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HessFest 2016 Part 7: Aug 21

Feeling much better after some extra hours of sleep :) Every year when I am here in Chicago seems to be the same story: I don't want to go to sleep, I want to spend more time with these amazing people!

Today is the third and last day of the Fretboard Domination Coaching. Some of the photos of the events (and my masterclass of few days ago) have started to circulate on FaceBook. We have a theater full of people, so the photos look really good :)

Tom Hess and I push our students with no mercy for the whole morning, and after lunch I take it to the next level with the elite of students that works with me in the afternoon. A couple of particularly brilliant students spot new patterns that can be used to navigate the fretboard in a different way. There is always something to learn!

We have our dinner to one of the fancy restaurant of the hotel (open only a few days a week) and the food is delicious. I spend part of the evening talking with people, but then I call it a day quite soon as tomorrow is a big day: we start the Guitar Creativity Mastery Week (6 days of 8/10 hours a day of improvisation and composition training for guitar players) and I need to be rested.

HessFest 2016 Part 6: Aug 20

It takes a longer cold shower and a double dose of coffee to get me started today.

The Fretboard Domination Coaching event is going great. The students keep telling us that they had more breakthroughs in the last day and a half than they had in the last years... others say that we made finally simple something that they believed was impossible. And we are not yet halfway through!

At a certain point one of the student jokingly says that he's tired. So I mention on stage that in the last 48h I had only 6 hours of sleep total. "How do you keep going?" "I sincerely don't know. I think it's just because I'm having fun... in torturing you"

This time at lunch I can't hide, so I have people ganging up at my table. I really don't mind the attention... it's just hard to eat with all these people that want to talk to you. But I am happy to oblige between one bite and another.

Like yesterday, in the afternoon we split. And again, despite the lack of sleep, people have to remind me that we have to take rests every hour or so :-)

After dinner I bail: this night I HAVE to get some rest. Just when I get to the room, my roommate Aldo lets me know that my friend Mike Philippov just arrived... ok, no, it's hard not to go right now, but I'll see him tomorrow. If I go down right now I will not come back for a few hours.. and I need at least 7 hours of sleep to recover if I want to survive tomorrow (the last day fo the Fretboard Domination Coaching event... but NOT the last one of the events this year)

HessFest 2016 Part 5: Aug 19

Ooook, sleeping only 3 hour was not really a good idea :-)

A cold shower wakes me up, and after solving a few tech problems with the microphones we are ready to go. And we kick the Fretboard Domination Coaching event off with a bang: these students are motivated (and we have a theatre full of them) and we are happy to push them as far as they can take it.

I have to go to lunch like a celebrity: by hiding from the public :-) Otherwise between the people that want to talk about yesterday's masterclass and today's lessons I would not be able to eat a bite!

In afternoon we split: Tom Hess presents the HessFest proper, and I get to teach a restricted group of students on the finer point of fretboard visualization. People have to remember me to take rests because when I am teaching that stuff I simply do not stop.

In the evening I get another "closeted" dinner, and then, while my teaching is done for the day, I keep going around (after dinner HessFest breaks up in 3 different events and attendees decide what it interest them most). Later, my friend Jake and I get out to grab another bite from IHOP (International House Of Pancakes)... it's been a long day and we really need a second dinner.

Then we come back to the hotel and we start talking... and before I realize it it's already 4am! Ok, I will sleep only 3 hours again... totally worth it, I see my friends here only once a year... but I can see how tomorrow is going to be hard...

HessFest 2016 Part 4: Aug 18

Woah, what a great day!

I spend most of the morning sleeping (for once we have the morning free... the only day in all the events) and going over my Masterclass.

This is the first day of HessFest proper. Tom Hess starts the dances with his legendary "let me have a CENSORED moment" on the ground rules to follow during HessFest. Every regular attendee of HessFest knows the speech by heart, and it's still as entertaining as the first time.

Then Tom Hess gives the first Masterclass of the day on how to create climaxes in music. One of the examples includes excerpts form Tristan Und Isolde by Wagner. That pieces get me every time I can't listening to it without shedding a tear... and Tom Hess knows it. After the first excerpt he goes: "if you want to see how this pieces feels like in context... look at Tommaso right now!" Thanks Tom for outing me in front of a theater full of people :-)

After that, it's my turn to do the Masterclass. Backstage, lights, wireless microphone... all very professional. I have A LOT of fun in giving the masterclass. I talk about how to be a creative artist without becoming a tortured artist... and the masterclass is a smashing success. I have trouble to get to the restaurant for dinner because everybody wants to tell me how much my Masterclass meant to them. I am not complaining :-)

After dinner, I give some one-on-one lessons on stage. I love doing these, and time is over way too fast. When doing these things I seem to have an unlimited amount of energy, I can keep going over and over.

