Student Q&A: Gary Steele
When we launched our Online Courses, through our Bootcamp platform, the aim was to help you improve faster. This means personalised feedback, rewards for nailing lessons and a commitment to nothing but perfection.
Gary Steele, under the tutelage of Luca Mantovanelli, is not only the first person to complete a full course, but he did so with gold stars all the way. On every module he went over the exercises, licks and tasks until he had completely nailed them, earning himself 12 Gold Stars and a spot at the top of the Bootcamp Hall of Fame!
This is his experience.
Q: Tell us about yourself as a guitarist.
I started playing guitar at 11 years old. I developed listening skills early in my playing by jamming along to SRV, Hendrix (specifically, the “Born Under a Bad Sign” track from the “Blues” album) and Led Zeppelin (BBC sessions - I think I had this on TAPE). I played guitar in a few groups with some of my friends growing up, writing all original music. We had a MySpace page. Ha! Performing and writing music in a group was paramount for my musical development in my teenage years. I took my first private guitar lessons at age 16 to develop reading skills and dabble in classical and jazz guitar. Around 18 years old I got a job teaching beginner guitar players at Contemporary Music Center of Northern Virginia. At 22, I decided to move to Wilmington, NC to be with my band and attend the University of North Carolina at Wilmington where I earned a BA in Music. While in college, I taught private lessons at other local music shops and then eventually broke off on my own to teach lessons from my living room and later, a backyard studio that I built (with a little help from my friends). The Beatles, yeah! This was the start of my entrepreneurial career in the form of Steele Music Studios, a small music school in Wilmington, NC. I have since moved the business to a public space where I now work with 14 wonderful instructors on an array of different instruments to help 100+ growing musicians with private lessons and perform in small ensembles.
While starting this business, I took many gigs and played with lots of great musicians, performing in hip hop, jazz, rock, reggae, contemporary Christian and musical theatre groups. I basically made it a policy to not turn down a gig if my schedule was open. It was wonderful to make a living doing what I loved, but I burned out. Practicing for the next gig was the only practice I was getting, and although I was learning a plethora of tunes, I was no longer practicing to make myself a more efficient and informed player. At age 35, I came across an internet ad for JTC Guitar.
Q: What made you decide to take one of our Online Courses?
I never “took a break” from playing guitar, but I reached a point where my playing was stuck in the same place for a few years. I was finally tired of that. Funny enough, I guess my ego hadn’t suffered much. I signed up for the Advanced Bootcamp first, and thought, “let's tackle this real quick, it shouldn’t be that much of a challenge.” I was immediately humbled and immediately motivated. After messaging with Luca, we decided it best to go through the Intermediate Bootcamp, because he believed (as I now do) there was value for me there. He was spot on.
Q: How has it been working with Luca on the course?
Wonderful! He is very objective in his analysis and his attention to detail is acute. What he required from my playing absolutely made me a better guitarist.
Q: How has it improved your playing?
In many ways. Maybe best illustrated by this one scenario: In my pentatonic/blues playing, I have made very good use of the b5 note in the scale as well as the major 3 sound. But I was only comfortable using it in a couple (if not only one) pattern on the fretboard. Through Luca’s exercises and licks, I was able to use this idea more effectively all over the fretboard. Which in turn, expanded my own vocabulary and “lick library.”
Q: Do you think your new skills have carried over into your everyday playing?
Absolutely. If you practice the material the way you are supposed to, the volume of repetitions will inevitably ingrain the information under your fingertips.
Did you find the Bootcamp platform more enjoyable and engaging than other ways of learning guitar?
Learning guitar is enjoyable, period. The JTC format allows me yet another effective way to better myself as a musician. I like the idea of being connected to people across the world all in the name of music! It provides access to the ideas and methods of other players everywhere. I firmly believe that because of educational platforms like JTC, the bar for musicianship will be significantly raised, world wide.
Q: What's been the best bit of the course?
Ugh… Getting better at guitar.
Rediscovering my love/motivation/passion/desire to get better at my craft.
Q: As a teacher yourself, what lessons will you pass on?
I have already put some exercises and licks to use with some of my students. But more importantly, paying attention to detail and being objective about your own playing no matter how much it hurts your ego to know you haven’t done/played something properly. Fixing the small errors pay off in a big way in the long run.
Before you go…
Check out this video if you want to find out more about our Online Courses.