Richard Hawthorne of Santa Clara remembers growing up “playing guitar as a kid.” After studying music at the University of Hawaii, Hawthorne – who often calls himself a “brain health expert,” in humorous reference to the positive effects of music on the brain – came to Santa Clara University and received his MBA.
All that time, he was playing the guitar.
“I just loved music,” Hawthorne explained. “I really didn’t want to work for a tech company or something like that.”
Hawthorne started teaching while in college in Santa Clara at community centers. Students wanted him to teach longer.
“I kind of had a problem,” he recalled. “Where am I going to take these people to teach?”
So, Hawthorne opened The Guitarist in Santa Clara in 1992. Since then, the location has grown to include 17 instructors.
“Our purpose is to help people develop a lifelong love for playing an instrument – both young and old,” said Hawthorne.
Guitar lessons are, unsurprisingly, the most popular services offered.
“Guitar is so popular, so rooted in our music and our culture,” Hawthorne said. “We teach all styles, from Hawaiian, to rock, to blues, to gospel, to classical.”
One recent service that has proven popular at The Guitarist is a workshop where students make their own electric guitar. Having grown up in Hawaii, Hawthorne naturally offers ukulele building classes also, which are very popular with children.
For those who are uncertain if they need or want instruction, Hawthorne offers wise advice. To the overconfident student, he gives a word of warning.
“If you think you don’t need instruction, you probably really do,” Hawthorne quipped.
“There’s really nothing like being around an experienced guitar player or any artist, whether it’s dance or painting,” he said. “There’s a lot of things you can do with music. You never really can learn it all, and there’s always something new to learn.”
Beginning in the right way is especially important, said Hawthorne. Having an instructor can be particularly helpful to prevent mistakes from becoming habits.
“You’re going to avoid a lot of bad habits,” he explained.
Hawthorne has a habit of asking his students why they wish to play the guitar.
“I’ve always wanted to play guitar” is their most frequent answer. Since it is also the title of a method book Hawthorne has co-written on guitar playing, it is uncertain whether they inspired him, or he inspired them to quote it.
According to Hawthorne, many in the Santa Clara area neglect their love of the arts to focus on their careers.
“They put aside learning music – it wasn’t really encouraged when they were kids,” he explained. “It’s amazing how we come back to these things later in life.”
“It’s not too late to learn,” said Hawthorne, referring to the older demographic who may be hesitant to start something new.
“It’s great to see people experience the joy of learning an instrument,” he added.
According to Hawthorne, learning an instrument is a healthy alternative in a world of cell phones and social media.
“I think today more than ever, people really should consider picking up an instrument and doing something that takes them away from their day-to-day activities on their devices, and do something else,” Hawthorne said. “Because I think it’s really good for our brains.”
“It’s nice to be a part of something that helps people in a much bigger way than just learning how to play a song,” he said. “It’s actually really good for them to do this.”
The Guitarist is located near the intersection of Franklin and Monroe Streets in Santa Clara. For more details, visit the company website at YouCanPlayGuitar.com.