I stay up late chatting with all these friends that I see only once a year, and I go to bed REALLY late... I need to get at least a few hours of sleep, because tomorrow Tom Hess and I start teaching a 3-day course on guitar fretboard visualization.

HessFest 2016 Part 3: Aug 17

Second and last day of the Elite Guitar Teachers Mastermind. In the morning Tom Hess gives us a short and on the point lecture, and then we break our in discussion groups. Lots of great teaching ideas all around the room.

At lunch we confirm - after extensive observations and testing - that the servers of the hotel restaurant are incredibly slow. It's becoming something of a running joke in these few days.

In the afternoon, Tom Hess has different plans for us. He takes the most successful group of teachers present (among them yours truly) and sits them at a round table on stage. We are to discuss... anything that comes to our mind, while everybody else gets to listen and take notes. The discussion goes surprisingly far in discovering teaching issues and challenges and in finding many solutions for them.

I spend the evening in the room going over the Masterclass I am going to give tomorrow. Quite excited about that, not hiding it.

HessFest 2016 Part 2: Aug 16

This is the first official day of the events. The first 2 days are dedicated to Mastermind sessions for music teacher. Basically, I am meeting a lot of other music teachers from all around the world and we are going to discuss ways of teaching our students.

When I say "all over the world" I actually mean it. We have people from Australia (like my friend Greg who got married... yesterday and he brought his new wife with him. Don't worry they had a honeymoon just BEFORE the wedding!), from Europe, and of course from US and Canada.

The resort in which we stay has a 300-seat theater inside, and that's what we use for the full sessions of the event. And as usual for US hotels, the Air Conditioning is on all the time, 100% full blast. I should have brought more sweaters...

In the afternoon we break out for small group sessions where we discuss problems and solutions more in depth. Many interesting patterns emerge, and we realize that most of us are facing the exact same situations... and that many ideas on how to deal with them are already available and tested :-) It's the first day here and already I have a long list of things to do when I get home :-) I love when this happens.

We end the evening with some time in front of the bonfire just outside the lounge, and then to bed. Tomorrow is going to be a long and fun day.

HessFest 2016 Part 1 Aug 14 and 15

As every year I am going to Chicago to see grand master Tom Hess and his monumental events.

I leave Sunday afternoon, and my first very bumpy flight takes me up to Denver, then a second, much nicer flight gets me to Chicago. After a short taxi ride I arrive at the new location of the Hess events in Chicago: no more the Holiday Inn, but a resort named The Pheasant Run. A short tour reveals two swimming pools, a hot tub, a golf course, and other amenities. I'm liking this place :)

I arrive after midnight and get to meet immediately some old friends. I chat a bit with them, and after a while I am deep in discussion with my friend Jacob on ideas on how to make lessons more interesting for guitar students (yes, we don't beat around the bush...)

At a certain point, I say: "well, it seems to be quite late, I should get some sleep. What time you think it is?" We watch out of the window. The Sun is coming up. So rather than sleeping we walk to the closes IHOP (International House Of Pancake) and we eat breakfast. Then we sleep for a few hours.

More conversations follow in the afternoon and evening. And we get also to try the hot tub. I am really happy I decided to arrive one day early on the events, so I can recover some sleep :)

HessFest 2015 - Day 13 (Last Day)

Last day of the Music Career Money Magnet Live Event, and last day of the whole series of events this year. We are all tired and battered, but we can't be happier.

On the morning lessons Tom Hess shows us some strategies to finance a band AFTER a tour has been done (virtually no band has done that). This stuff is super top secret, so that's the only thing you get here :-)

During the afternoon we go through a list of situations, topics, and areas in which the music industry of today is NOT efficient. Tom Hess takes ideas from many other industries and applies them to band managing, record publishing, and the music business in general.

Needless to say, the music industry of today is incredibly inefficient in several areas. Tom Hess takes us through the economy of a "normal" band, and then through the economy of an "innovative", efficient band. The result is impressive. An "efficient" band could afford to give records away FOR FREE and still make more than 10 times the money that a "normal" band will do... and this without working a single minute more!

Yeah, I know, I could not believe it too before seeing it. But the math is there. It's not even difficult.

After dinner we are all running on fumes. Tom Hess takes us through some last important points, and at the end he shares with us some "insider stories". These are both funny and enlightening.

After the end of the event, it's the time for goodbyes. This is always hard for me: I get to stay two weeks with all these positive, high-energy, intelligent people. We feed on each other, we challenge each other, and we push each other up. It's life-changing... it's life-changing every time!

Students: you WANT to experience this! Start planning your next summer now, because I already got my ticket for August 2016 :-)

HessFest 2015 - Day 12

Day 2 of the Music Career Money Magnet Live Event.

