March 2017 Student of the Month

Guitar Student of The Month - March 2017

This month, CCG recognizes Simon Lee as the March 2017 Student of the Month. Simon is 9 years old and studies with Alexandra at our Santa Clara Location. We are proud of Simon's progress since he started at CCG a little over two years ago and there are no signs of slowing down! Don't miss the short interview with Simon's father, Xavier below. Congratulations Simon!

Simon Lee

Q: How old are you?
A: 9 years old
Q: How long have you been studying guitar?
A: 2.5 years
Q: Who is your teacher? 
A: Teacher Alexandra
Q: What advice would you give to a beginning guitar student? 
A: Listen to your teacher
Q: What piece are you looking forward to playing?  
A: Greensleeves
Q: What is your favorite thing about playing guitar? 
A: Making music
Q: What is your favorite food?  
A: Sushi
Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?  
A: Movie director
Q: What is your proudest guitar moment? 
A: Playing for my grandparents
Q: What is your favorite scale? 
A: Chromatic
Q: Who is your favorite Star Wars character?  
A: Chewbacca

Parent Spotlight - Xavier Lee

Q: Regarding guitar, what are you most proud of your child accomplishing? 
A: Persevering through the challenges and getting over the humps

Q: What advice would you give a new parent to Suzuki guitar? 
A: Make a habit of practice and have patience (not saying it's easy)

Q: Why did you decide to give your child a musical upbringing?
A: I wanted him to learn to play an instrument and create beautiful music

Q: Have you noticed a difference in your child's confidence level since starting guitar lessons?  
A: Yes, The recitals help, and he's performed at school functions

Q: What is your favorite Suzuki piece?  
A: So far, Waltz by Calatayud in book 2

Q: Which piece are you looking forward to?  
A: Waltz by Paganini in book 3




Guitarist David Russell at CCG

We have been very lucky over the past few years to have had some of the world's great guitarist come to CCG and offer a masterclass for dedicated students. On Sunday, February 26th our luck continued when we hosted the wonderful guitarist David Russell, who was so gracious to take time out of his busy tour schedule!

David Russell was born in Scotland but grew up in Spain, where he currently lives. One of the most accomplished classical guitarist of our times, he is frequently invited to perform in the world's major cities. In 2005, he was awarded a grammy for the "Best Instrumental Soloist Performance without Orchestra" for his CD Aire Latino.

You can learn more about David at:

The class was very motivating and insightful for the students. He was able to find something that would improve each students playing right away, and always had a clear intention to make the music more enjoyable for the audience whether it be by developing their tone production or making their phrasing more expressive. On top of all that he even played a piece for us!

It was nice to read these kind words on David's Facebook page a couple days later, "I got to hear some exceptionally talented young guitarists at the California Conservatory of Guitar in Silicon Valley. Congratulations to the teachers for their fabulous work!" 

We hope to see you all at the next class!

February 2017 Students of the Month

This month CCG recognizes siblings, Jayen, Nikhil, and Annika Agrawal as the February 2017 students of the month. They currently study with Chris Mann at our Redwood City location. Each of them started while still in pre-school and we are proud of their hard work and commitment to CCG over the years. At the end of the post, you can also check a short interview with their mother, Reena, on what it's like to have three children in our program and how she balances their practice time. 

Jayen Agrawal

Jayen Agrawal

Q: How old are you?
A: 10 years old
Q: How long have you been taking guitar lessons?
A: 4.5 years
Q: Who is your teacher?
A: Chris Mann
Q: What is your current piece?
A: Etude by F Sor
Q: What is your favorite piece or skill that you have learned in lessons?  
A: I like to do pull offs, hammer ons and grace notes.
Q: What are your hobbies outside of music?
A: I like swimming, skiing, sailing and cooking
Q: What was the most difficult challenge you’ve had in lessons so far?
A: I have been working on keeping my pinky (my "x") in when playing
Q: What is your favorite food?
A: Waffles, pancakes and eggs

