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.
One thought on “JOHN SUTHERLAND – MY TEACHER AND FRIEND”
Hi Luther, Just today I browsed the Internet to connect with any updates I could find about my
special guitar teacher of long ago. I recently pulled out my beautiful Barbero Guitar that my
teacher John Sutherland convinced me to purchase during lessons with hime Atlanta. That was
in the 70’s! I was a newly trained Music Therapist with a dream come true job in Atlanta. I used my
folk guitar skills with my clients but had always wanted to play the guitar beyond strumming chords
and a few arpeggios. I had a Bachelor Degree in Piano and decided to take classical lessons at the little store I had visited. Well John convinced me to ‘invest in the best.’ So I took the challenge and bought the nice guitar and began a long, long relationship with a teacher and friend. He was so humble, so sensitive, inspiring, accepting and always fun. His small shop had everything and people were in and out all the time. He made everyone feel welcome. No ‘classical’ persona in this one!
I did not know that John had passed until today. All the memories are flooding in and tears flow for
that special time in my life. I am now retired and live in northern Virginia. After several years as a clinical music therapist in Atlanta I attended the University of Georgia for a Master’s. I loved that John was there and continued with some guitar lessons. A special connection with John involved
his sweet wife. She and I had been undergraduate music majors together in North Carolina! It was a great addition to each of their lives. She was bright, beautiful, open, giving and an excellent pianist. They complemented each other beautifully.
While at UGA John was generous again and let me attend classes and activities in his department. The most generous gift was an invite to be a part of the Christopher Parkening Master Class.
John had introduced me to Christopher’s recordings in my early lessons with him.
So as you can see, my heart is pouring out a stream of memories. Hope you don’t mind
the length of this ’email.’ There are those who touch our lives deeply and provide a frame work
for living with purpose and generosity. Certainly my life and I am sure, yours also, have been
lived and shared from the lessons and example of this one. I feel fortunate and blessed that my path crossed the benevolent journey of John Sutherland. His principles and example have given the world
teachers who care, who practice, and who share their talents with integrity and honesty.
In gratitude and sweet memories, Gerri