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HessFest 2015 - Day 10

Last day of the HessFest proper, we are going to start with the next event tomorrow.

I sleep most of the morning (since the event starts after lunch) and the extra sleeps helps. I eat the hotel breakfast as lunch (eggs, cheese, bacon... looks more like a lunch to me anyway)

Tom Hess starts with a masterclass on Frequently Asked Questions that touches on a number of different topics: composition, music theory, mindset, music teaching, music career... there is everything for everybody and we all have fun in listening to it. Tom Hess non-politically-correct delivery style is at its best today :-)

After the masterclass, Tom Hess gives a first round of lessons and then we leave for dinner. We have dinner at Red Robin: Tom Hess favorite place.

Once back, Tom gives another round of lessons, and I get one too (I ask him about how to learn repertoire in a short time), and after that there are a few more performances.

Many people are leaving today as they will not be participating to the next event (I always stay for the whole thing) so we have some goodbyes tonight. We also get a few group photos.

And now to bed early: at the event that starts tomorrow we go back to an early morning schedule!

HessFest 2015 - Day 9

Day 3 of HessFest proper.

I need to sleep more than 4 hours a night :-) Also, the air conditioning is killing me. What is with these people that keep the damn thing on even if outside is cold?

After lunch, Tom Hess gives the first masterclass on composition. He shows us how he composed an acoustic piece, and he guides us through the first idea, the reasoning behind the composition, the possible choices, the different emotions that each choice would have elicited in the listener, how to put together the different sections of the song in a coherent whole... a very very valuable lesson on how a composer actually thinks and work.

After Tom Hess, we have a masterclass on acoustic guitar by Simon Candy. Simon shows us a number of cool licks using open strings in very original ways, and then he walks us through applications to Blues and modal music. I think I have a dozen pages of licks in my notes now... lost of work to do when I'm back home :-)

After dinner we have another round of Tom Hess single lessons, and then another round of performances. There are so many people that want to perform that we stay 2h beyond schedule. My student Rio and I sign up for the performance, and we go up last as if we were the headliners :-)

Rio and I have a blast on stage, and our performance gains a lot of praise from the audience (many attendees come to us even the next day to congratulate us). There are few things in life like performing with your own student in front of an audience of pro musicians (and I'm sure Rio is thinking the same about performing with his teacher).

Students! If you practice enough and you follow what I teach you, you can be the next! These are experiences you do not want to miss. I WANT YOU to become the next one I will bring to HessFest! I WANT YOU to be the next one I bring to know Tom Hess. I WANT YOU to be the next one to perform with me in front of such a great and demanding audience - and win!

Now, go forth and practice!!!

HessFest 2015 - Day 8

HessFest proper day 2. We have a more relaxed schedule now: the event starts at 1pm, so we have the morning free.

This also mean that we are not meting in the morning, and so we have to find a place to eat at lunch without the benefit of some of the other attendees driving cars. The hotel is NOT at walking distance from any eating place... and the hotel restaurant is closed at lunch (they have an 100-people event going on and they keep the restaurant closed... they practically do not want us to give them our money...)

Tom Hess gives a great masterclass on music career and what it takes to move forward in music business. The highlight of the lecture is a detailed 8-weeks plan to start (or boost) your music career lie a champion. And YES, this schedule will be available to any of my students provided they ASK for it. And this post is the only place I will talk about it.

Why? Because if you are one of my student and you are here reading this post, then I know you are a motivated student. This means you deserve to have this schedule. If you are not here reading this post... then you can't hear what I'm saying so why I am talking to you? :-)

So if you are reading this post... ask me about the Tom Hess 8-week schedule. It's already typed and ready to be implemented :-)

After a short rest we have a second masterclass by Anthony Reynaert (Belgium's best guitar teacher) on expression in Blues guitar.

After dinner Tom Hess gives a series of Q&A lessons, and then we have a round of performances. After this we meet in the lobby and the conversation goes on and on until the wee hours in the morning. Would you expect a group of musicians discussing ethics and metaphysics until 3am? Me neither, but this group is awesome that way :-)

HessFest 2015 - Day 7

Day 1 of the HessFest proper. On the first day of HessFest my mentor gave to me... 90m of prime time to give a masterclass to all HessFest attendees :)

Ideally the masterclass was scheduled for 3pm... but as usual in the first day of HessFest, Tom Hess gets excited during his ow masterclass, and goes wayyy beyond time. So I propose that we push my masterclass after dinner.

Little music business lesson here: when thing like this happen, do not be a prima donna or make a fuss out of it: just find a solution. It made no difference for me if I was going before or after dinner, especially since this time in front of all these amazing musicians was basically a gift.

Second little lesson: always say thank whenever it's due :-)

The masterclass goes incredibly well. The audience is really receptive of the message, and I get lots and lots of compliments after it. Many attendees have very interesting insights on what I said. In fact a few also send me some of their songs as example of the concepts I explained and that they used "instinctively" in their compositions.

If you are wondering what I talked about... I explained a system to go from a musical idea to a complete composition. If you are curious... why you were't here? :-)

After my masterclass we have some performances from attendees. My student Rio also performs in front of the whole audience. I am really proud of his performance and how he handled the pressure. Rio is only 16 and to perform in from of an audience of 100 guitar players, most of them being professionals, would be nerve-wracking for everybody. But his performance was great.

After some jamming in the hotel lobby, a few of us go out with Tom Hess for a "breakfast" at midnight. Because, why not?

HessFest 2015 - Day 6

Day 6 of the Guitar Teachers Summit.

The first day I though "well, if Tom Hess keeps going on at this pace, there is going to be a lot of stuff to implement. If I really work hard, I can probably be done by Christmas."

