My daughter Alex began taking lessons with Al when she was 16 years old. She sung in the high school acapella group and had taught herself some basic guitar chords so she had some musical ability. She was interested in singer song writer and folk type of songs from artists like the Indigo Girls, Joni Mitchell, Alison Krauss, etc..She wanted to play acoustic guitar to accompany her singing as opposed to being an instrumentalist. When I began to search for a teacher I knew it was important to find someone who liked this type of music and would make sure sure she could play the entire song. I also thought it would be important that she had some way to learn parts of fingerstyle playing since that would fit in well with the genre of songs she liked. Unfinished songs are a common problem with beginning musicians, espeically guitarists, and it's not atypical for many teachers to not insist that songs reach some reasonable standard of performance level. Another issue is that some teachers don't like these type of songs and often take this music for granted, which leads to less enthusiasm when it comes to working on the material long enough to master it.
After speaking with Al he struck me as someone that fit the bill quite well. It was clearly a good match in the first lesson. He was very patient with her, especially when she decided not to listen to his very good suggestions and do things her own way. He gave her time find what worked for her or gradually helped her go back to what he originally suggested. As she learned the songs Al gradually added nuances to her playing to capture the little details that really make the song come alive. He insisted that she learn to play and sing at the same time and made her sing into an amped microphone so it was an easier transition go to open mic nights and be comfortable performing. His studio setup was a great environment to work in with a pro level speaker system, looping tools to drill down into parts of a song and an array of very nice guitars to use instead of changing the tuning on her guitar for songs with altered tunings.
She took lessons for about two years with breaks during the summer. Her playing and performing improved considerably during this time and she had a number of songs that were ready to be played for performances. Al invited her to play a few songs with him at the annual Sudbury Hope Telethon and at the open mic night at the Amazing Things Art Center in Framingham. He went above and beyond duty by bringing his entire sound system with him and working out every detail so things would go smoothly. The performance was great.
Overall Al's teaching was a great fit for her needs. She has continued playing and has done a few songs at open mics all by herself.
- Mark Globerson 5/29/15
"Finding you has been one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life." "You totally inspire me." "You helped me blow open a door I had been knocking on forever. I could not think of anyone better for the job."
- Stephanie Carlin 6/18/15
"Just the fact that Al thought I could play the piece, which I thought was gorgeous, brought me to tears." "I was suddenly able to play pieces I never thought I could master." "Overall, having someone believe in me and my ability to reach higher and do more has been an extremely gratifying experience."
- Laura Gold 5/8/15
I am a professional musician with performances several times a week. I studied with Al for a few years in order to improve my finger style skills, and to add new finger style songs to my repertoire - but there was a double benefit in working with him. Al is both a skilled teacher and experienced performer, and as a result can provide guitar instruction and performance coaching at the same time. He is excellent at recognizing one’s individual strengths and weaknesses, and tailoring a customized lesson plan accordingly. Al’s diligent and detailed explanations raised my confidence across the board, and this made an enormous difference in both my playing and my performing. Thanks so much for everything you’ve done for me, Al.
- Sean Fullerton 4/17/15
Al Cath is a patient, fun, knowledge-able and experienced guitar teacher who knows how to bring the best out of his students. He shows new players everything from posture to hand positioning, finger care, and guitar care. He teaches proper fundamentals and shows how music can and should be fun when proper technique is learned and inherent.
When I first started with Al a few years ago, I was a beginner trying to strum basic chords with some rhythm and sing a few campfire songs. Now I play in two bands, have played at open mike nights and am both a lead guitarist and rhythm guy, lead singer and harmonizer. The strum patterns, rhythm techniques, hand positioning and performance tips Al showed me a few years back still apply today.
More important than anything, Al listens. He wants each student to reach his or her own goals, learn the type of music each student enjoys, wants to play and will practice, and reviews practice techniques and sessions. He cares. With Al’s help I have reached several of my initial goals already – playing with bands, playing alone at open mike nights, exploring lead guitar riffs, and appreciating the talents of those musicians I listened to as a child.
My next big event is my daughter’s wedding. With Al’s help and advice I plan on playing for her on this very special day. Al speaks to his studnets from personal experiences and his lessons are invaluable. I highly recommend Al for any level guitar player to grow in your love of the instrument and to help achieve your own guitar playing goals. One last thing. He is an awesome guy too.
- Jack Saint 5/22/15
Suddenly, here I was getting ready to play at my daughter's wedding, all alone and exposed, in front of 150 family and friends, with everyone's eyes and ears glued to me. I was scared out of my mind! The song I picked, "Here Comes the Sun", was admittedly above my skill level and I was struggling big time, turning the whole "fantastic" idea into a complete nightmare. With four weeks to go, I woke up in a shivering sweat and almost called my daughter to apologize and tell her I was over my head and just couldn't do it.
