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vanderhoof120Whether you want to learn a new instrument or are coming back to guitar after a break, or want to polish you singing voice Ryan Vanderhoof can help.  Vanderhoof is a professional musician who recently moved to Ithaca.  With 20 years of guitar experience, 15 of them as a professional performer teacher and recording artist, he is offering private lessons in guitar, ukulele and voice.

"I want everyone to have a good experience," he says.  "When someone is new to the instrument I want them to have a musical experience right from the start.  That's definitely possible.  To get their hands on the instrument, to make some beautiful sounds and enjoy themselves."

Vanderhoof wants to teach to his students' interests.  All to often parents will arrange for guitar lessons with the best of intentions, but with a teacher who focusses on a style their student might not be interested in.

"I hear that kind of story from people of all ages," Vanderhoof says.  "It's one of my personal fears, to have a young person that wants to learn music then have them disappointed and turned off because a teacher only teaches one specific way.  I teach in the way that I learned.  I learned by learning the things I was interested in.  I try to figure out what it is and why it is each person is coming to take lessons and what music they're interested in."

He says the basics of guitar playing are the same, no matter what style of music you play.  While trained in classical guitar, Vanderhoof's performing experience is more along the lines of pop/rock/folk and jazz.  He brings that sort of live approach, tailoring lessons to what students want to do whether that be learning a playing technique of singing style of a favorite pop performer, learning to optimize performance techniques for microphones and recording technology or live performing, of just improving skills.  He teaches electric guitar at the Rock Band School at Hickey's Music, while his private students predominantly play acoustic guitar.

Vanderhoof added ukulele to his teaching repertoire a year ago, and it became instantly popular.  He tries to emphasize ukulele for kids and people who want to take up a new instrument. 

"It's become a popular instrument in our culture," he says. "I find it's really a great instrument, especially for beginners.  It's very playable.  You can learn it quickly.  It doesn't have the stigma that guitar has.  If you bust out a guitar at the park people expect you to play something profound, where with ukulele you can just play your songs and you don't have to be a rock star.  It's a wonderful instrument."

"It's been seen as a toy instrument you couldn't play real music with but it's proven to be a serious instrument," he says.  "Jake Shimabukuro is a virtuoso.  James Hill from Canada, who I've seen perform, is just incredible.  Israel Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole is amazing.  And Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam has done a whole album of ukulele music that's quite good."

He has no formal voice training, but has performed as a singer for two decades.  He tries to help singers find their own distinctive style of singing, pulling from his own professional singing experience in bands and recording.

"I teach voice based on how I learned to sing, imitating popular music.  I still love to learn songs by great artists that I enjoy," he says.  "You can be not a good singer technically and still have a great voice.  Because in pop music does it communicate the emotion or express something that is magnetizing to people?  It also changes because we use microphones.  That really changes everything as opposed to the classical method where it's all about projection and clarity and precision.  When you are using a microphone you sing quietly and still expressing something."

Originally from Union Springs, Vanderhoof started playing piano around age 7.  His father plays guitar and his mother piano, so music was an important part of his life from an early age.  He began playing guitar at age 14, and immediately started a band and began writing music.

"It became my main interest pretty quickly through high school," he recalls.  "Then I went to Onondaga Community College for classical guitar, then transferred to Ithaca College to study classical guitar performance.  When I went to college guitar was all I had done, but there aren't very many rock guitar schools.  I applied to Berkeley -- that would have been more jazz, but it was too expensive so I decided to go for classical.  I enjoyed it.  It was amazing and it introduced me to all kinds of music I wouldn't have otherwise learned about."
He opened for Akron/Family, a New York City-based band when they came to Ithaca.  it turned out they were looking for a vocalist, and he soon found himself living in New York.  He recorded five albums of original music with the band and toured all over the world, including the United States, Canada, Russia and Brazil, sometimes for crowds of thousands of people.  He characterizes the style as rock, but psychedelic and folky and avant garde.

"We got to do basically everything I wanted to do growing up," he says.  "I got to be in a band, play and tour the world and record albums.  It was an amazing experience.  I got to meet so many musicians and experience different contexts or working on music with people from all over the world.  Those experiences inform my teaching: working with different kinds of people and different styles of music, and different situations."

vanderhoof400Ryan Vanderhoof

Meanwhile Vanderhoof had been drawn to spirituality and religions.  He met a Buddhist teacher in Michigan, and moved to Ann Arbor to study Buddhism.  He taught guitar at the Herb David Guitar Studio, then built a private practice, teaching from his home for two years before coming to Ithaca.  While visiting family at Christmas he reconnected with a former Ithaca College girlfriend, a Dryden native, and in August he moved here, starting a new studio and offering lessons to his Ann Arbor students via Skype.  Last month they were married.

In addition to teaching Vanderhoof plans to continue performing.  He is still writing music and songs for an upcoming album and is planning to schedule concerts. 

"The music I'm writing these days is a mixture of instrumental guitar and songs," he says.  A lot of it doesn't work in a loud bar so I'm looking for unique atmospheres where the environment is part of the experience.  Coffee house or a church.  In Ann Arbor we did poetry readings in a blacksmith's shop.  It was amazing.  It created such a unique atmosphere.  So I'm looking for things like that where people want to have this artistic experience."

Vanderhoof continues to teach full time, taking private students from age 7 up in all styles of guitar, singing and ukulele. 

"I like when someone has that experience of learning something new," he says.  "When they discover they can do something they didn't think they could do.  It's hard to learn a new instrument.  Any instrument.  But it can definitely be done if you follow the steps.  So that's what I enjoy the most, when somebody has that experience of wow, I did that."

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