Teacher Spotlight: John Charles Cook

Name: John Charles Cook

Teaching Demo Video

Instrument: Guitar

Location: Beaufort, South Carolina

Brief Background: 

I studied under a well known guitar book author, John Knowles, at Blair School of Music in Nashville, TN. I continued my studies at Hart School of Music’s Master Classes in Hartford, Connecticut with international classical guitarist, David Tanenbaum. 

I have been teaching for 35 years and have learned so much. I feel teachers also learn more about their instrument and music as they teach. I taught 15 years alone at Carondelet Music Center, which was a wonderful experience. 

Greatest inspiration: 

I have a number of great inspirations, my family and friends being the most important.

Favorite place to perform:

Sagamore Resort, New York — Elegant, relaxed atmosphere, and the people are very friendly.  A very nice place to perform and to be inspired by beautiful scenery. 

Performance clip: 

Teaching Tech Setup: 

MacBook computer, music stands, footstool, music books, guitar tuner. 

What’s great about teaching on Forte?

I love the ability to play along with my students. The visuals are excellent — it’s like being there with my students. Each class is interactive and personal. 

Tell us a bit about your teaching style: 

My focus is always on technique. Classical technique is the epitome of all technical skills. It gives the student a solid foundation and sets the stage to learn the instrument in its entirety (“from soup to nuts”). It also teaches proper positioning of the instrument. So often students try to learn chords when they first learn how to play the guitar. However, this is counter-productive. If a student can not put down one finger correctly how will they be able to do two or three at once? This causes negative tension in both hands, and there will be a lack of knowledge when it comes to the proper technique of the instrument. The guitar is going to challenge you on its own, don’t give it any help.  

Tell us what you like most about your experience as a music educator:

Developing wonderful relationships with my students, their parents and family. I enjoy the progression of the teacher/student relationship. As the relationship grows, it requires more of both the student and the teacher, with more encouragement in both directions. Creating a positive relationship and enjoyment of the instrument are the best parts. 

A piece of repertoire I love to teach:

The Romance (anonymous) is a guitar standard. The Romance teaches the fundamentals of right hand finger movements, as well as strengthens hand and fingers. It also encourages proper hand positioning and clarity of tone. It starts in the key of E Minor, which is an excellent key for the guitar. Students can return to this piece after their fingers have developed more dexterity to play the E Major part of the piece. It is a beautiful piece to play, and the students feel touched by their accomplishment in a meaningful way.  

A piece of repertoire I love to play:

I like playing Latin pieces, like Meditation by Antonio Carlos Jobim, which is a Latin jazz piece. Because of its beautiful melodies, chords, and moving bass lines that progress simple, yet complex, rhythms, this type of music is befitting the culture, the region, and the art.  

It is a beautiful expression of music.  

Fun fact: 

One of my unique, humble experiences was my first guitar lessons with John Knowles. Now John Knowles wrote many books on guitars, but is best known for transcribing the great Chet Atkins’ music. I remember when Mr. Knowles asked me to play a piece of music of my choice, so I played Stevie Wonder’s My Cherie Amour. Now I played with a pick and on electric guitar back then. When I finished playing (and you need to understand I thought I was “all that and a bag of chips”), I thought it was great! Mr. Kowles critiqued my playing, and told me that he could hear what I was trying to do, but my phrasing needed work. Then he played it, and my eyes opened wide. It was so beautiful — I did not know you could do all of that with your fingers. Right then I knew I had a lot to learn, so I got rid of my electric guitar, bought a classical guitar, and never looked back. This was the blessed start of my musical journey. 

In the artist’s own words:

I believe music helps to bring enjoyment to one’s life, and that all anointed music comes from God. But, we must continuously practice due to our limited knowledge and physical limitations to create something we can not see but only feel.