What Students Are Saying

Beginner  |  Intermediate  |  Advanced

** Testimonials from 2024 Student Concert **

Click here see the full performances of our Summer Student Concert.

For more student performances and student albums, click here.

** Beginners **

“The Lessons are Really Fun as Well as Challenging”

“I started [taking lessons] knowing nothing, and I think I’ve really progressed a lot, and it was probably more than I thought I could be doing at this point.  So I’m very happy about that.

I like singing and I thought if I could play along to my own things, I thought it could be fun.  But after starting the lessons, I’ve actually learned that I also like to play the melody as well.  So I think that’s been a new challenge for me, but it’s been fun. So I’ve been learning both standard notation and tab.  So three parts of my lessons are chords, tabs, and standard notation reading, and all three parts have been really fun as well as challenging.  But I think I’ve been learning a lot.

What I like is that we do a lot of songs, and songs that I know.  I learned maybe 20-30 songs, and that’s not something that I expected when I started, so I like that now I can play songs that I know.” – Heeyon Kim

(Edit: Heeyon is now celebrating her 3rd anniversary with Guitar Lessons Ithaca and can play literally hundreds of songs, read complex standard notation charts, and accompany herself singing.  She has participated in several events such as student albums and recitals.)

“Dennis gave me a real foundation of where to start.”

“I had my first lesson with Dennis exactly a month ago and I’m pretty confident in my chord switching and I know mostly all the chords.  I would watch YouTube videos by myself and try to figure out what to do, and it just is tough, not knowing exactly where to start.  So going with Dennis gave me like a real foundation of where I should start.  And Dennis’ teaching style seems to be working for me.  In [only] a month I can play chords, and we just played “Wish You Were Here” together, and [the lessons are] working for me, so I don’t see why [they] wouldn’t work for anyone else.” – Mark Shaw

“The progress [I am making] is very obvious.”

“I’ve been trying to teach myself guitar since I was 16 and I finally committed to taking lessons and I’ve gotten a lot better very quickly. The best part is when I notice breakthroughs where I no longer struggle with things I used to find difficult. The progress is very obvious because I can now start to teach myself things and play songs. I would definitely recommend Guitar Lessons Ithaca because learning guitar can be daunting and the teachers there are super chill and encouraging.” – Taylor Volmrich

“You can start to play immediately.”

“I would recommend Guitar Lessons Ithaca because you learn to play music a lot quicker than with the old style lessons of starting at the very basics and repeating over and over again.  I like the format, [which is] a little more informal, not focused on repetition of the mundane doing, you know, scales over and over and over again, under the old belief that you’ve got to start at the very basics and settle the foundation groundwork before you can actually advance.  From the very beginning introductory lesson, you have a basic tabs song that you can start to play immediately and it makes it a lot more enjoyable.  Now I’ve got a few different simpler tab songs that I can actually play as well as my repertoire of chords is improving.  My ability to change chords is improving.” – Dee MacLeod

“I have more of a structure of what I should be practicing.”

“[As a result of taking lessons] I have a better understand of chords, soloing, and guitar theory as a whole.  I have more of a structure of what I should be practicing and how I should be practicing it.  I definitely would recommend guitar lessons here because I’ve feel like I’ve gained a lot of knowledge.” – Colton Turcotte

“I’m very excited about how much I can play now.”

“I just started learning guitar a month ago, and Dennis has been a great teacher.  I’m very excited about how much I can play now. One of my goals was to play Jason Mraz songs, and after working with Dennis for one month, I can play one of my favorite songs, Life is Wonderful.” – Yue Li

** Intermediate Players **

“Taking lessons has been a very valuable experience.”

I’ve played in 2 recitals & 2 student albums [with Guitar Lessons Ithaca] and I feel like my playing has improved significantly.  To perform live takes a lot of steps, with learning the melody & solo, chords, rhythm, etc. I wrote original songs for each album and played one at each recital, and I found those experiences to be really valuable.

