Old Souls and New Music

March 16, 2016

Teacher-Student Spotlight

Michael, a sixth-grade guitar student with Musical Empowerment, is considered an “old-soul” by his parents. “I picked the guitar because I like to listen to music a lot and my favorite instrument to hear is the guitar,” Michael said. “I mostly listen to stuff that my dad used to listen to. I have a couple favorite bands. I like Def Leppard, Lincoln Park, and Led Zeppelin.”

Michael’s love for rock music is what keeps him motivated to work hard at practicing the guitar so he can one day perform at the level of his idols. “I want to be able to play the hardest song in the book. I don’t know what song that is yet, but my goal is to master it,” said Michael.

Michael has worked with Musical Empowerment teacher Matt McCall for the past year, learning to play the guitar by setting short-term goals and perfecting basic skills to help him achieve his ultimate goal of becoming a guitar master. Michael recently began sixth-grade at Culbreth Middle School. His transition from elementary to middle school required adjusting to a more rigorous curriculum and meeting new people. He has made friends who share his love for guitar, a commonality he says makes school more enjoyable. Michael also likes taking Chinese classes and developed an appreciation for Chinese culture.

Matt said that his experience of teaching Michael has been exciting and sometimes challenging because Matt taught himself guitar has not had the same experience as Michael as a guitar student himself. “I still remember the first time he played his first song. That to me was a cool moment,” Matt said with a fond smile. Matt said his first time working with Michael last January and how greatly he has improved since then. Most of the pair’s first few months of lessons were spent learning about parts of the guitar and mastering basic drills.

Before beginning classes at UNC in August 2014, Matt already had a vision of how he wanted to spend his college years. He said he saw Musical Empowerment as an opportunity to achieve his goal of serving others. “Most people talk about college being the best four years of your life in a self-centered kind of way,” he explained, “People make it all about doing what you want and having fun. I want to give back while I’m here and be able to use this time to be able to help others. College is [the opportunity] for a lot of personal development but going to college and not giving anything would be a miss.”

Matt commends Michael for his hard work and enthusiasm by describing him as “consistent, engaging and motivated”. Michael says that Matt is “awesome, responsible, and overall a very cool teacher”.

Michael’s mother, Martha Hamby, realized the value of immersing her children in music and language lessons when she migrated from Mexico to the United States about 12 years ago. She involved Michael and her daughter, Makayla, with Musical Empowerment because she saw it as a great opportunity.

“I think it’s really important for them to play instruments for development,” Martha said. She says that Musical Empowerment has helped her children develop, not only in their musical ability, but also in character. She notes the persistence she has witnessed develop in her son since he began guitar lessons. Martha said she is grateful that Matt serves as a positive role model for Michael, making Michael’s needs and goals a priority.

“Matt always makes a big effort, even though he has a lot of other things to do. We’ve really appreciated that,” Martha said.Michael and Matt share self-awareness that most people do not attain until later in life. This introspective understanding has allowed the pair to connect deeply, both with their music and each other.