Nikhil Agrawal

Nikhil Agrawal

Q: How old are you?
A: 8 years old
Q: How long have you been taking guitar lessons?
A: 4.5 years
Q: Who is your teacher?
A: Chris Mann
Q: What is your current piece?
A: Etude by N Coste
Q: What is your favorite piece or skill that you have learned in lessons?  
A: My favorite piece to play is Calliope
Q: What are your hobbies outside of music?
A: My hobbies are art, building, chess, skiing and riding my bike
Q: What was the most difficult challenge you’ve had in lessons so far?
A: My most difficult challenge is crossing the fretboard while alternating left-hand fingers
Q: What is your favorite food?
A: Pasta and sushi

Annika Agrawal

Annika Agrawal

Q: How old are you?
A: 6 years old
Q: How long have you been taking guitar lessons?
A: 3 years
Q: Who is your teacher?
A: Chris Mann
Q: What is your current piece?
A: Andante from Sonata 17 by N. Paganini
Q: What is your favorite piece or skill that you have learned in lessons?  
A: My favorite song to play is A Toye.
Q: What are your hobbies outside of music?  
A: I like to play soccer, golf, swimming and skiing.
Q: What was the most difficult challenge you’ve had in lessons so far?
A: I have been working on doing thumb circles at the same time as plucking.
Q: What is your favorite food?
A: Pasta!

Thank you to their mother Reena for the wonderful insight below!

Q: What is it like to have three kids in the program?
A: The good thing is the kids motivate each other and keep each other going.  It's easier on me because I only have to learn new material once, and it applies equally to the next two children.  It's also very efficient because CCG has been able to schedule their lesson consecutively which means only one trip a week.  And lastly it's been very surprising--they are such different children who have all picked the guitar and who all love it! 

Q: How do you balance their practice/home lesson time?
A: Practice in the mornings before school!  Between work and school, the kids and I all are tired at the end of the day.  Practicing in the morning is highly productive because the kids (and I, after a cup of coffee) are alert and focused.  We can accomplish our objectives in half the time compared to after school practices.  We save the longer practices for the weekends.

The Torres Guitar Project at CCG Sunday, February 12th

We are very excited to host the Torres Guitar project at the California Conservatory of Guitar in Santa Clara on Sunday, February 12th at 2:00 pm. The event is free and open to the public. Donations are accepted and encouraged, and all the proceeds will go to the performers who worked hard to make this happen. The performers, all San Francisco Conservatory of Music college and graduate students, will play on a newly completed replica of an 1888 Antonio de Torres guitar built by San Francisco master luthier Alan Perlman. If you ever wondered how a guitar is built, this is an excellent opportunity to learn from one of the best guitar builders in the world! Alan will talk about the process of making a guitar, and what goes into creating a replica of an instrument that costs more than $300,000!

Antonio Torres (1817-1892) is perhaps best known as the guitar luthier (stringed instrument maker) who helped develop and innovate what we know as the modern classical guitar. There have been many slight changes with aspects of the guitar such as the type of wood used for the top and the bracing used on the inside, but many luthiers around the world still use and follow Torre's design. Francisco Tarrega, whose pieces "Recuerdos de Alhambra" and "Capricho Arabe" are included in Suzuki Book 9, performed on guitars built by Antonio Torres in the 19th and early 20th century.

We hope to see all of you there for this special event!

When: Sunday, February 12th at 2:00 pm
Where: The California Conservatory of Guitar in Santa Clara. 
              2905 Stender Way, Unit 72 Santa Clara, CA 95054

Below is a program of what the performers will play. 

Capricho Árabe                         Francisco Tarrega (1852-1909)
Sonatina                        Federico Moreno Torroba (1891-1982)
    I. Allegretto
                Joseph Ompoc

Sueño Mazurka                                             Francisco Tarrega
Prelude in E major
Capricho Catalan                             Isaac Albéniz  (1860-1909)
Torre Bermeja
                Dariusz Lampkowski

Elegie                                    Johann Kaspar Mertz (1805-1856)
                Nathania Isnandar


Romance de los Pinos                           Federico Moreno Torroba
Manzanares el Real
Rumores de la Caleta            Isaac Albéniz  (arr. Christopher Parkening)
                 Brig Urias