Instead I decided ask Al to train me on the skill and art of performance; to prepare me for this life-changer performance that I somehow dreaded but knew beyond any question that I absolutely had to do. I have seen Al's comfort and proficiency on stage, and knew that he possessed both the performance experience, and from my 3 years of guitar study with him, the ability to meticulously anticipate, articulate, and prepare me for every last detail. If ever there was anyone who could stop me from having a heart attack over this whole massive personal commitment I had made to myself, it was Al Cath.
Al stepped immediately to the plate. Starting that week, and in all weeks leading right up to the wedding, we met and rehearsed several times, and emailed several times a day. Of course for starters Al had me perform the song for him - initially it was god awful, so debated every conceivable approach option. Running out of time, Al developed a simplified arrangement that was more doable for me. We discussed every little detail about the performance - how to introduce myself and the song, whether to play electric or acoustic guitar, what kind of amplification and effects I should use, which fret to capo; whether to standing or sit, and if so, on a chair or stool; how to position the guitar strap... everything. Like New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, Al left no detail out - he even restrung and made physical adjustments to my guitar to make it easier to play.
We decided I didn't need all of the verses, so one was cut, along with some of the bridge and a chorus. Also, Al explained that the audience would mainly be focused on my vocals, not my guitar prowess (or lack thereof). People would want to hear a dad singing a special song to his daughter on her special day. So this performance was not about my technique - but rather about my comfort and confidence, and about smiling and singing from the heart with love. As well, it was not about having the song go on and on, but rather just giving them a taste, and about keeping the heart and soul and message of the song intact. Perhaps most importantly, Al pointed out that that regardless of anything I had in mind to do, that this day is not really about me and my guitar playing - it is about my daughter and her new husband, and that retaining this mindset would not only help to keep the proper focus on Amy and her new husband, but also help keep me more relaxed.
Al helped me to understand how different preparing for a performance was than just playing alone. He told me to make sure to try to find someone qualified to run sound for me. It so happens my two brothers are a director and technician in musical theatre; they instantly volunteered to do be my production crew. (I never would have thought to request this.) They conducted sound checks with me at the venue two hours prior to the event. Once all the decisions were made, I practiced and practiced and practiced some more. At Al's suggestion, I recorded myself and sent him snippets for review and suggestions. More adjustments. Al also suggested that I do a dry run of my performance at open mic. Just a few days before the wedding I did this at The Grog in front of some friends and a few drunks. The feedback I got from doing this was that my guitar was still overwhelming my vocals, just as Al had been saying all along. With the wedding just a few days away, I learned that I still needed to make more corrections/adjustments, which I did.
The wedding day came, and the reception began, and after toasts and appetizers, it was time for my performance. As I took the stage, suddenly, and to my own complete surprise (although not Al's - he predicted this would happen) my self-confidence soared. I was completely ready, and I knew it! As I walked up with my guitar strapped on, totally unplanned I shouted "Rock and Roll!" to a huge applause from the crowd - I simply couldn't contain myself. Maybe I did want to be a rock star after all! Here I was the center of attention on stage, guitar in hand, with 150 sets of eyes and ears trained on me, and I was not nervous at all - I was loving it! I smiled, gave my intro, and played and sang my heart out to my daughter and her new husband. And at the end, I earned a standing ovation, and a huge hug from my daughter and new son-in-law. There were tears all over the place! Over the next few hours during the reception, person after person - friends, relatives, and folks I had never even met came up to me and said it was the best thing they had ever seen a dad do for his daughter at her wedding. One dad told me I had set the bar and now he had to figure out how he was going to shine at his daughter's wedding. I WAS a rock star! Thank you Al Cath! Overcoming my fear and performing this song at my daughter's wedding was one of the best decisions I have made in life, and I am so incredibly happy that I was able to give my daughter that memory! If you ever get this kind of performance opportunity - prepare for it, embrace it, and do it. And be sure to call Al Cath - he'll get you through it.
- Jack Saint 8/14/15
Thanks to Al Cath, I gave the musical performance of my life last month!
I am a software guy who has never had any delusions about becoming a rock star. With Al as my teacher, I started playing guitar at 50, just for the fun of it, and have been learning since. When my oldest daughter decided to get married this Summer, I had the bright idea to ask her if I could play and sing a song to her and her new husband at the reception. She was thrilled! And I was convinced it was a fantastic idea!
But then the wedding date started getting closer. Uh Oh! You see I had never played in front of more than 10 drunk people at an open mic night at The Grog, and those 10 were never really listening.