[I really like] applying what I have learned [in the lessons]. My chord vocabulary, picking speed, fretboard theory, music theory, and ear training have all improved from taking lessons. I have referred 2 other students to take lessons [at the School] and we jam together sometimes, and the way that we play songs together [now] has a higher quality to it.

Taking guitar lessons [here] has been a valuable experience.” – Chad Pennington, now celebrating 3 years as a student

“Dennis is the real deal.”

“I’ve always wanted to pick up the guitar. I want to take lessons because I’m the type of person that does well with a lot of structure, and I knew that if I had a teacher and one-on-one lessons [I’d be] more likely be committed to the process than if I was doing it alone.

Dennis is a great teacher, one of the best music teachers I’ve ever had. He is passionate, he is committed, he is inspiring, and I feel like every time I take a lesson with him, it’s tailored towards my needs.  And he’s very flexible.  I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would become as passionate as I am about playing the guitar since I started taking lessons with Dennis.

Dennis has all the characteristics of a master teacher.  He has a thought-out plan for each lesson, adapts to students’ needs, is patient, has a good sense of humor, and is innovative.  The amount that I learned from Dennis in the first 3 months was more than I learned in 3 years with my former teacher.  Dennis is the real deal.

I’ve learned how to practice, I’ve learned a ton of theory, my ability to play by ear has gotten better; my chord vocabulary is way more expansive, and I have a system now for learning things.

I feel way more confident playing in front of people, and in groups. I’m even part of a band now, which is a great accomplishment.  I enjoy playing out with other people now, and I think that’s a tribute to the way that Dennis teaches.  Everything I do is fun, and my passion for guitar is unwavering.  I’ve been unwavering for the past 5 years.” – Hilary Greenberger (now celebrating 7 years as a student).

“Before starting lessons at Guitar Lesson Ithaca, I had the goal of being able to play out with my wife who’s also a musician, and I’m at the level now where we could pick up a gig and play an hour or two, and that’s very transformative. I sometimes have really big breakthroughs during the lessons, especially when certain songs don’t have tab or seem too difficult. There’s a lot of songs that I wouldn’t have thought I could play and GLI has really helped me elevate my game.” – Joey Durgin, now celebrating 2 years as a student, and also won the Student of the Year Award in January 2024.

“The lessons can make you realize how much you are capable of.”

“My favorite part of the lesson is that its very focused on where I want to be musically, like what I need, and I really like that it’s not some like generic lesson.  And I really like the personal touch that comes with the lesson. You know, it makes it more entertaining and it makes it more effective.  It makes me feel like I want to go to lessons because I’m going to be learning what I want to learn. I’m going to be learning something that’s like specifically designed for me.

I’m not trying to be a musician here.  I’m just trying to learn and have fun at the same time, and be able to play a few of the songs that I really enjoy.  And Dennis helps with planning, goal setting, which is one of my most favorite parts, because it helps me think about what kind of skills I should prioritize.  And there’s these like fun events like recitals, and student albums.  It allows me to really practice one of my favorite songs or maybe like a few of my favorite songs at a time, and helps me be really good at that, and that alone kind of, looking back, makes me realize how far I have come.

If you feel like you are getting stuck in your musical journey and you need someone to just like give you a nudge and help you get a perspective of like what you could become.  I didn’t imagine myself that I would be able to do the things that I can do now.  Guitar lessons Ithaca can really transform your musical journey, and it can make you realize how much you are capable of.” – Gaurav Gawali

“It means a lot to me that he pushed me to get this far.”

“So I started taking lessons with Dennis a couple years ago, and on my first lesson, one of the first things he asked me was something like, “What do you want to be able to do with a guitar?” And…what I said was, “I want to be able to write songs for a group and sort of play them with a band.  A week ago, three other guys I’ve been playing with, we played a two-set show with about a dozen originals.   Five or six of them were mine, and it was one of the funnest things I’ve ever done.  And its taken a lot of work.