Serenata Española                                      Joaquin Malats (1872-1912)
Reqeurdos de la Alhambra                                      Francisco Tarrega
                Jakob Sonnek

Sonata Eroica Op.150                  Mauro Giuliani (1781-1829)
                Bradly Pupa

Francisco_Tarrega Torres.jpg

Guitar Student of the Month January

Guitar Student of the Month


Our student of the month for January is Will Bettinger. Will is a 10 year old student from Mountain View who currently takes guitar lessons with Robert Miller at our Redwood City location. Will is a fabulous student who is consistently prepared for his lessons but shows even more promise because of his inherent love for the guitar. Right when Will began to take lessons Will’s parents started to expose him to recordings by great guitarists. Music is a language and only being exposed to it in lessons and practice is not enough to become fluent! Listen, listen, listen! He also had a very busy December performing at events like the Dickens Fair at Cow Palace in San Francisco and others throughout the Bay Area (more below).

A couple things will has done that would help other students:
1) He has a Spotify account which he adds artists and pieces that I suggest he listen to or that he finds on his own. We shared a Spotify playlist a while ago check it out here!

2) Will finds it is helpful to practice in the mornings and uses a great app called Brilli to stay on task!

"Brili helps kids succeed in their daily routines by combining visual schedules, chore chart, voice prompts and more into a wearable and mobile app game."


Q: How long have you been taking guitar lessons?

7 years

Q: What is your current piece?

Allegro Vivace by Mauro Giuliani

Q: What is your favorite piece or skill that you have learned in lessons?

I like doing bars in the left hand where you use one finger flat to cover lots of strings at the same time.

Q: What are your hobbies outside of music?

 I like to travel, play chess, do Taekwondo and play tennis.

Q: What was the most difficult challenge you’ve had in lessons so far?

Free strokes were hard when I first learned them.

Q: What is your favorite food?

Cheese burgers

Q: You recently did a lot of performing would you tell us about them?

I performed at the Dickens Fair, a Christmas party, a rest home, a church service, and a creche exhibit with my family in December.  One of my sisters plays the harp, two of my sisters play the violin, and my brother plays the cello.  We played Christmas music. In the Dickens Fair we had to wear costumes from London in the 1800's.  

Q: Do you have any advice for students who have upcoming performances?

My advice to students who are performing is not to look at the audience and you won't get as nervous.

Q:Whats your new year's resolution?

My resolution is to have more careful practice every day.


Masterclass Series at CCG

Since the start of The California Conservatory of Guitar, our goal has been not only to bring quality teaching to the students at CCG but also to bring world-class performers to teach master classes to the students at the school. What is a master class? A master class is essentially a private lesson, taught in public by a visiting concert artist. Since 2011 we have had over a dozen acclaimed guitarists at our Santa Clara location to work with the students. These artists include Rapahella Smits (twice!), Roland Dyens, Marcin Dylla, Benjamin Verdery, Zoran Dukic, Rupert Boyd, Simon Powis, Connie Sheu, Josinaldo Costa, Ian O'Sullivan,  Rene Izquierdo, Dieter Hennings and more. We will kick 2017 off with two exceptional artists coming to teach at CCG. On January 22nd, Rupert Boyd will be back for his second time, and on February 26th we are excited to announce that GRAMMY Award-winning classical guitarist David Russell will be stopping by CCG to teach some of the advanced students. Masterclasses at CCG are open to all the students, and we encourage everyone to come and watch, even if you aren't playing in the class. You can get a lot from watching, and masterclass teachers frequently address the audience to share inside tips and stories about their life. We look forward to seeing you at the next one! Take a look below at photos from some of the past masterclasses.

Redwood City Location

The California Conservatory of Guitar in Redwood City!


As many of our families and students know, we have been working hard to get our location in Redwood City up and running. It is a nice little spot on Woodside Rd. where we offer private guitar classes. As our location in Santa Clara has a ton of space we will continue to hold the group classes, ensembles and recitals there. Since traffic is much easier on the weekends people from up this way can supplement their private guitar classes with all that our community has to offer should they decide to!

Many of the students and families who used to have to drive up to an hour to be a part of our school are so happy 10 minutes from Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Woodside! 

