Student of the Month, February 2022

Guitar Student, Nyla R.

Nyla has been taking guitar lessons at SMMC since April 2021. When she first started lessons, she did so as an online student. Although doable, it is not easy to start learning an instrument virtually at her age. Young students are easily distracted when there is no adult supervision. They ar tempted to play with the machine as opposed to focusing on the lesson in progress. But Nyla did not have any of these problems.

When it comes to learning guitar, beginner students struggle with a few things. First, they need to learn how to sit with the instrument. Properly balancing a guitar on your lap is not necessarily a natural thing to do when you are a beginner. Second is left hand finger placement. Most beginner guitar students tend to grip the neck as opposed to holding it between the thumb and fingertips. Next is right hand placement. Whether you are plucking with your fingers or a pick, your right hand needs to be balanced and comfortably placed on the instrument to facilitate your playing. These are all hurdles Nyla was able to overcome all while learning virtually. Way to go!

In Her Teacher’s Words

Nyla is currently taking lessons with SMMC guitar instructor Andrew Heavelin. Mr. Andrew is a seasoned teacher who taught extensively in the Bay Area while earning his degree in Classical Guitar performance. Beside Classical Guitar, Mr. Andrew teaches Pop & Rock Guitar as well as electric bass, ukulele and piano.

He writes “Nyla started studying with me at SMMC via Zoom during quarantine. She had previously studied piano a bit at another facility but never played guitar. I was rather surprised at how much she picked up during those first few lessons. Nyla’s quick progress is owed mostly to her own hard work.

Nyla is attentive, inquisitive and engaged in her lessons and has made great strides in both her technique and music reading abilities. Most recently, we’ve started learning to read notes in higher positions, which is a major benchmark.

Nyla’s positive attitude and enthusiasm make her a great student and a pleasure to teach. I look forward to continue working with her and seeing how far she can go.”

Nyla During Her Lesson

Here is a brief clip of Nyla performing in one of her recent lessons.

In Nyla’s Words

We asked Nyla a few questions to learn a little bit more about our award winner and here is what she had to say:

How long have you been playing your instrument and what do you like most about playing it?

I’ve been playing the guitar for almost 1 year now. I enjoy playing the guitar because it is interesting to learn all of the notes and try them out to see what they sound like. I also think it’s cool that putting a bunch of notes together can make some amazing music!

Do you have someone you look up to for playing your instrument? A favorite artist or musician?

When I’m playing the guitar, I look up to my cousin Rihana. She is really, really good at playing the guitar and she never took lessons.  I don’t have any particular favorite artist or musician but my top three are Lin Manuel Miranda, a band called Khruangbin, and Anoushka Shankar.

What do you like to do when you are not playing music?

When I’m not playing music, I like to draw, paint, watch TV, and play outside.

What other activities do you take classes or lessons for? How does it compare to your music classes?

I don’t currently take any other classes because I didn’t like zoom activities over the pandemic. However, I used to Bollywood dance.  I like to dance to the beat of the music because it makes me feel good. I am going to start tennis and dance again soon.

What is the most fun that you’ve had in the last month?

The most fun I’ve had in the last month was going to my friend’s house for her birthday and having dinner with her family and our other friend.  I haven’t done that in a long time because of Covid.

Really good stuff Nyla. You got a great list of favorite artists there! Congratulations Nyla from all of us at SMMC! Keep up the great work!

Meet The Instructor

Andrew Heavelin is a classical guitarist and teacher based in Los Angeles. Andrew started playing guitar at the age of 17, without formal instruction. He began studying music at Pasadena City College in 2005, where he was a member of the school’s resident guitar quartet and an active participant in the school’s chamber music program. In 2016, Andrew received his Bachelor’s in Music at Humboldt State University, where he excelled both academically and as a member of the musical community. In 2018, Andrew received a Master of Music in Classical Guitar Performance from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. While there, Andrew had the privilege to study with some of the greatest guitarists active today, including David Tanenbaum and Marc Teicholz. Andrew has taught for 10 years, and offers guitar, piano, bass guitar and ukulele lessons.