Curtis Shumate

Associate Professor

"In my Survey of Guitar Styles class, I try to give students insights into some historical players, respecting the tradition of the guitar. I acknowledge the present, but want to raise students' awareness of the more traditional players, not just in jazz but in blues. I'll play the blues great Albert King, and students will inevitably say he sounds a lot like Stevie Ray and Hendrix. And without disrespect, I'll say, 'Well, it's kind of the other way around.'  Then, after class, a lot of students will come up and ask, 'What's a good Albert King recording I should check out?'"

"My own style of playing is more geared toward jazz and blues, so in a lot of my teaching I work with students to form a bridge between those two styles, while trying to increase their knowledge of accompaniment on the guitar as well as solo. A lot of students with blues background either want to get more into blues or want to take their background and transition into more jazz styles."

"I think a large part of my teaching style comes from my own learning experiences, not just through lessons, but through jobs—being able to function in the hot seat. In some performance opportunities you'll have to play in a style that is not your first choice. Most students don't come in thinking about those kinds of gigs. I learned through experience that, as gigs become available, you learn on the job."

"Learning how to get a good sound out of your guitar is not always as obvious as plug in and go. So we work a lot on the basics of how to project the sound on your instrument, and how aware you are of what you're projecting. Are your strings appropriate for the style? Are you attacking them cleanly? Are they buzzing? Things like that. If someone doesn't have a lot of performing experience—they might be playing in their room all the time—then they're not actually hearing themselves in a performance venue."

"On the one hand, I want my students to enjoy what they're doing. If you're not enjoying it, why bother? On the other hand I tell them, 'Don't be content; there's always something new to learn and to work on.'"

Career Highlights

 

  • B.M., Berklee College of Music
  • Performing and recording artist
  • Former private instructor in Massachusetts public schools
  • Professional theater credits include Jacques Brel is Alive and Well, Living in Paris; Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat; Mamma Mia; Swing; Smokey Joe's Cafe; Bye Bye Birdie; and High School Musical 
  • Studies with Charlie Banacos and Jerry Bergonzi