Dennis has helped me become a better guitarist and a better song writer, and I just cant tell you…  It means a lot to me that he pushed me to get this far, so mission accomplished!

One thing that happens to me when I take lessons is I have very specific things to practice that really helps me along.  When I don’t have lessons, I play a lot of guitar, but I don’t know how much it moves me forward.  But when I have specific things to work on week to week, you can just feel yourself getting better.” – Adam Bauchner (celebrating 2 years as a student)

“I learned more in 2 years of lessons than 11 years on my own.”

“I’m [now] able to move around the [guitar] neck much more comfortably, I’m able to follow whatever inspiration strikes me much more easily, play with others more comfortably. I’ve now done 2 recitals and [soon I will have done] 2 student albums. [I can also] play by ear and transcribe my favorite songs. [I like] the direction that [lessons] give me, and I’ve learned more about guitar in 2 years [of lessons] than I did in 11 years on my own.” – Taylor Moon, now celebrating 2 years as a student

“Feeling like ‘I got this!’ is the best part.”

“The ability to kind of pick up lessons wherever you left off, I think was something that I really appreciated.  I didn’t want to come in and have someone trying to re-explain everything that I already knew; I had a really solid foundation.  It’s sort of a building process.

You learn…a new song or a new scale, and then be able to use it not feel scared to use it.  Feeling like, “I got this!” type of thing; that’s the best part. So for me, playing Peg by Steely Dan was a big goal, and hitting that goal was a big milestone so that was a really awesome thing.” – Liam Conway

“My enthusiasm for playing has really increased a lot.”

“I have really enjoyed my lessons with Dennis because he is so open and responsive to things that I want to learn. He has a whole system I know of teaching guitar, and yet he is flexible enough and adaptable enough to answer a wide range of questions which I always have for him.

Beyond that, he has also a wealth of experience as a performer so he can be a real source of inspiration and support for the art of performing which is more and beyond just being able to play.

So the change in my guitar playing, and enthusiasm for playing has really increased a lot.  Dennis kind of unlocks the door that I have not opened before.” – Art Godin

“I hear a song and I can start figuring out how to play it.”

“I moved to Ithaca by myself, started my PhD while living alone, and I knew the PhD would be really stressful, so I thought it would be good to kind of force myself to do something non-academic at least once a week. I [didn’t] really play guitar, a little bit, but I thought it might be good to get back into it and learn a skill besides just reading and being on the computer all day.

[Before starting lessons,] when I wanted to play a song, I just had to look up the tab and I didn’t really understand the structure of songs, and didn’t really understand the theory behind the song.  [It was hard to] understand how to play songs that I didn’t look up.  And now I feel like I’m starting to understand all that.  And I can improvise, and I hear a song andstart figuring out how to play it, and that was not something I could have done before I started [lessons].” – Kara Andres

“I am able to apply my knowledge.”

“I really love how each lesson is sort of tailored to my current progress like every week.  There’s different kinds of weekly goals, and I think that really helps me to keep track of my progress so that I wouldn’t just be repeating the same old stuff over and over again.

I think I’ve improved a lot actually throughout these months at Guitar Lessons Ithaca.  I went from not knowing the scales; the minor pentatonic, the major pentatonic, and not to mention the minor and major scales, to knowing how to play these scales in different positions, so that I’m able to apply this knowledge when I’m improvising to different kinds of backing tracks in different genres.

So I think that’s a very big improvement and always something that I wanted to do for a long time.  It’s really fun to be able to improvise with other musicians who also play the same instrument, who also like share the same passions for a certain genre of music.

Every single time [you take a lesson], you…learn a new concept that you’re not familiar with, and understand this concept very clearly.  Because Dennis explains every concept so clearly, and he incorporates practice within the lessons really seamlessly, so that’s the biggest reason you learn really quickly.” – Sam Sun

“I’ve had nothing but good experiences here and my playing has improved immensely.”

