The Center for Musical Arts has a variety of talented music teachers. In this interview we spoke with guitar, ukulele, and piano instructor Bryan Dubrow about his cross-genre approach to music projects, his love of the guitar, and his approach to teaching.
Center for Musical Arts: Hi, my name is Erica Reid. I’m with the Center for Musical Arts, and one of the parts of my job that I love most is talking to our faculty members to get to know them a little bit better. Today I am with Bryan Dubrow. How are you doing, Bryan?
Bryan Dubrow: Hi Erica, I’m good, thanks.
Center: I believe you are one of the newer members of the Center for Musical Arts faculty. Can you tell us a little bit about what brought you here?
Bryan: Yeah, this is my first year with the Center for Musical Arts, so I’ve been teaching there for four or five weeks, whatever it is at this point. And it’s great. I love it. I came across the Center, I guess last year. I recently moved to Colorado from Florida, and I was originally living closer to Denver, and now I’m living in Erie, and I saw that the Center was just basically down the road.
Center: What brought you from Florida?
Bryan: Music. I’m a freelance musician and I liked it there, but I wanted to be somewhere else and try something new. I had friends and people I knew out here, so Colorado quickly jumped to the top of the list.
Center: Yeah, right. It’s a great place to be, and Erie is really nice too. You teach guitar at the Center. How did you find that that was the instrument for you?
Bryan: I love guitar. My dad played. I think that’s how I got into it. I also teach piano and ukulele at the Center, but guitar is my main instrument. That’s what I’m most passionate about. Like I said, my dad played. I think I was probably like 9 or 10 or 7 or so, he had a Gibson guitar just around the house, and I would try and play that, and he would take it away and say, “You can play this one instead until you know what you’re doing.”
Center: Does he let you play it now? [laughs]
Bryan: Yeah, when I go home.
Center: You can play the Gibson now?
Bryan: I can play the Gibson.
Center: So you are a musician, as you mentioned, and you perform in many genres. Your bio mentions jazz and hard rock and bluegrass, and probably many more. Can you tell me a little bit about, I don’t know, what your main genre is and why you like to cross genres, what kind of musical projects you’re working on right now?
Bryan: Sure. The main genre that I’ve been playing recently since I’ve moved here is bluegrass, which I got into pretty heavily in the last five years. Before that, I was very, very into jazz. Before that, growing up, very into rock and heavy metal. I like getting very deep into styles of music, so when I find something that interests me, I’ll devote a lot of time to just getting all the little details and trying to find everything I can. I feel like I’m still doing that with everything, but definitely at a certain point it’s nice to be able to pull from all of those areas.
So, a project that I have right now is a band called Salome Songbird, and we play … it’s like songwriter, it’s kind of in the folk music/Americana vein, but we pull from bluegrass and jazz and chamber music and classical music. Other musicians came up with a lot of classical music experience, unlike me, so it’s cool to be able to pull from their experience in that. And then I can bring all the jazz language that I have and even rock and metal stuff and try and do that with acoustic instruments.
Center: Yeah. I want to ask you about how all of this dovetails with your teaching, but before I do, I also read that you collaborate musically with your wife, who is a violinist and a songwriter. Can you tell us a little bit about that experience and the joy that that must be?
Bryan: Yeah. We’ve been playing together as long as we’ve known each other. She’s in Salome Songbird, the band that I mentioned, and in the past we’ve also played as a duo, and we’ll just play. A lot of those more organized situations are, I guess, kind of song-focused. She writes a lot of great songs, so we’ll take those and play those. And then just for fun, we’ll play jazz tunes or fiddle tunes, and it’s really cool to be able to do all of those different things.
Center: You must have a very musical household.
Bryan: Yeah, the two of us and our cat.
Center: Does the cat have a music name?
Bryan: He doesn’t. His name is Cheese.
Center: Okay, a cat name. [laughs]
Center: Let’s get back to talking about your teaching. Tell me a little bit about your teaching philosophy, and especially if a student is interested in a genre, in bluegrass or in jazz or something, is that something you work with them on, or do you have sort of a set path?
Bryan: I like to kind of cater to whatever the student is interested in, because as a student myself, I appreciated that. And also just practically, I think that’s the only way to really keep people interested.
Not that it’s, we got to trick them and keep them interested, but if you’re learning something that you want to play, you’re going to keep playing and you’re going to practice. And along the road there’s room to show students new things that maybe they haven’t come across before.
That’s how I got into jazz. I was not into jazz and I had a good guitar teacher and he would teach me Metallica solos or whatever, and then at some point he’s like, “You’re very comfortable with this, but what if we played this tune, and there’s all these chords, and we can explore that?” And then I got very, very into that, and I wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for that teacher.
As far as learning your instrument and technique, with some exceptions, I think the important techniques can be found in everything. So, along the road we’re learning a song, there’s room to say, “Let’s look at our left-hand position a little closer because I think there’s a way that we can make it easier to play this piece of music.” Or right hand, “Let’s figure out a better way to hold the pick, and that’s going to make playing this song that you’re into a little easier.”
Center: I love what you just said about how technique can be found in anything that you want to practice. I think that is a very welcoming sort of philosophy for a student. Do you work with students of all ages or is there a sweet spot for you?
Bryan: All ages. Right now at the Center for Musical Arts, I’m teaching kids, I guess, between the ages of 7 to 12 or so. But also I have private students who are adults. And yeah, I like having a range of student perspectives.
Center: Okay, wonderful. Well, is there anything that we haven’t covered that you think would be really useful for a prospective student who maybe is just starting guitar, or maybe they’ve had one hanging on their wall for years and just haven’t touched it and want to get back to it? Is there anything you’d like to say about the way that you teach for a student who might be considering getting back to the guitar?
Bryan: Sure. I think just listening to music a lot is really important, because that’s going to, one, just make, hopefully, you want to find the music that really inspires you, and at least not everything at this moment is going to have the same level of inspiration. So you might experiment and listen to maybe some music that you haven’t listened to before, but find the music that really makes you want to play, and just get the passion that way.
And then so much of playing music is about listening, and what we can get out of listening. So a lot of learning different rhythms and being comfortable with rhythmic things or harmony. If your ears are attuned to it, it’s a lot easier to learn the stuff that we might write down. So yeah, listening to a lot of music, I think, is a great thing to do.
Center: Wonderful. Thank you. Well, thank you for taking the time to let us get to know you a little bit better, Bryan. It’s wonderful to meet you.