindquist, a baroque music specialist and amazing instructor, while also taking ensemble and performance workshops. George put me in contact that year with James Norris, a guitar maker and former Segovia student, who eventually became his friend and mentor.
The following two years I won top prize in the WCM annual guitar competition, and, finally he had lessons and classes with Christopher Laughlin, who helped me ultimately to prepare Rodrigo’s “Concierto De Aranjuez” for the UW-Milwaukee concerto competition in 1999.
Laughlin, who holds a master’s in music(guitar) from Yale, gave crucial advice about attending universities, competitions and -ultimately convinced me to matriculate into the degree program at UWM. I was able to begin bachelor studies at UW-Milwaukee, despite going through great personal tragedy and suffering the debilitating loss of my older brother earlier that year. After the first semester at UWM I was awarded a rare undergraduate music department talent scholarship. although I did ask the dean for it….
Unbeknownst to most, I had spent most of that Spring semester living out of a ‘cello locker in the music building, and sleeping behind practice room pianos until finals- due to having no residence anywhere near the university. I even stayed at the Ambassador hotel for a short while. I finished at UW with a 3.6. GPA and, that Summer, June 2000, I performed in several masterclasses at an international guitar festival in Florida. It was there that I suppose my talent was more broadly noticed, and the trip resulted in an invitation by renowned guitar virtuoso and pedagogue Stephen Robinson to study music full-time at Stetson University that Fall. I was doubtful, due to finances and suspect of overcoming bureaucratic hurdles, but the Robinsons said they would make it happen, and…within a few brief months arrangements had been made, academic and music scholarships were awarded. I sold my 1969 Pontiac Firebird(A car that he had personally built and restored, my only remaining asset, in order to afford the journey South).
I arrived at Stetson via Greyhound Bus in Fall 2000, with only twenty dollars, a bicycle, duffel bag, and a guitar. During the three years at Stetson I studied music, conducting, acting and religion. And, thanks to Dr. Robinson, he also improved vastly on the classical guitar.
I was on the dean’s list every semester of college, the good one, and nominated to the “National Dean’s List” in 2002. May 2003 I graduated in the top one percent of the Stetson graduating class- with honors. And, by then I had private lessons and performed in many masterclasses -with the greatest performers, artists and professors in the world. I decided to postpone graduate studies in 2003, a decision driven by financial inability and.. need for a break. I moved South that Summer to Key West Florida- where I worked as a guitarist, teacher, street performer, and eco-adventure kayak guide from 2003-2005.
While living there I also volunteered in community music programs and avian rescues, mastered kayak fishing on the flats and reef, and learned sailing, becoming a first mate part-time running reef and back country tours.
I decided to move to Colorado after three years island bound, moving from Florida finally after hurricanes Katrina and Wilma devastated the area. I eventually decided that the state of Colorado had the most opportunities –and a very renowned virtuoso professor named Ricardo Iznaola. During a brief visit to Colorado seeking suitable residence, I attended a faculty guitar concert by Masakazu Ito at Denver University. During the intermission I took the opportunity to introduce myself to Maestro Iznaola, as “his newest student”. The following year I formally auditioned, was accepted, passed the GRE, and was awarded an endowed scholarship to began graduate studies for 2006-7 academic year.
I decided to leave Colorado due to continuing respiratory illness, brought on by Colorado altitude and ground-level air pollution. I withdrew sadly from DU after one year,experienced homelessness and total disability, and checked into Denver Health for the few years intermittently. I relocated back to the Chicago Area late 2011 where I have happily made a full recovery from all respiratory ailments, medications, and am a health/fitness enthusiast.
I currently teach in Kenosha WI, Lake Geneva WI, and Chicago Il. and perform everywhere in between.

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