Dennis (he/him) holds a bachelor’s degree in Professional Music from the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He began actively teaching music at the age of 13, and playing live at 14. He has toured as a guitarist in Turkey, as a solo musician in Europe and Japan, and has played for crowds of thousands. Lessons with Dennis dive into musical creativity and expression using tools such as songwriting, lyric writing, guitar harmony, learning popular songs, and more.
What age were you when you first started taking music lessons?
I was 7 when I started taking keyboard lessons, and 12 when I started taking guitar lessons.
Tell us about an early music lessons experience that helped shape you as a musician or teacher:
I asked my ear training teacher in high school whether or not he could recommend a book with upper chord structure charts (7s, 9s, 11s, 13s and slash chords). Instead of simply recommending me one, he taught me how to build basically any chord without the help of diagrams or charts. That one 30 minute instruction transformed my understanding of harmony and guitar chords. As a 14-year-old who was very passionate about songwriting and composition, it pretty much changed my life.
What are your favorite bands or musicians?
My musical influences and progression in chronological order:
0-11: REM, Fleetwood Mac, Nirvana, and Eric Clapton. I’ve decided to pick up the guitar.
12-14: Linkin Park, Staind, and System of a Down. I’ve taught myself to play with heavy distortion and drop tunings through their songs.
15-17: Van Halen, Aerosmith, Skid Row, Kiss, and Poison. My first cover band experience was with an ’80s rock band. It’s safe to say that there is still a shredder in me from those days.
18: Porcupine Tree, Bloc Party, Muse, Radiohead, and White Stripes. I still listen to a lot of this stuff!
19-21: Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Scorpions, the Doors. Just to give you a picture, I would perform with a local ’70s rock co er band where we would play songs like the long version of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.”
Also 18-21: Antonio Carlos Jobim, Milton Nascimento, Chico Buarque, and so on. Their songs influenced me to compose some samba tunes of my own, and I’ve also grasped a part of music theory that was a conceptual blind spot for me.
22-24: Turkish, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and West African traditional/folk music. I decided to dig deeper into my roots and discovered microtonal music with my two teachers, Simon Shaheen and David Fuze Fuiczynski, who talk me fretless guitar.
Also: Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, and Leonard Cohen. As a singer-songwriter, I was heavily influenced by their approach to lyric writing.
24-26: Huun Huur Tu, Alash Ensemble, Sainkho Namtchylak. During my last year at college, I was fortunate enough to encounter Huun Huur Tu, a Tuvan throat singing band, who performed at a church in Boston. After graduation, I went to Central Asia to learn throat singing and Tuvan language from a member of one of my favorite bands, Ene-Sie.
27 and onward: Ikue Asazaki, Rinken Band, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Joe Hisaishi. I started playing sanshin, which is an instrument of Okinawa and Amami Islands in Japan. In 2019, I went to Kakeroma Island to volunteer as a rice farmer while picking up the island music and dialect. Shimauta, the local genre, is considered “the island Blues,” as it is similar to the Blues both harmonically and somewhat historically.
If I must sum it all up, it would have to be: Nick Cave, Radiohead, Tom Jobim, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Huun Huur Tu.
Do you have a highlight of your music career so far that you would like to share?
In 2018, I performed with a symphony orchestra as a lead electric guitar. That same year, my band and I opened for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at an open air venue in front of an audience of over 15 thousand people.
Describe your ideal student.
My ideal student has a genuine curiosity about the underlying form, and has patience to dig deeper to get there. They are hungry for knowledge, love to play their instrument, and are not afraid to experiment and make many mistakes.
Describe what your students should expect in their first few music lessons.
Students should expect to dive right in if they’ve just begun, and to share what they’ve already figured out if they’ve been playing for a while.
Why did you want to become a music teacher?
My mother is an English teacher. It’s possible that the joy of teaching has been intrinsic to our family, because I started teaching guitar and bass at the age of 13. Music is a beautiful path that transcends all borders. I can’t think of a more rewarding experience than to walk it together with others.