Note: We first met Kyle Chapman in the feature story about 6-year-old guitarist and Beatles fan King Tobias. Kyle is King’s guitar teacher. In this piece, Kyle talks about his band, Fir Drive, and the recently released debut album, ‘The Block EP’, along with his dreams of seeing a thriving music scene in every community in the United States.
LOS BANOS, CALIFORNIA – When Kyle Chapman isn’t busy teaching guitar lessons, the 19-year-old college student is performing in the band Fir Drive.
“I’ve been in Fir Drive for a year now,” Chapman said. “So far, we’ve recorded and released our debut album entitled “The Block EP” and played shows across the central valley and bay area of California.”
About Fir Drive
Chapman describes the band and its stylistic elements:
“We’re a five piece group with a female front woman, Vanessa Lovato. Everyone in the band is such a great musician and super fun to hang out with. The music we play can be generally classified as alternative rock, but there are elements of so many styles within our songs. It has honestly been such a great experience for everyone seeing our songs start as a little jam in the garage to being commercially available through iTunes, Spotify, and Pandora for everyone to enjoy.”
Chapman credits his success to his music education, which started in 2013:
“My experience in music education started when I opened Chapman’s Guitar Lesson in the summer of 2013. I had taught lessons to friends before that time, but never on a professional level. I currently run a studio of about 25 guitar students and they are all phenomenal,” he said.
Chapman said his education is ongoing, because he learns from his students:
“Teaching guitar has been the absolute coolest job in the world. For one, it’s pretty meaningful to see people get better each week and be able to express themselves on their instrument. It’s especially cool to see people come back and show me pieces of music that they’ve written. To know that I enabled someone’s creativity and growth on that sort of level is one of the finest feelings in the world.”
He continued, “Second, I learn from teaching. It’s almost like being paid to practice. The songs I learn to teach to other people end up being a part of my own repertoire which is priceless to have as a gigging guitarist. Sometimes it’s actually somewhat challenging to keep up with my students. For instance, my student King Tobias learns a new Beatles song practically every week so I definitely keep busy.”
Lack of music education funding
As Chapman immerses himself in music as both a musician and teacher to others, he expresses concern at the lack of music education funding and support.
“There is definitely a dearth of music education funding in my community. This lack of funding is not only in the public school system, but also in the private sector as well. It’s a shame. There are a lot of things that play into this lack of musical training, but in my opinion one of the biggest factors is that people choose to spend their money on things like Xbox’s, Playstations, and iPhones rather than musical instruments.”
He continued. “From a parental perspective, (technology) is definitely the safer bet: Which product will keep their child occupied for longer? An Xbox which requires no training or discipline to use, or a guitar which requires lessons and hard work to learn how to play? The child may not stick with the guitar, but it’s not hard to get a kid to play video games. The only kids that do end up taking lessons and playing an instrument are the parents who see the value in it.”
Chapman said that the inclination for some parents to spend money on technological gadgets for their children, rather than musical instruments, creates a vicious cycle wherein music and music education is not valued, or even considered as an alternative. For Chapman, the remedy to this situation involves taking action.
‘People are too comfortable’
“The only way it’s going to get turned around is by people getting off of their couches and playing music,” he said. “There are enough musicians around the country for there to be a thriving music scene in every community, so why isn’t there one everywhere you go? People are too comfortable watching Netflix and playing Call of Duty to get out of their houses and create music. It’s something we need to overcome as a society. There are other economic factors as well, but I think comfort is the enemy to creativity.”
Getting past the fear of failure
Chapman encourages music students who are just starting out to persevere, and to not worry about making mistakes.
“I think the most important thing you can teach a kid is that it’s totally fine to mess up. Kids are so scared of failing nowadays and don’t even want to try new things because they feel they’ll look stupid, or they’ll get in trouble or something bad will happen. Half of the time my students have a problem learning anything new it’s simply because they don’t think they are capable. The fact of the matter is that you have to fail. You have to fall flat on your face and chip your teeth on the pavement to really learn anything. Ask any expert in any field and they’ll tell you this.”
Along with not being afraid of failure, Chapman said children should learn that exploration is permissible.
‘Exploration and experimentation is acceptable’
“The other thing that needs to be instilled in young kids is that exploration and experimentation is acceptable,” he said. “Education is a subjective experience, and too often educators of all sorts objectify it. There are a ridiculous amount of parameters and goals on things that hinder the potential of the individual.”
For more seasoned musicians, Chapman also has advice:
“One thing that is easy to do that inspires music education is for people who already play music to jam. Just jam, with no agenda, no objective, just have fun. People will see that and want to join. It’s human nature,” he said.
Supporting music education via social media
Chapman would like to see the cause of music education and support spread far and wide, and he suggests the Internet as an outlet to spread the message to communities in hopes that they, too, will support their local music scenes and musicians:
“The simplest and easiest thing people can do to keep music education in the awareness of the public is to share these articles on social media. It’s totally free of charge and gets the information out there. Also, donations don’t hurt either,” he said.
Sara Stromseth-Troy is a freelance newspaper feature writer for The Cresco Times Plain Dealer, and serves as Young Adult Librarian and manages the social media accounts for The Cresco Public Library. Fortunate to grow up surrounded by an extended family of music educators, she is honored to volunteer in blog writing and social media for The Spirit of Harmony Foundation. She lives in Cresco, Iowa.