Now I think it's going to take a couple of years. At least.

Tom Hess reserved some of the best bits for the very very end. We have now a series of incredibly detailed systems to teach and train our students. Some of these will be put in practice as soon as I'm back (students, get ready...). Some other require other things being in place before they can be implemented.

Overall you can expect the Edmonton Guitar Music School to roll in new programs, events, and initiatives starting next month and throughout the next couple of years. I can't wait to get started!


This was the last day of the Teacher Summit, now we start the HessFest proper. Some people are leaving, an many others are coming in. In the first day of HessFest (which is today) I will give a 2h masterclass on composition and musical form. I can't wait to be on stage :)

HessFest will have around 100 people in attendance this year, if my estimates are correct. This is going to be a big room to talk to. Fun!

And now off to brush up my masterclass. I'll keep you guys posted on how it goes :)

HessFest 2015 - Day 4 (Part 2)

Day 4 of the Guitar Teacher Summit. This blog post is coming out the day after due to the fact that we were discussing well into the night and morning after.

The highlight of the event is the session on Dynamic Teaching. Tom Hess found new ways of teaching guitar students (or students of any other instrument) with 200% efficiency respect to all previous ways of teaching.

I know this sounds an exaggeration, but if you could see what I have in front of me right now you will realize that I am actually downplaying it. I've never seen anything similar before, and believe me, I studied quite a lot of pedagogy.

My students (in fact al the students at Edmonton Guitar Music School...) need to prepare themselves for a complete revolution of their lessons... we are going to make you progress FAST, make things incredibly easy, make you have more and more fun.

Man, I sound like an infomercial... :-) But it's all 100% true.


I see how in these blog posts I spent more time talking about WHAT we are doing, but WHO we are doing it with is even more important. So I want to spend a moment talking about the people here, ad the environment we are in.

We are spending 10h a day with 50+ people who are all dedicated to excellence in teaching. We are reviewing each other's practices, and we don't pull any punches. Despite appearances, 6 days of this is actually a pretty short time, so we are communicating in a very direct way. If anyone who is not accustomed to this community could hear any of our conversation, he would think we are all jerks being rude with one another.

The reality is that we REALLY REALLY care about each other. When we realize that one of us is doing things is a wrong or even just inefficient way, we make it a point to help that person. Given that there is very little time for us to be here together, we tend to dispense of some unnecessary niceties.

Well, I like it :-)

This means that I have no problem being chewed out in public (and this already happened to me a few times) as long as this helps me make the lessons better for my students. No compromises.

(now, I need to specify that not all people here get chewed out in public, only the ones who explicitly ask for feedback. Which I do every time)

Now it's time for the lessons of day 5 (in fact we already started), so I end this post here. See you later :-)

HessFest 2015 - Day 3

I am writing this post while we are having an unofficial round table with other attendees... It's 5 minutes before midnight and we are not going to stop anytime soon. More coffee for me... anyway:

Guitar Teacher Summit day 3. Things are getting hotter and hotter.

This means: we are sleeping less and less :-) As bad as this sound, we keep going on ahead only thanks to regular assumption of caffeinated, sugary beverages.

It also means: Tom Hess is now doing more regular pauses: once per hour rather than once every 2-3 hours. Which is really welcome :-)

It also also means: we are absolutely on fire. Tom Hess taught us a number of game changers. We actually had four YEAH! moments just today. While some are top secret and I can't share, there is one I can share.

Tom Hess gave us the ULTIMATE class system. My students know already that I run flexible class systems (that some other schools in Edmonton already tried to copy by sending spies... true story!). My advanced students in the Special Force program benefit already from an even more advanced class system.

Now, as good as these system we already use are, this new system is way, way, WAY more powerful and more beneficial FOR THE STUDENTS. Seriously, if you are one of my students and I could explain to you this format right now, then you would not be able to sleep tonight by how excited you are!

It will take some time to get this system in place (and it is not the first thing we are going to implement when we come back) but we ARE definitely going to make this work as soon as possible.

What I can tell you is this: if some music schools are running only private lessons, they should be guilty of music teaching malpractice, as all these class format work so much better than private classes (for the student and its progress).

Stay tuned for more news tomorrow. I'll see if I can get a picture or a video (no promises!)

HessFest 2015 - Day 2

Second day of the Guitar Teacher Summit.

Due to the fact that we stayed up late yesterday night to discuss about ethical aspect of Capitalism (yes, we do these kinds of discussions here..) and other things, this morning many of us are VERY tired.

Even Tom Hess showed up 20m late (and he's starting to lose his voice too... things that happened when you speak for 10h a day!), but none of us really complained :-)

Especially because after he arrived we proceeded at a, say, brisk rhythm (i.e. we got through the material REALLY fast, hang on your seats...)

A particular mention for the lunch, as I've seen Tom Hess do something he never did before (or any of us thought capable of doing): he ordered a salad. A salad. I'm still shocked.

(no, seriously, a salad...)

In the afternoon we finish the "preliminary" part of the material, and Tom Hess leads us through one specific strategy for teaching students. I am completely blown away at the depth of it: it's years that I teach and think at how to make things better for my students, and not ony I did not thought that far, I didn't even realized it was possible to think that far!

The specific strategy is on how to train guitar players for speed. Students in the Special Force Guitar Program: remind me to tell you everything about the 7 types of speed. This strategy is so powerful I can barely contain myself.

But the real value of all this is also in the process: by showing us how he thinks, Tom Hess opened the doors for us to think in new ways about many other things in teaching. Wow. Just wow.

After a satisfying dinner and another Master Mind session, I just head to bed: I'm way too tired after this long day to get more conversations.

(but still... a salad?)


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