When Donnie Schexnayder was 8 years old, growing up in south Louisiana, he absolutely loved the band KISS; his musical tastes have evolved since then, but he used to sit on the floor in his room and play their records nonstop while staring at the album covers. The following Christmas, he got his first guitar and his father enrolled him in a group guitar class. It was a disaster…mostly because of a bad teacher only interested in taking their money. So he quit and didn’t pick up a guitar again until he was 18.
Donnie doesn’t remember the teacher’s name, but he definitely remembers how the teacher didn’t seem to care about his students. “He had no interest in me,” he recalls. But he learned a valuable lesson: how NOT to teach. “The tragedy is that some of those kids probably never picked up a guitar again. I only lost a decade.”
But he didn’t blame his dad. How could he? His father wasn’t a musician and that group guitar class was the only thing they could find. Fortunately, Donnie’s love for music didn’t die. For his 9th birthday, his parents took him to see KISS perform live. They were always very supportive of his musical pursuits.
When he was 14, he took money out of savings and bought a set of drums. He played for hours on end. You could hear the banging and thrashing blocks away, but his parents never told him to stop. This went on for three or four years, during which time he joined a couple of local bands.
After high school he attended music school in Lafayette, LA, where he was a percussion major. He lasted only one semester at college. “It was like being hit in the face with a shovel!” Donnie exclaimed. It reminded him of the guitar lessons he had such a bad experience with as a kid. The music program had nothing to do with his goals and desires; he was completely overwhelmed.
The music theory he learned was useful…and he learned some piano and was particularly interested in ear training…but there really wasn’t a place in that traditional music school for a rock drummer. He just didn’t fit in.
“I learned a valuable lesson from that experience,” explains Schexnayder, “that the most effective music lessons are tailored to what the student actually WANTS to learn…to keep their motivation level high…to make it a rewarding experience for them.”
After dropping out of music school, he was disillusioned. He borrowed a friend’s electric guitar and tried to start doing some songwriting. With the help of some friends, he picked up guitar pretty quickly and took some lessons whenever he had extra money.
Throughout that time, he studied with a variety of teachers and learned a lot about what worked and what didn’t. Additionally, his drumming provided him with a highly developed sense of rhythm and feel that gave an added edge to his guitar playing.
At 22, he became a youth minister at a church, where he developed a program around contemporary rock worship music. He led the band with his electric guitar and sang. Donnie says he felt a lot like the “Pied Piper” at that time: none of those teenagers had ever experienced anything like it and dozens of them started playing guitar.
This is where Donnie first started teaching guitar lessons. He went on to form other bands and released some original music; some of it can still be found on YouTube and iTunes.
Later on, he trained in IT and started working in that industry. He learned a lot about how a business works and gained some valuable administrative skills, which came in handy when he later owned and operated his own IT consulting business. He also dabbled in real estate investing. All of these combined experiences gave him the tools he needed to eventually start and grow his own guitar teaching business.
Donnie has taught guitar lessons successfully for the past several years and eventually created Start Teaching Guitar so he could share his knowledge and experience with other guitar teachers and help them become more successful, too.
Founder of Start Teaching Guitar & host of the STG podcast
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Photo by Seth Dufay Photography