Monday, May 9, 2011

Aaron Shearer: Misunderstood?

Aaron Shearer: Misunderstood?

[Originally posted on November 24, 2010 by Richard Matteson]


The photo of Aaron Shearer (above) was taken in the late 1980s and that’s how he looked when I first met him at NC School of the Arts in 1987.

I moved to Winston-Salem to work with Aaron on his books and learn his system. I lived on Broad St. with two guitar majors at NCSA, Marshall Crutcher and John Parris.

Aaron died two years ago but his work lives on through his many students and associates- and through his three “Learning The Classic Guitar” books published in 1990.

I attended guitar performance classes and worked teaching at two local music stores. I studied and practiced usually 5 or 6 hours a day- I was confident I’d found the guitarist’s “Holy Grail.”

Aaron wasn’t always easy to get along with. As a teacher he was demanding and sometimes whimsical. He wanted to break you down to build you up. He seemed to be more negative than positive but now I think Aaron was just being realistic. “Some guitarists never get it” was more than just a slogan. He was throwing down the gauntlet. Aaron knew how hard it was to make a career playing classic guitar. I struggled mentally to overcome the changes in technique and find confidence in the competitive atmosphere.

Looking back- was it worth it? Yes. Through the years I’ve wondered how the guitar community has reacted to Aaron’s sometimes radical statements.

Aaron would say, for example, “Just because you have a doctorate from a prestigious university, it doesn’t mean you’re qualified to teach the guitar.”

He also said about perhaps the greatest guitarist of the 20th Century, “I learned right away that Segovia knew nothing about teaching.” In fact Segovia rejected his earlier books that were published by Belwin Mills and are still in print today.

What became apparent to me even in the 1980s is that when Aaron inferred that “most music educators don’t know how to teach”–he was right!!

Many teachers don’t understand even the basics- such as the reason for learning an instrument, what the goal of learning an instrument is or have any idea how to teach performance. There wasn’t a carefully conceived systematic approach based on logic and common sense.

Explaining Shearer’s concepts to knowledgeable teachers over they years would often lead to a reaction- “I know about that” or “We do similar things” but in reality they had no practical steps to apply the information. Although they thought they understood completely because the concepts are common sense- they misunderstood.

More to come—-

Richard Matteson

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