“Over the last 2 years, my playing has improved immensely.  When I solo, it sounds far more musical now, and I also use a wider harmonic vocabulary.  I generally feel way more confident jamming with other people, which was of my big initial goals.  I also like the opportunities for me to jam with others in the monthly jam session and in the student concert and student album as well.  My favorite part of the lessons is when we get to apply what we learn.  I would definitely recommend Guitar Lessons Ithaca for anyone who wants to improve as a guitar player or even more generally as a musician.” – Ameen Ismail, currently celebrating 2 years as a student.

“Dennis has been a Godsend.”

Dennis is a very joyful teacher.  He’s funny, and there’s a lot of laughing, but yet we’re working very hard too.  And he seems to know right where each of us is, and what to give us next.  And so he’s already moved me forward more than I was a month ago. So he just knows what we each need.” – Barbara Alden

“I’ve gotten to a point where I was kind of stalled.  I’ve played for four to five years, and I was not getting anyplace.  I came and found Dennis, and he’s been a Godsend.  We can pursue the path that we want, and it’s not a linear lesson.  Dennis is good about letting us go down the path we want to do.  He guides us that way, shows us all the little tips and tricks to get it done.

I like watching him play every once in awhile, and think, ‘Man, I would really like to play just one fraction of that good someday.’ ” – Tim Wakeman

“I have improved a 1000%.”

I feel that I have improved like 1000%.  And like there’s things that I could only dream of doing that I’m doing now.  And that’s all because of [Guitar Lessons Ithaca].  Before I took lessons with Dennis, I didn’t know how to play in time, and how to switch chords without stopping, hesitating between them.  So I’ve been writing songs lately, and it’s been helping me express myself in a way that I never was able to before… It’s just a super beautiful feeling to be able to express what I want to express in music, and to my own music.” – Jacob Rosenthal

“I always wanted to learn how to improvise.”

“[Before taking lessons] I watched YouTube videos for about a month or two, just kind of trying to figure out some basics of guitar, not really with any direction to it I guess.  So I thought it would be nice to have somebody that kind of would give me some direction, and that’s when I started looking into taking lessons.

I always wanted to learn how to improvise.  I learned how to do the minor pentatonics and I’m working on the major pentatonics, and… it all sounds good in the context of the song, and I’m sure that as I take more lessons and practice more, I’ll start to be able to understand a little bit more of what I’m playing.  So I think being able to improvise pretty early on in guitar lessons is something that I’ve learned that I didn’t know before.” – Taylor Anderson

“Before you know it, you’ve learned something new.”

“[Dennis] keeps it interesting and challenging.  Like, it’s not the same boring stuff over and over again.  And he breaks it down.  If you have a really hard time with something, he can break it down for you, so you can master it, and then you feel really accomplished.” – Kaye Harrington

Dennis is very good at motivating you to learn, and a lot of times it would be very easy for me to just want to keep doing the same thing over and over again.  But he’s very good at finding ways to kind of help gently push you and encourage you to try new things, and then before you know it, you’ve learned something new.  I came with some kind of rudimentary skills, and they’re all better.  I can play notes better, I can play chords better, I can play more chords. I’ve been learning how to do some soloing, which has been fun.” – Brian Collins

“I am pleased with what I have accomplished.”

“I would describe Dennis as very adaptive. I think that we all learn in different ways, and I’m someone that in some areas responds very well to structure, but you know Dennis also allows for a certain amount of flexibility to keep me engaged and learning.  I think that that element of it works for a lot of people.

When I first started, I hadn’t played at all, so I don’t think I have a lot of context to truly appreciate Dennis’ approach, which I understand to be unique. But I am pleased with what I’ve accomplished in the few months that I’ve been playing.  I know a couple songs I enjoy and can strum along, but also you know, I’m learning some of the more technical skills behind it, and he’s kind of still moving me along.” – Matt Del Buono

“I’m having a great time on the guitar.”