While day 1 was focused on how to finance a tour by making money BEFORE a tour (this is when the band is more financially weak), in the second day we attack the problem of selling merchandise (and other things) while on tour.

There are 17 reasons why fans do not buy merchandise at a concert. We take the time to list all of them, analyze why and how they work, and finding creative ways to solve them. It's fun! I love problem-solving, and once identified these problems are easy!

We go deep into the logistics of touring, down to the best way to load the tour truck - because believe it or not, the order in which you load all the gear, and merchandise, and other things in the truck can make the difference between making an extra million dollars on tour.

Yes, A MILLION. No, it's not an exaggeration. Seriously.

In fact a medium-sized band should be able to make a few millions WHILE touring if they did all the right things... needless to say, most bands do not know what to do, and in 99% of the cases they don't even realize that there is something that they need to do.

The beauty of the whole system is that all this extra money is done just by doing things that the fans want. If, say, Dream Theater (one of my favourite bands) was doing a few of these things, I would already be lighter of a few thousand of dollars... and really happy about it.

In fact, thinking at how many great things this or other bands could have done and how much fun I could have had, and how much I could have learned form them if they did these things, I feel quite disappointed. From a fan pony of view, I would have LOVED to buy these additional products or opportunities from my favourite bands.

And you would have liked it too.

After a final two hours analyzing the economy of the album cycle (composing-recording-releasing-touring) we head to bed for a well-deserved rest.

HessFest 2015 - Day 11

Today we start the next event: the Music Career Money Magnet Live Event. In the next days Tom Hess will explain us about the economy of running a band, and how to not lose money when going on tour. Touring is one of the main expenses for a band, and most bands tour at a loss. In fact, an organized and competent band can EASILY recoup all the expenses even before they start the tour.

Now, my old students will remember that this is not the first time I attend this event. In fact I was here for the very same event just a couple of years ago. With minor exceptions, the content of the whole course is the same, so you might wonder why I am paying a pretty penny (for the event itself, the hotel, the food...) to be told the same things again.

This is a very important point so I want my students to pay attention to the following.

Every time you listen to something, you learn something new. Yes, even if you already heard it. In fact it's EVEN MORE important if you heard it already.

First of all, everything worth learning is NEVER something you can completely understand in a single pass. You need to see and hear things more than once to understand all the connections in the things you are learning. That's why I do "repeat" some lessons with my students: so they can deeply understand what they learn. It's never about "doing something new"

Second, it's never about the INFORMATION: it's not about knowing what to do. It's about actually doing it! It's not bookish knowledge we are after: it's about knowing how to implement the things we learn and train yourself to actually doing them. That's why I offer my students the option to take practice classes: so I can help them doing what they need to do: practice in the correct and most efficient and effective way.

Third: the REAL important thing is the MINDSET behind what you learn. This event is useful even to people who are not in a band and are never going to tour. The real value is NOT in the single tactics (even if every tingle one of the tactics that Tom Hess is teaching us can make the difference between bankruptcy and success for a band), the gold is in the mindset that created these ideas.

I personally do not plan to tour in the next 2-3 years: I am here to see an event I have already seen as an exercise in mindset. And I can see how this is working wonderfully for me. I can see the connections between the ideas much clearer, I am coming up with more ideas on my own, and MANY of these ideas are applicable to my own students too (yes, once you have the right mindset you can think about touring or teaching and you get ideas regarding both!)

So, to all my students: when I tell you that you need to listen to the same thing again because you will understand it better, it's not an excuse. I am doing this myself. I am putting my money where my mouth is: I am spending literally thousands of dollars to see an event I already have seen (yes, thousands).

There is also another reason why I am doing this: Tom Hess told me to do it.

Sounds stupid, doesn't it? Of course Tom Hess would tell me to pay him a lot of money to come to his event. He has something to gain from it, no?

Well, my philosophy is this: you choose a teacher or a mentor (only one!), and once you made your choice you DO what your teacher tells you to do. No discussions. No second guessing. If your teacher/mentor creates an event, then he has a reason to do that. If he tells you to come to an event the second time, he has a reason for it.

Do you really think that Tom Hess would tell me to come back to this event thinking "I just want Tommaso's money, but he's going to be bored out of his wits?" I know for a fact that he would NEVER do that... because if he did I would not be happy and I would not come to the next events.

Your teacher/mentor (if he's competent) ALWAYS has your best long-term interest at heart. The more results you get, the better it is for you AND for him.

So, you want to get great results in your guitar playing? Once you have chosen me as your teacher JUST DO WHAT I TELL YOU TO DO. I always have your best interests at heart: I HAVE to because I WANT the best students out there, and I want all of you to improve your playing beyond your expectations.

Again: I am putting my money where my mouth is: you know I am sincere on this one.

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