Guitar students at St. John School of the Arts are in for a treat this year.
Renowned guitarist James Anderson, who has been strumming since his boyhood in upstate New York, is bringing his unique style and extensive knowledge to the school.
Currently playing gigs across St. Thomas with percussionist Dean Prince in a duo called James Dean, Anderson’s previous bands include Dos Guitarros with Gennaro Della Vecchia, and the Acoustic Gypsies with Steven Katts.
Crediting his own musical education to serendipity, Anderson felt the time was ripe to share his skills.
Time To Share His Skills
“I have been playing since I was a kid and I feel like it’s time for me to give back,” said the performer. “I want to share what so many great teachers taught me. The right person always showed up at the right time to teach me what I needed to know throughout my life and throughout my career.”
Playing his own unique style with influences of Mediterranean, classical, jazz and flamenco, Anderson avoids being pigeon-holed, a lesson he intends to share with his students.
“I love it all from flamenco to jazz standards,” he said. “I like to write in one style and then another. I go from picking on a steel guitar to playing an instrumental on a nylon string.”
Purity is one thread that remains steady across Anderson’s different styles.
“You want to get the music from your head to your fingers with as little blockage as possible,” said Anderson. “One of my instructors showed me how to relax and let the music come through me, not from me. He told me, ‘music is inside you, I just have to show you how to get it out.’”
Anderson has whet his teeth as a guitar instructor at Antilles School and loves his new role.
“I’ve been playing gigs all season and I just felt like, ‘Okay it’s time to share with the children,’” he said. “I love the kids and I love watching them grow.”
Passion Not Discipline
While not a child himself, the guitarist remembers his first musical lessons and won’t be repeating the same mistakes as his instructors.
“I started out playing piano and my piano teacher made a guitarist out of me,” said Anderson. “She didn’t make it fun. She really cracked the whip and I got discouraged until I found the guitar.”
“Rather than telling someone to have discipline, I want to help them find the passion,” the guitar instructor continued. “Passion is a much better motivator than discipline.”
With relaxed classes aimed at awakening a sense of wonder about the guitar, his students might not even realize they’re learning classical technique.
“Classical is the most difficult technique,” said Anderson. “If you can learn that, you can get the music through you as efficiently as possible and then you can play any style you want.”
Playing and Writing
In addition to song instruction, his students will be versed in musical theory as well, Anderson added.
“I want to teach them the theory right away,” he said. “I will teach them the songs, but I will also teach them the theory too, so that they can write their own songs.”
Displaying his own musical passion, Anderson shared a song that popped into his head coming across from St. Thomas on the ferry.
“You can’t flow down the river hanging on to the sides,” he recited. “Just breathe — go within. Relax and enjoy the ride.”
“I wrote that just right now on the ferry,” said the musician. “That’s what I mean about having music inside you. It’s always there.”
Find the Music Within
While concentrating on guitar instruction is his primary goal for his classes, Anderson’s goals are higher than just having his students master a song.
“When the student is ready, the teacher appears,” he said. “And I believe that not just with music but with everything in life. I really want kids to have a passion for music.”
“They may move on to a different instrument but I want to help them find that passion,” Anderson continued. “I want to awaken that giant within. Music is inside of them and I just have to help them get it out.”
For more information about Anderson’s guitar classes or SJSA call 779-4322.