There are many people over the years that I owe my guitar development to, but none so much as my father, who truly instilled in me the love of paying, and especially the encouragement! He is a great visual artist, now 97 years young, who made his own way in the world, strictly with nothing more than his talents and his belief in himself to lead him on. He became a hugely successful and respected cartoonist for the famed New Yorker Magazine, and is one of four Roth brothers, ALL of whom became cartoonists! Because of this, they all couldn’t be named “Roth” professionally, so my Dad took the pen name of “Al Ross.”
But even though I came from a long line of visual artists, as my older brother also became a painter, my Dad always listened to Flamenco music in the apartment in the Bronx, and this heavily guitar-laden music was always permeating the air. Combine this with the timing of the Beatles hitting the States, and the fact I was already playing some guitar, and it became a musical explosion for me! But as I sat there, whether it was playing lap slide guitar with my mom’s lipstick cover on a guitar that had two strings, or starting to imitate and emulate the Flamenco and Classical I was hearing, it was my father who always said, “Arlen, even though I know you are playing the violin, I just can SEE you playing the guitar….play the guitar!”
So, sure enough, thanks to his encouragement, which was huge, I embarked on a self-taught journey that continues to this day. His words are what always echoed in my head as I showed my two daughters guitar playing, and as I see promising, young students all the time who unquestionably need further guidance and encouragement in their playing. The “formative years” are so critical, and if you don’t really seize the opportunity to push the right buttons in someone, they become like a “tree falling in the woods”! Keep this in mind as you move forward in your own playing or teaching!