David “Knife” Fabris
When I first began teaching at age 16, while still in High School, I hated it!
Being a novice teacher, I somehow subscribed to the idea that the teacher must “own” the information and should dole it out to each pupil methodically in a pre-set order. Then, in a moment of clarity (for a teenager), I wondered why I was teaching so differently than in the glorious “show me the toys at the playground and let me play” manner that I had been taught.
Queen - Bohemian Rhapsody Guitar Cover
I realized that the joy of music should to be reflected in every lesson I gave.
Years later, one of my great teachers - Mick Goodrick summarized this revelation with his typical humor, “They don’t call it ‘playing music’ for nothing – you don’t go to ‘work your guitar!’”
I soon found that I enjoyed explaining “playing” the guitar as much as performing that discipline; and teaching became a passion of my life. As I write this some 30 years later, I feel incredibly fortunate and thankful to have found a career that is as fulfilling as teaching music. I founded the Fabulous School of Music (Beverly, MA) in 1996 but moved to New York City in 2000 where I continue to teach at several area colleges (PCCC and St. Thomas Aquinas) and private schools: Woodside Music Studio in Park Ridge NJ, and Young At Arts in Bronxville NY. Currently, I have been teaching through the BASC program at the Bronxville NY School district and teach many students online - please drop me a line if interested!
Music as Healing
Being a young person has always been difficult but, in today’s climate of constant stimulation, our children/teens have more challenges to their attention than ever before. I view music as a discipline, which can focus a young guitar student and show them how to methodically break down a difficult musical passage or technique into a daily practice routine. The hope is that, when a student experiences success in their guitar playing, they will be able to apply the same discipline and focus to other parts of their life. The benefits of a good work habit and the self-confidence that comes from seeing the rewards of their efforts can last a lifetime, even if they don’t play the guitar anymore.
When I was 12, I was diagnosed with Scoliosis, which required the use of a back brace for 23 hours a day for the next 4 years. This was an added burden to the already awkward teen years but I thankfully discovered the guitar at the same time. I fully believe that music saved my life and provided sanctuary from my problems. While I don’t expect each student to have this relationship with the guitar, I am always aware of the potential healing power of music.
Crafting an individual lesson plan
Crafting an individual plan for each student is what keeps my job interesting as a teacher.
Rather than making each student adhere to the same program, I assess not only the strengths and weaknesses of each person, but how they think (and how they learn). From there, I develop a lesson plan based on the students’ goals that is as individual as they are.
In a world where information and free instruction is so readily available, I have tried to develop a teaching style that goes beyond simply showing someone a song, scale, or chord that they could easily find online. I like to use the favorite songs of my students to explain new techniques and music theory so deeper concepts are brought up in the context of learning music that they enjoy.
Led Zeppelin - Whole Lotta Love Guitar Cover (with Solos)
While teaching, I found that I still loved to “look under the hood” of new songs that students brought in so transcribing music became a related passion. I was a transcriber for United We Tab (now defunct website for guitar music) and also have performed many popular guitar songs for that site and its youtube channels:
“Some teachers take all the potential of fun and turn it into scales and hard work. You, however, basically show me things I want to learn, and then show me how they fit into scales and theories. I find this interesting and cool how many things work out.”
Ryan, Berklee College Of Music, Boston MA
“Dave is doing a great job coaching (the Jimi Hendrix ensemble) – excellent musical input and direction without stifling anyone’s expression…in this ensemble I have been reconnecting with the joy of performing for music’s sake, not to ‘toot one’s own horn’.”
Ilona Tipp, New England Conservatory, Boston MA
“Guitar lessons always gave me something to look forward to…That was something I needed and, believe me, positivity alone can leave a lasting impression on a person in a half hour."
April, Woodside Music Studio, Park Ridge NJ