Saturday, June 20, 2009

Saturday Sessions: Matt Heaton on playing for others

Guitarist Matt Heaton, who plays, sings and teaches in the Irish tradition, talks about his ideas on helping students gain confidence in playing in front of others.

“I feel that in public and in class are pretty different. In a lesson, if someone is nervous about singing or playing, I just try to let him know that there is really very little riding on it, and that there's nothing to worry about. There's a certain amount of psychology involved, but it's usually possible to put someone at ease by leading by example. I try to keep the atmosphere relaxed.

Performing in public is a very different beast. The only thing to do is practice doing it, through low stakes things. The master classes I hold are designed to make students a bit nervous, to try and simulate the performance experience. Playing for friends and family, then at open mics and sessions are all ways to get more ‘stage experience.’ Ultimately, there's no substitute for actually performing on stage to get better at it!”

One place to gain such experience is at a music camp. “I love the residential camp experience, because it allows for a a real in depth, intense exploration of a topic. Being surrounded by music, and by people who are into it, is very inspirational.” There are plenty of camps across the country and around the world, for kids and adults, beginners and advanced students, and in genres ranging from rock to folk to classical. Heaton is running one himself this summer from is Massachusetts home,and it’s a twist on the usual residential camp experience. “The ‘camp’ I'm running this summer is an attempt go get some of that feeling on a local level, ideally making it easier for folks who can't get away for a whole week or two,” says Heaton of his two night a week series of classes. There are classes on theory for guitarists, technique ideas, and master classes on subjects including playing the bodhran and how to get a gig -- once you’ve mastered that playing in public thing -- or while you’re on your way to doing that.

Matt Heaton plays in a duo with his wife Shannon, who plays flute and accordion and sings. They both write music, and they both teach. You may find out more about about Matt’s guitar camp, the Heatons' touring schedule, and their other recordings at their website

This is the first of Saturday Sessions, a new series here on Music Road focused on ideas about teaching and learning music. Stay tuned through the summer (and perhaps beyond) for thoughts on this from saltwater music specialist Del Suggs, A list Nashville songwriter Gretchen Peters, and others, as well as more from Matt Heaton. Your ideas and comments are always welcome too.

you may also want to see

Music Road: intersections: words, music, and Robert Burns

Music Road: four ideas: songwriting

Music Road: Matt & Shannon Heaton: Fine Winter's Night concert

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