The Crooked Road to Music: Justin Heath, teacher of guitar, mandolin and banjo

Some musicians have a pathway to virtuosity from an early age; lessons, music school, career. Justin took a more “crooked” path to where he is now.

From an early age, Justin desperately wanted to play guitar- He would see himself with one when he heard music. He started on a thrift shop toy guitar and actually learned songs on it. His parents rewarded him with an electric guitar for Christmas when he was about 14. Rock and Roll was his aspiration. He was naïve enough to not even know you could major in music in college!

But something changed during that time. Justin found a college elective called “beginning classical guitar” that changed his life. He started consuming music, enjoying the process of learning. He had a banjo, and he taught himself classical music on it! Learning to read music through that class was his important gateway. He was largely self-taught but was always asking others to teach him and show him things, acting like a sponge and absorbing musical knowledge from every source.

Jazz was inspirational, but Bluegrass was always in the background. He found the genre accessible, and he could build his own language from it. And then…he found Tango. He loved that it was an in-between of classical form and dance music, played with an ensemble. He started consuming the Latin styles to add to his stylistic repertoire. Now Justin enjoys playing Jazz, Tango and Latin as well as Bluegrass, easily moving between genres, and playing with different ensemble.

His theory of learning is that a good teacher gets you to do the hard thing, not always what comes naturally. It’s the thing you may have missed in your own explorations. But he really believes that’s the springboard- and it’s what you do AFTER the lesson that counts.

Whatever your musical path may be, straight ahead or crooked or roundabout, Justin is one example of where curiosity and passion can lead you.
Justin Heath