Lead guitar teacher and owner of Rock School Coruña, Miguel Thomas Marfany has used Rockschool materials to teach one-on-one and group lessons to hundreds of students across the Galician region.
In our latest instalment of Rockschool Stories, we discuss successes, favourite performance pieces and the legendary 'Guitar Legends' concert in Sevilla from the early 90's.
"One of my students was 7 years old when he started to learn guitar with me. He wasn’t especially motivated or naturally talented, but we began studying 'Let’s Rock', then Debut, then Grade 1, and he stuck with it... now he plays everyday and is the lead guitarist in his own rock band."
Miguel plays the bass; backing up his guitar students at a school concert
Can you give us a brief explanation of your teaching business?
I am the owner as well as one of the senior guitar teachers at Rock School Coruña. I teach electric guitar from Rockschool Debut all the way up to Performance Diploma level. I currently deliver 30 hours of individual and group lessons per week alone with many more staff doing the same of a variety of instruments. It's infectious to see how proud each of our teachers are every time we see a student reach a new benchmark. Around 90% of our students are retained right the way through our course, which is a big achievement for me and the staff.Come Together! Footage from the latest school concert (March '19)
How long have you been using Rockschool, and why has it worked for you?
This is going to be my seventh year teaching Rockschool. I can't believe how fast it's gone. This all started when I began working alone with my first small academy, teaching guitar to local kids. Right now, I have 14 music teachers on staff working with me and I'd happily take on more given the amount of students we're taking on ever year. From such a tiny operation, it's hard to believe we have over 10 teaching rooms, across two floors, in operation every single day. People have always loved the Rockschool books and the exams really focus the mind at each stage of their development.
All Smiles! A young Ukulele student, encouraged by Miguel, performs with friends
What’s your favourite performance piece to teach, and how does it improve your learners?
From the level 1 grades [Debut - Grade 3] I love to teach 'Get Off'. Students love this tune, and as a tutor it's a perfect example to introduce riffing, chord changes and early soloing. From level 2 [Grade 4 - 5] my favourite has to be 'The Boys are Back in Town' because it introduces a fast tempo'd swing with seventh chords, modal interchange and an interesting rhythm to test your reading skills, all in one track. Plus, it's just one of those classic-rock tracks that everyone loves to play. Finally, from Level 3 [Grade 6 - 8] 'Mind the Gaps' is a beautiful composition full of interesting and advanced teaching points. Whether it's Guitar, Bass or Drums being learnt, this is a great track to measure yourself against.
Dan from XYZ Drum Academy raises his sticks for a run-through of 'Mind the Gaps'
What’s your favourite test (sight reading, improv etc) to teach, and why is it important for your learners?
I love the improvisation tests from Grades 4 and 5. It’s a very dynamic way to instil this vital skills into music students. If your goal is to get young players to gradually understand their role in a band, or even in a recording session, this is an ideal exercise to learn how to play with other musicians.
Thank you Coruña! A budding drums student takes centre stage for a round of applause
What’s your favourite learner success story?
There are so many great stories from over the years, but I do have one student who comes to mind. He was only 7 years old when he begun to learn guitar with me. He wasn’t especially motivated or naturally talented, but we began studying 'Let’s Rock', then Debut, then Grade 1. He stuck with it and became more determined as his playing improved. Last year he passed grade 5 with a mark of 86, and now he plays everyday, and is the lead guitar player in his own rock band. He can’t wait to begin studying grade 6!
What musician(s) inspired you to start playing, and why?
I was inspired by the classic rock guitar players like Jeff Beck, Richie Blackmore, Brian May, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai etc. I must have watched the Guitar Legends Concert over a hundred times! I still remember how mesmerised I was by the different techniques and styles each guitarist had. From then on I knew that I wanted to learn how to do that. I wanted to find my own style of playing.
Steve Vai is joined by Brian May at the legendary Expo '92 concert in Seville
Finally, do you have any goals for the future of your teaching business?
I always want to improve the quality of lesson that I'm giving to each of my students. The information, the delivery, the analysis - all of these things can be improved - you're never a perfect teacher. Every student is different too, so it's important to change your approach for the type of person you have in front of you. I also want to embrace new technologies. Of course the next generation are going to more receptive to interactive digital tools, but there are also many ways to improve your effectiveness as a teacher with tech support. Just because you teach, doesn't mean you should stop learning!
We'd like to thank Miguel and the Rock School Coruña team for taking the time to help us put this together. Hopefully, you've found this a really inspiring insight into how teaching can have such a huge effect on a local area, anywhere in the world.
If you'd like to nominate yourself, a music teacher you know, or even an entire school for a new chapter of Rockschool Stories, click on the button below and drop us a message!