“When I first came to Dennis I knew a lot of things (chords, picking, soloing techniques) but I didn’t know how to put any of it together, and I had so many bad habits, it was horrible!  I couldn’t play with anybody because I couldn’t play songs in rhythm.  Now, with steady guidance from Dennis, I have my own band and have been going to jam sessions.  Overall I’m having a great time on the guitar.”  – Dan Wisneski, student for 5 years

“I’m proud of my accomplishments.”

“I absolutely recommend Dennis Winge as a guitar teacher. When I first started thinking about playing jazz I had no idea where to begin, although I was an experienced rock guitarist. It was great to learn how to use what I already knew as well as learn new things in an easy and fun way.  We went over my goals in detail when I first started and now I am happy to say I have accomplished almost all of them.

One of the biggest goals I had was to be able to play a song’s melody and chords at the same time. Now, not only do I have a few of those memorized, but I also understand the process of how to do it. Recently I wrote out and played a tune I like on my own with only very little help and I will be able to take that skill with me for the rest of my life. I am proud of my accomplishments and none of them would have been possible without Dennis’ help.” – Andrew

“I’m having a blast while getting better!”

“Dennis is an outstanding teacher. I have found him to be very knowledgeable, patient, and fun to work with. His teaching method is very effective, in that weak spots become apparent, without the student being discouraged. A plan to improve is mapped out which is also very effective. There are no shortcuts, but the hard work pays off. The great thing is, I am having a blast while getting better!” – Dave

** Advanced Players **

“Just being able to play the music I like is really awesome.”

Coming to Guitar Lessons Ithaca has moved me pretty far when it comes to playing jazz. It’s great being able to play the songs that I like that I never thought I’d be able to play; just being able to play the music I like is really awesome. Getting to play songs with the teacher and feeling good about your playing, as well as getting specific feedback is really helpful. I think that whatever your goals are on guitar, you can achieve them at Guitar Lessons Ithaca.

“I’m very empowered to go play music.”

“I was very stuck in certain patterns on the guitar neck. So it was very hard for me to visualize the guitar neck all over the place.  This program is really helping me to visualize the guitar neck better. I’m starting to understand musical harmony and theory now and how the notes and chords all relate to each other.

I’m gigging out about 10 gigs a month for the next few months, yes. And I can play songs ’til the cows come home, like a lot of guitar players who are in bands like me.  But to understand what you’re doing and to really understand the guitar, you need some kind of program.  There’s so many of us guitar players out there that are, like I said that play in bands that can play songs, go to YouTube and learn licks, but to put it all together in a real musical format, that’s what I feel like this program is doing. I feel like I’m going to love taking guitar class, like GIT or something, that’s how I picture it.

When I’m done playing here, I’m very empowered to go play music. Very motivated. So, it’s more than notes and its more than scales. There’s just so much more to music than just that.  I like this spiritual and the zen part of this too that I don’t see, I haven’t seen in other teachers.  So that’s an important part of music.

Dennis is able to really break it down to the bare minimum and get me down to a point where I feel like I’ve gotten that, and I can move back up again. That makes me feel good and that’s a super important part of the program.” – Dan Paolangeli (now celebrating 2 years as a student)

“I am more inspired because I have a direction.”

“I’ve improved a lot. I actually, since taking lessons I know that I’ve improved a lot on my soloing ability, which is the main reason why I set out to take them.  But also, I think some of my rhythm technique has gotten better, also.

One reason why I would recommend Dennis to teach guitar is that he can give you help with determining where you need to go and give you a way to get there.

I am more inspired to practice because I feel like I have a direction.  Well, I like going in and not knowing exactly what’s going to happen, and I enjoy a challenge.

