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August Student Spotlight: Neal Smalley

For the month of August, we are shining the student spotlight on one of our adult students – guitarist Neal Smalley. Neal is a long-time member of the Stages community and a student of Charles Simon. When asked what makes Neal special, Charles had this to say:

“It’s truly a pleasure to work with students like Neal Smalley. Neal is someone who has been playing guitar most of his life, but still finds joy and excitement in learning new things and pushing his boundaries to grow. Seemingly every week, I am impressed with how Neal will take things that I show him, add his own creativity, and come up with something unique and clever to apply what he’s learned. Students like Neal help keep me honest as an instructor, as they flip the script: in order to keep up I need to make sure I’m still practicing and learning on my own! Teaching is the highlight of my week and students like Neal help keep me genuinely inspired as a musician and instructor.”

Read on to learn more about this musical journey of this dedicated adult rock star!

What inspired you to start playing music?

I was inspired to play music from hearing Motown, the British invasion on the radio and like so many others, seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show.

What is your instrument and how long have you been playing?

I have been playing guitar on and off for over 30 years. 

What kind of music do you like to listen to and play?

I listen to many different types of music, anything from Hank Williams, Pink Floyd to Beethoven. I enjoy playing rhythm and blues, jazz and classical guitar.

What are your musical goals?

My musical goals at this time are to keep my mind active learning new things and using what I learn to create an arrangement of old standards or include it in something I write.

What I love most about music is where it takes you, whether you are a player or a listener.    


Neal SmalleyStages Guitar Student

What’s your favorite thing about Stages or do you have a favorite Stages memory?

My favorite thing about Stages is the fact that one can learn how to play, improve if already playing and take it all the way to recording or performing all in one place!

Who is your teacher and what do you appreciate most about them?

Charles Simon is my current instructor, Charles has a wealth of knowledge of the guitar and music as well. Each week I look forward to building on what I learned in the previous lesson.

Who are the musicians that inspire you?

Musicians that inspired me are the Beatles at first, Eric Clapton, Freddie King, JJ. Cale, Leon Russell, Charlie Byrd, Joe Pass, Oscar Peterson and Christopher Parkening.

If you could collaborate with any musician who would it be and why?

If I could collaborate with another musician it would have been JJ. Cale, not many artists can take a simple progression and make it complicated with just the groove.

Do you know a student who is deserving of being in the spotlight? Nominate them by emailing us and telling us why they deserve to be recognized! 

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