I have added a couple of photos of the lobby and some of the studios so those of you who won't be able to come up here can take a look!



Great Guitar Recital

Student Guitar Recital 


Congratulations to all of the families, students, and teachers for a successful recital this past Saturday. It was one of the best we have had yet! The playing was great from beginners to advanced students, and the place was full of supportive family and friends of the students. We have some short video clips and photos from the concert below. Please check them out. We are so glad that the guitar classes are paying off for all of the students at the school!

Preparing for the Recital

Guitar Recital Preparation

As we have discussed in our last post the California Conservatory of Guitar's semesterly recital is fast approaching! We will have six throughout the day on Saturday November 12th.

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
— Benjamin Franklin

The most important aspect of performing is the practice we put in - how we practice is how play.  So in the coming week leading up to the event, we all need to make sure the students are doing slow careful practice. We have discussed this in a prior post, "Productive Guitar Practice"

There a couple great, easy ways to build confidence leading up to the performance. The first is to play the piece all the way through for family members and friends as much as possible. One student at CCG actually performs at least three pieces for his mom and dad every Sunday - it is part of their family routine. Secondly, try to record the piece the kids are playing on your phone and look back on what could improve. Sometimes the camera lens is pressure in and of itself!

Our goal with the recitals is to help strengthen the community at CCG. It allows the young students to see the advanced ones, for all the teachers, parents and students to see the fruits of their labor and for families to meet! It is also a great way for the students to build confidence and to see that a diligent, prudent process will lead to a beautiful, polished product. 

See you the 12th!

Guitar Recital - Time to Show Those Classes Paid off!

Bay Area Guitar Student Recital

We feel very fortunate to be able to have formed a guitar community in the Bay Area. Our school is more than a place where busy parents can drop of their kids for a guitar lesson, but a place where parents and young guitar students can grow musically together both in their music class and at their guitar practice at home. 

One important part of our community is the student recital we hold each semester. The next one is November 12th, and we will be holding 6 throughout the day where guitar students from San Jose all the way up to Redwood City will come in and play a piece for other students, family and friends! 

Interested in guitar classes? Come in to see on of the recitals!

Let us know!

Productive Guitar Practice

Productive Practice

As the most important part of a student’s musical study is the daily practice they do at home, we wanted to reach out with some helpful suggestions to make sure everyone is having some quality practice! We have a vast array of levels and ages at the school, so suggestions on how to implement these ideas for different age categories are also below. Here are a couple things that everyone can try to do to better their practice:

Small Sections - Break it down. 

Whether you are learning “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” or “Asturias”, its important to break the piece up into sections or phrases and work on whatever the technical difficulties or musical goals one has. Try to be clear with your teacher on the exact measures or sections you should isolate, and what exactly you work on before leaving the lessons - take notes!!! 

Slow Repetition

Like anything in life, you won’t master it if you don’t do it often. Once you have set goals for your practice, make sure you do plenty of successful repetitions of the section you’re working on, and do them slow!

Tricks to get kids to do slow practice with repetition

Anti-Race Game

Time student playing a line or section of a piece with your phone, and then ask them to do it in twice as much time or more. For example, if a student plays the first line or phrase of “Twinkle” in five seconds, ask them to do it 10 or more.

Roll the die

Keep a die handy, and let the student roll it to see how many times they have to do a section. Siri on an iPhone can roll one for you too - kids get a kick out it.

Play Games

Make your practice fun at home, especially with young kids. Race cars, play connect four or play whatever you and your child prefer. Think of it as sometime for you to spend together. When your child does some successful repetitions, they get a move. Be sure to constantly offer the positive reinforcement about what they are doing well in their practice.

Always try to offer your kids criticism in a constructive way in the practice. “You are doing ________ really well, and I bet if you try todo ________, it’ll be even better!” Don't use the word “but”!!!

