Like so many other children, Thomas Ulichny picked up the guitar at a young age in an attempt to learn to play some of his favorite rock songs. Now, Ulichny will offer the chance to the youth of St. John to learn their favorite songs on the instrument as the new guitar teacher at the St. John School of the Arts.
Ulichny, who has lived on St. John for nearly a year, began his music career as a piano player at the age of five.
“My sister was a few years older, and she had been into piano, so I went to lessons for about a year,” said Ulichny. “I didn’t like the idea of my sister being better than me, so I switched instruments. My dad had an old guitar laying around, so I picked that up, and my first memories are of pressing rewind on the tape player and trying to figure out how to play old Metallica songs.”
Ulichny worked on his guitar skills mostly on his own, he said.
Percussion at Berklee
“I more or less learned by ear, although I’ve had lessons here and there,” said Ulichny. “The rest is history. I’ve been playing ever since.”
Ulichny recently graduated from the Berklee College of Music, where he was introduced to yet another musical passion — percussion.
“I went to Berklee as a guitarist, and two years into the program, I switched to the drum set,” he said. “My teacher was so inspiring, so I switched to the drums and started taking percussion classes. I found that is where my heart is at.”
Ulichny took a month off from school to study in India, where he was introduced to the tabla, an Indian hand percussion in-strument.
“After coming back from India, I geared what I played around the tabla,” he said. “What I would like to do is try to incorporate world percussion with contemporary music. It would be great to have a fusion of the two sounds.”
Ulichny plans to present a percussion seminar at the school, he added.
“Unfortunately, a lot of people aren’t familiar with the sound of these instruments,” said Ulichny. “We will be doing percussion seminars, and I would like to see if there is an interest in percussion lessons.”
In addition to the percussion seminar, Ulichny has taught some private guitar lessons, and will be teaching guitar at the arts school in the near future — and he has accomplished all this within his first year of living on St. John.
“My fiance and I finished school this year, and we decided it was time for a change, and we needed to move out to Boston,” he said. “Then we went to North Carolina, where we both have family, and rented a house for the same price as a shoebox in Boston. We got completely set up, then freaked out — it was way too ‘real world.’”
Moved in Three Weeks
Three weeks after learning about St. John, Ulichny and his fiance made the move to the island.
“We heard of St. John, and three weeks later, we had yard sales, sold all of our stuff, and moved down,” he said.
Ulichny brought his resume into the arts school, which was in full swing with classes at the time.
“I stopped in and brought my resume to see what the place was about, essentially,” he said. “At the time, they were busy, and we just kind of kept in touch. I was busy with work, and figuring out life.”
Now that Ulichny is settled, he will be offering guitar lessons at the arts school in the near future, using the same teaching technique that he used for himself as a young boy.
“Have Fun with It”
“The way I love to approach it is to really have fun with it,” he said. “A lot of lessons I’ve done have been theory and hardcore music reading, which I appreciate, but at the same time, it’s fun when you go in and say, ‘what’s your favorite song? Let’s listen to it and try to figure out how to play it.’”
Ulichny will offer lessons to students age five and up.
Check out the school’s Web site at www.stjohnschoolofthearts.org, for seminar and class schedules or call 779-4322.