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Giving guitar to the people

Ted AlvarezVail, CO Colorado
AE guitar circle1 KA 8-12-07
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“Eric Clapton doesn’t know everything about guitar.”It may sound like sacrilege, but it’s the truth, and guitarist Paul Churchill employs this egalitarian rule to every lesson he gives during the free guitar workshops he runs every Sunday at Loaded Joe’s.

“Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses – if you’re Eric Clapton or just beginning, there are things you don’t know,” Churchill says. “(Guitar players) can be really good or really bad, but there’s probably something we both don’t know, and we focus on that. That’s how you learn.”Churchill has played guitar for 10 years and has given lessons for pay in the past, but upon his return to the valley after stints in California, he had different motives behind getting together his guitar circles.”I approached Kent at Loaded Joe’s about two months ago and just threw the idea out, and this Sunday will be our fourth,” he says. “It’s great because a) I love guitar and b) it’s a great way to meet people, get together and practice songs, whether it’s for their own private use or an open-mic (gig).”

At 5 p.m. every Sunday, Churchill meets with up to five other players, and they practice everything from basic chording to advanced theory. Many of Churchill’s students return to Loaded Joe’s for open mic at 9 p.m. When not playing guitar, Churchill deejays at E-Town and other local events, including weddings. Churchill nearly minored in classical guitar at Chapman University in California, but business and Spanish eventually drew his attentions. Still, he took as many guitar courses as possible and absorbed as much music theory as he could.”Most of my students are beginners to intermediate – they just want to improve their technical guitar playing or learn about theory,” he says. “You can be pretty good without knowing anything, but then it’s nice to go in and know what you’re doing.”Churchill eschews the usual guitar gods – Clapton, Hendrix and the like – and instead chooses other rock heroes who incorporate classical influences.”I don’t like the conventional (guitarists),” he says. “I really like Yngwie Malmsteen; he took a classical version and applied it to modern rock guitar playing. I also like Angus Young (of AC/DC), for sure.”Whenever students get frustrated, Churchill offers calm and collected advice to keep them on track toward their guitar goals.”I just say, ‘the things you learn, you can never master in a week,'” he says. “If you come in one Sunday and then come in six months later, you will see change and progress. But you can’t perfect anything within a week. Be patient.”

Churchill encourages students to bring in sheet music, tablature or specific songs they’d like to work on, and he’s happy to help guide them through the sticky parts. But he also advises they show up as early as 4:40 p.m., since classes are limited to five and gaining in popularity. Bringing your own guitar helps, though Churchill has a few to pass around.In the future, Churchill may again take on students professionally or perhaps even join a band, but he has no plans to abandon the workshop anytime soon.”It’s just really fun,” he says. “I myself would love to get back into a band sometime, but right now it’s about being out there in the music community and meeting new people.”Arts & Entertainment writer Ted Alvarez can be reached at 748-2939 or talvarez@vaildaily.com.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado


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