By Will Mason
I have been teaching guitar lessons for close to nine years now. Some of my very first students are now out of college, so I thought it would be a good idea to catch up and see where music has taken them. I am humbled to have been a part of their lives, and to have any amount of impact on the way they think and feel about music.
Ellis Bernstein was one of my first guitar students back in 2007. I remember working with him on everything from Phish and the Chili Peppers to fingerstyle and composition. Ellis was always interested in other instruments as well, and had a true appreciation for learning and growing as a musician. I recently caught up with him to see how music has continued to be a part of his life, even after music lessons.
“I played in a few bands when I went to Indiana University, mostly playing guitar. I took a bunch of music classes in undergrad, since Indiana University is a big music school. Will [Mason] prepared me well for that by helping me realize the importance of music theory, instead of forcing me into it.
Now I’m in graduate school in Auburn and I play drums in a band called Lady Legs. We’ve been playing around Auburn, Montgomery and Birmingham for a year now and the band seems to be growing. A few of our bigger live shows have been great.
We just recorded a live show and have been working on mixing/mastering it before we release it in the near future. (The band was just signed to local record label Communicating Vessels.) By the way, I learned how to mix because of an internship that Will hooked me up with.”
I remember working with Ellis on GarageBand recordings before we built our recording studio. He was very interested in learning about music tech and the recording process. We had several students around that time who were interested in recording, which led us to build the Mason Music Recording Studio. Since opening it up in 2012, we have worked with local artists including Sara Evans, Matthew Mayfield and Sarah Simmons. We’ve also been able to provide a place that is welcoming, accepting and encouraging for students who may have little or no experience in a recording studio setting.
Ellis was always such a great student because he was eager to learn and enthusiastic about the subject material. He asked great questions and was willing to go with me even when he didn’t yet know where we were headed. We spent a good amount of time studying music theory, which can be very abstract at times, but he was always absorbing and working with me to achieve his goals. I asked him what advice he would give to younger music students, and I love his answer:
“Music is a language, so you should treat it that way. Learn music in the same way you would a new language: by talking. Play (talk) with people who know the language better than you, and spend enough time learning words and sentences (music theory) in order to allow you to tell better stories. Also, keep it fun! That is huge.
I can’t even imagine my life without music. It is so indispensable. It helps me through the highest highs and lowest lows and everywhere in between. I essentially play music every day, and plan to keep it that way. I don’t know what shape it will take in the future, but I know it will be there.”
Ellis and his family were some of our very first customers at Mason Music. It is the greatest reward a teacher can receive to know that their students are still out there learning and doing the very thing that was taught to them. It’s why we do what we do.
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