More with Music


Francesca Boerio is a student of Christopher Mallett and is one extraordinary player (you can see an excerpt of her playing below)!  We love to hear when students are doing more with music! We asked her to write a short passage about how she used the guitar for good. Check it out:

"On May 8, I held a guitar concert to raise funds for the Mexico Mission Trip. This is the 19th year St. Charles Parish has organized the Mexico Mission Trip. I have been a member of the St. Charles community since I was little so I am excited to go on the trip for my second time this year. On the Mexico Mission Trip, a group of 91 teens, interns, and adults drive down to Tijuana to build 3 houses for Mexican families in need. The guitar concert, held in San Carlos, raised funds to cover expenses which include transportation, food, building materials, and equipment. This year, I raised $3,500 from and in support of the concert. I asked two students from the California Conservatory of Guitar to also participate in the concert by playing a few pieces. My time at the California Conservatory of Guitar helped me greatly in preparation for the concert."



Spring Concert

The Spring Concert is one of our favorite traditions at The California Conservatory of Guitar. Each year CCG families from all over the Bay Area from San Jose all the way up to South San Francisco gather at the Santa Clara Convention Center for a truly special occasion. 

This year we started with 5 student ensembles who played a diverse set of music. Students in these ensembles meet as group on Saturdays throughout the year and are coached by our expert faculty. On top of performing at the Spring Concert, the groups perform at outreach events, open for international talent at concert series throughout the Bay, and have even been selected to perform for the Guitar Foundation of America’s annual convention. 

Up next, we had graduation. The Suzuki method is made up of nine books or levels, which offers the students repertoire that is continuously growing in difficulty both technically and musically. This year we had students graduating from every book! Such a hardworking, talented bunch. Congrats!

After intermission, the curtain opened, and we had about 120 guitarists from ages 4-18 all on the stage at once! We played selections from the Suzuki repertoire. It is quite a fun, grandiose affair. The kids love it, and it gives a chance for students young to old to get up and play.  

We are looking forward to next year!

Some New Videos

The California Conservatory of Guitar directors Christopher Mallett and Robert Miller recently were invited to Classical Guitar Magazine to record a video of a couple pieces on their "Classical Guitar Sessions" series. You can check it out here:

Our student Eric Wang recorded some videos for the Pacific Music Society Competition recently. He won 3rd place!!! Check it out!!!

Guitar Outreach in the Bay Area

Guitar Outreach


On Sunday, April 3 our students from one of the California Conservatory of Guitar ensemble’s performed an outreach concert at the Sunny View Retirement Community in Cupertino, CA. Sunny View is an award-winning Bay Area continuing care retirement community with Independent Living, Assisted Living, Skilled Nursing, and Memory Care. One of our goals at the California Conservatory of Guitar is to teach our students the joy of sharing music with others and making a difference in our community. Past CCG outreach concerts have taken place in San Jose, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara. 

Before the Sunny View retirement lunch hour, residents gathered in the main dining room to hear solo and ensemble performances by our students. Darren Wu, Eric Wang, Jack Davisson, Suneel Freimuth, Anika Freimuth, and Suvan Agarwal performed solo and ensemble works by Villa-Lobos, Tarrega, Bach, Morel, and ensemble piece Kalimba by Jurg Kindle. Outreach concerts expose students to people of different ages, socioeconomic backgrounds, and walks of life. Our guitar students held themselves with such professionalism, poise, and grace. This guitar ensemble will also be making an appearance on the Peninsula Guitar Series on Saturday, May 7, 2016. 

Beyond CCG

One of our goals at CCG is to instill in students a great appreciation for guitar and music that will last them a lifetime. It is always a joy to touch base with students after they have graduated high school, and to find their passion for guitar has continued into their college years. I thought I might share the stories of a few of our students.

Not too long ago, I met up with a student of mine, Ayush Midha who is currently a freshman at Harvard. He was a spectacular young player, who is also interested in debate, Biology, Medicine and Swahili (thats right). I remember when he affirmed that Harvard was quite difficult, I thought to myself, “he doesn’t have time to play anymore.” Minutes later, he told me that he still plays about five nights a week in his dorm room, and how he finds it to be a great source of relaxation.  

