Joao Kouyoumdjian teaches Suzuki guitar lessons and guitar group class at Silver Music.
Age you began studying:
12 years old
Why did you choose the guitar?
I felt a strong desire to play the music that I enjoyed back then – Rock n’ Roll. At first, that was my intrinsic motivation. I later flirted with Jazz and Bossa Nova before finally learning how to read music and diving into classical music.
One memory from your lessons or early study:
I remember when my first guitar teacher – the Brazilian guitarist Preto Moreno – had me improvise on a one-octave G major scale. A whole new world of freedom, imagination, beauty and joy opened up for me and I was never the same. I was completely hooked.
Did you always like to practice? If not, how did you, or your parent motivate you to practice?
I always locked myself inside my room and practice for hours, no matter how joyful and painful that was. I always did what I thought had to be done to make music according to certain standards, driven by an internal necessity to transcend reality.
Although my parents were always supportive, they never played any role on my practicing habits (and remember I started a little “late”, if you take into account the absence of a childhood music education). I was a self-motivated teenager. In the beginning I didn’t have much practice discipline as far as practicing techniques but I acquired it later on, when music studies intensified and got more serious.
Did you ever want to quit?
Never. I thought of professionally becoming a doctor at one point though, like my parents, but music soon took over. Even if I did take another career path, I doubt I would stop practicing, even if as an amateur.
How did music education affect your life?
It gave me a purpose, a meaning. Since it began it has been my reason to live. It made me see long-term goals and has fostered life skills such as patience, determination and courage.
Do you have a musical role model?
My former guitar teacher – the Brazilian guitarist Paulo Martelli – is a great inspiration. I admire his firm convictions on art and life in general (even if I disagree with them), and above all his fearlessness attitude towards music making.
Current Favorite Suzuki Piece:
Lightly Row – That is a magic moment when I can usually get students initiated on phrasing. They start to understand what lies behind and in between notes and make artistic choices such as crescendos, decrescendos, forte, pianos, rallentandos, etc. That’s when music transforms itself into a canvas where they can express themselves.
Any advice for budding guitar-players?
Keep your passion and motivation alive! If you have patience and put in the work, everything eventually falls in place. Stay away from teachers that shut down your enthusiasm. As the great British guitarist Julian Bream once said: “Passion and desire to communicate; that’s the key”
What else do you enjoy doing besides guitar?
In my spare time I enjoy reading, singing, playing cards and watching movies.