My long time teacher and friend John Sutherland recently celebrated a number of milestones: his 75th birthday, his 39th wedding anniversary with B.J. Sutherland, and 41 years teaching guitar at the University of Georgia. It is hard to put into words what studying with John Sutherland has meant to me both personally and professionally. I first met John in Bozeman, Montana in the summer of 1993 and in the spring of 2011 I finished my third, and final, degree with him at UGA, a DMA. After 19 years of studying with him, with time off between degrees, I am still developing artistically and technically thanks to his instruction. John has an extraordinarily musical mind and a very poignant teaching style that assists students in cutting through, and then eliminating, drivel. Going through the de-driveling process was hard for me but, thankfully, I recognized that it was necessary. From my first lesson with John I knew that he was the right teacher for me. In my last lesson for the DMA I walked away with new ideas and challenges for artistic growth. I find it remarkable that over the years John’s teaching has always remained fresh and vital.
It is impossible to overstate the benefits of having studied with John Sutherland. I owe just about every college teaching job that I’ve had to him as well as, on some level, every professional engagement. Most importantly, studying with John has taught me to how be honest with myself, how to think critically, think artistically, and accomplish my goals. This for me is John’s true lesson.