Another student Grant Menon, who studies Biomedical Engineering at Brown took formal lessons through the university his first year. Many of his new friends at Brown are musicians too! He started an informal ensemble with several of his hall mates, who play flute and clarinet, for which they made their own arrangements of movie scores (Pirates of the Caribbean, Frozen, etc.) and Latin American music. Whats more is he was able to play in the pit orchestra for a Piazzolla tango opera called Maria de Buenos Aires.

It was nice in his email to hear the following:

“Playing guitar has helped shape my sense of aesthetics, work ethic, and even my personality to some extent. It's served as a way to connect with others, both at school and abroad. And it's a wonderful way to relieve tension at the end of the day.”

CCG graduate Sean Keegan studies Physics and Music at The University of Southern California. He is currently studying with William Kanengiser of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet and playing in a guitar duo with a fellow classmate. He says, “I’ve been playing my whole life and love it.” He has also been furthering his study of music this year with classes in music theory and is beginning to dabble in composition!

We look forward to helping students develop their passion for the guitar, so they can carry it with them through life!

Balancing Practicing and School

    For many guitarists, high school is simply stressful. Students are exposed several new opportunities and experiences, and their schedules fill quickly. For high schoolers who don’t want to make a living through guitar but still love it as a musical hobby, practicing often can be difficult. I can attest to this. I am a freshman at Bellarmine College Preparatory. I recreationally fence outside of school and am part of my school’s competitive speech and debate program. Trust me when I say that debate isn’t just an activity, it’s a way of life.

    Even though high school activities take up a lot of time, there are ways that you can make time for yourself. The first one is pretty simple. Just don’t overload yourself with activities. If you don’t even have thirty minutes to an hour of time for guitar, then you’re not going to have time to relax. For most people, it usually isn’t a case of not having enough time. It’s either time management or forgetting to practice due to getting caught up doing work. These problems can also be solved. 

    I personally don’t use practice logs, but along with scheduling out your day, these logs will definitely help with time management. I also have a solution to forgetting to practice. One of the easiest ways is to practice as soon as you get back home from school. Typically, I’d start work as soon as I get home, but if you start off by practicing, you won’t get caught up in work.

    Of course, the best motivation to keep on practicing guitar is your own love of music. The guitar makes absolutely beautiful music, and listening to professionals using things like the CCG playlist on streaming sites like Spotify and Pandora is a great way to motivate yourself to practice. Personally, I like to listen to classical music on FM radio (channel 104.9) at night as I go to sleep.

    Staying organized helps with everything. The easiest way to do that is to schedule out your time. Block out certain periods of time to be dedicated to one thing or the other. Staying organized will also help you with free time.

    In conclusion, keep your love of music alive, and you’ll have the time to keep getting better at the instrument you love, GUITAR!!!


- Ashwin Pillai

Metronome Practice for Young Guitarists

One of the most important qualities of a musician’s playing is their inner sense of beat and pulse. Besides playing alongside the teacher during lessons, one of the best ways to develop a good sense of pulse is with consistent metronome practice. However, parents often have difficulty developing this skill with their children during home practice. A metronome is a great tool for creating an inner pulse in a young guitarist.

A metronome is a device that creates a regular, steady beat. The metronome can be set to different tempos, given in beats per minute, or BPM. Your teacher will give you the metronome marking (what BPM to set your metronome to) for home practice. 

This clip shows 6 year old Katie Wang working with a metronome on “With Steady Hands” by Frank Longay from Suzuki Guitar Book 1.

Practicing at a steady tempo strengthens a guitarist’s rhythmic sense, and promotes clarity of endeavor. It’s very useful for coordinating the timing of the right and left hands. Metronome practice increases focus, and also adds variety to daily practice. Playing with an internal sense of pulse is the gateway to playing musically. Additionally, when guitar students review pieces that they have worked on with a metronome, the memory comes easily because of their clear and precise practice.

There are many free metronome apps available for phones and tablets, but I encourage students to have their own metronome. They enjoy having something of their own, as a sort of practice buddy. Being responsible for that aspect of their practice empowers them. Also important, phones and tablets are often a distraction. (I’ve yet to see a metronome that comes with Angry Birds!). 

Here are two links to simple metronomes:

Happy metronome practicing! 

-Alexandra Iranfar