…The recital was good fun. It was great seeing all the other guitarists and how much they’ve learned.  There are some very talented guitarists which just goes to show even if you’re very talented, you need to take lessons.  Lessons do good for you.” – Wayne Gottlieb (celebrating 2 years as a student)

“The lessons are both interesting and challenging.”

“Dennis is wonderful at helping me accomplish the goals I’ve set for myself and I highly recommend him as a music teacher…Dennis work[s] with me to help develop my skills with jazz.  He makes lessons both interesting and challenging yet never leaves me feeling discouraged or feeling that that something is too difficult.

“I’m not going to waste my time going to anybody that’s not really good because I want to get the best that I can get, for the time I’ve put in and that type of thing.

Dennis has a lot of, not only experience teaching, but also experience with jazz and experience performing, so he can help me with a lot of different roadblocks that come up that a lot of other people can’t.

I love that he gives me many strategies for learning new pieces, for developing my ear, and for improving my competence as a jazz musician (rhythmically, technically, harmonically, etc).  I especially like that everything we work at gets applied in the context of playing real tunes – nothing is ever given in isolation without going on to the application of the skill during the lesson.  I’ve been working with Dennis for 5 years now and continue to look forward to each lesson with him.” – Michele Gordon

“It’s been very rewarding for me.”

“[Years ago I] did the Fairfield County, NYC kind of club circuit, and play in jam band type; Allman Brothers, Grateful Dead, Traffic stuff.  Though I hadn’t played in a band in you know, 20 years, and played the guitar less and less, would look at it and go, “Aww, I used to be pretty good at that thing.” But you know, I played rock and blues as this sort of narrow focus, was okay at it, but I’ve always liked jazz and could never ever really get my head around what playing jazz guitar meant.

Dennis very quickly ascertained what I did know and did not know about guitar, and quickly developed very technical approaches to kind of fill in the gaps to where he thought I wanted to be in terms of my jazz guitar playing. One thing I’ll always remember is I showed up for my first lesson and I brought with me my big giant book of chords and jazz chords, and Dennis says, “Put that away, you’ll never need that again”, and he’s absolutely right. I can look at a G13 flat 9 and I can figure out exactly what that means. I can look at a diminished chord.  I know exactly what a diminished chord means.

The thing we talk about is, as a jazz and blues guitarist I could play, you know, an E-blues against a 1-4-5 blues progression all day long, but that was very horizontal.  But now I’m learning what it means to play vertically where I’m playing against the specific chords that are happening in that moment, while still being true to the harmony and in the major scale or minor scale, what’s happening at the time, but being able to play in those pentatonics and arpeggios more vertically, and it’s been very rewarding for me.  My knowledge of guitar has increased so dramatically in a fairly short amount of time.” – Doug Olsen

“I’m in a better space in the things that matter most.”

“The best thing about coming here is, I came with ideas about where I was and where I needed to be, and Dennis’ input changed that for me.  I started to pay attention to things that I needed to pay attention to, and it actually made me a better guitarist.  I wouldn’t have caught it on my own.  There were little things that I wouldn’t have caught myself… [Now] I’m in a better space in the things that matter the most.

In the band I’m in where I play guitar, I’m putting to use the things that I’m doing here.  And I’m now able to keep the hand in this position and pick through a scale, which I wasn’t doing when we started.  So I’m right where I wanted to be.  That feels good.

I made a lot of work on speed, on precision I have to add that that right hand technique is everything.  Dennis is awesome.” – Sergio Pedro

“I’m able to do things I had been trying to do for years.”

“[I’m now] able to do some things that I had been trying to do for many years, so it’s been great… The lessons are a lot of fun and well-structured.  It’s not just learning a song, it’s learning the theory around it, so that you can use that [information and apply it to] other songs.  I think I’ve improved a fair amount….I’ve learned a lot of music theory, it’s been good.  Now [the lessons are] encouraging me to pick up the guitar and I play a lot more often.” – Jude Lemke

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