Musician, artist, author, and teacher Dave Isaacs has spent more than 30 years growing a successful music business. His teaching studio, Nashville Guitar Guru, offers private and group lessons, workshops, and speaking engagements. Dave shares in The Creative Push how he is able to help people learn the skills and confidence it takes to play music better.
Dave started his musical journey in New York before moving to Nashville more than 15 years ago. Before coming to Music City, he was performing in a regionally successful band that had a distribution deal with a label based out of New Orleans. He was a successful solo musician who sold several albums of his own, and taught a steady stream of kids how to play guitar.
Dave had his eye on Nashville for several years, visiting the city before finally deciding to relocate. He felt that such a move would push his career forward, and he established some strong relationships before heading south. When he and his wife made the move in 2005, he already had live gigs set up with bands around town as he settled into his new Nashville home. He knew he had to find ways to generate a steady income using his skills, so he took on most any job that came along while networking within the music scene.
“I got to Nashville and thought, well I’m in a new city, I need income and I’ve got multiple skill sets. I can teach, I can play for other people, I can perform myself so let me dive in.” – Dave Issacs
As he mentions in his interview, a scheduling conflict forced Dave to decide between keeping a scheduled guitar lesson or attending a band audition. This moment of choice was pivotal for Dave, as it changed his career path.
Dave was playing gigs, co-writing songs, and even played piano for an improv comedy show. At the time, he also was teaching music lessons for five different instruments at a music store. It didn’t take long for him to notice how much he enjoyed teaching. Seeing just how good he was at helping other students hone their skills, he began expanding on what he could offer as a teacher.
Dave observed a disconnect with how people in the music industry communicated with one another. It seemed they often lacked the ability to express where their style and sound intersected at a deeper level. He noted frustration amongst his students who struggled to match their art with what they stylistically envisioned.
“I kept meeting singers that needed to accompany themselves. I kept meeting songwriters who were unhappy with their demos because it sounded good but it was different than what they imagined. There was this whole thing about being able to communicate your vocabulary that was missing.” – Dave Isaacs
Dave wanted to teach more than just how to play an instrument. He wanted to educate others about musicality, vocabulary, and how cohesively they all work together. He wanted to give songwriters the ability to play their instruments in a way that allowed them to express their vision and communicate it to others emotionally.
“Some people have this whole symphony in their heads but when they go and play and sing they are only able to share what their hands know how to do. I started to notice there was a disconnect with what they envisioned with their music versus what their ability to communicate their vision to their audience.” – Dave Isaacs
For several years, he taught full time in the music department at Tennessee State University. He also worked part time in the audio production department at the Art Institute of Tennessee, teaching music theory and critical listening. His experience in a disciplined college setting allowed him to polish his teaching techniques. In 2013 he decided that he wanted to teach music on his own terms, so the Nashville Guitar Guru business was born.
Dave’s hard work over the past seven years has paid off. His company has grown, and his online lessons are offered via teleconferencing to students all over the world. The Nashville Guitar Guru YouTube channel has reached over 20K followers. In 2019, his devoted fanbase helped successfully finance a GoFundMe campaign to publish his book, “The Perpetual Beginner.” The book—which Dave explains is a musical manifesto of sorts— continues to sell on Amazon. It showcases his New York musical experiences in the 80’s, intertwined with the zen of keeping a strong musical instruction mindset.
This online presence also paid off in 2020, as so many other musicians lost their livelihood due to COVID-19’s economic shutdown. He was in a fortunate position to move his business almost entirely online. Through the pandemic, he has put most of his energy into creating new internet content. Today, The Nashville Guitar Guru YouTube channel generates multiple streams of steady revenue.
With all of the free time the pandemic has allowed, Dave is grateful for the opportunity to create things he had hoped he could do for a very long time. He has noticed a shift in his thinking, and has become more inquisitive. Wanting to learn more, he has embarked on a new creative journey.
“I find myself listening to a record I’ve listened to a thousand times and all of a sudden the drums are blowing my mind so I listen to it over and over and over, counting along with the drums. – Dave Isaacs
Last year, Dave created a new book of sheet music entitled “5 Etudes for Solo Guitar.” He wanted to make learning fun by changing up the music exercises he was teaching students. Dave also shares his unique style of teaching through content he provides for Jamplay, and designs 60-70 lessons a year for their platform.
“More people pay attention to me as a teacher than I ever had as a musician” – Dave Isaacs
For the future, Dave wants to produce more books and learning materials. He is currently writing additional Nashville Guitar Guru publications that expand students’ skill sets. He also plans to offer more instructional videos and resources to create an online community.
To many local artists, David has become the ideal mentor. His talent and perspective have been key to enhancing the joy made in making music. Locally he also offers additional services with recording, guitar & music tracking, production, arrangement, charting, and performance coaching.
“I am a musician who teaches other people how to play music better and as a creative, I am trying to create music that makes people want to play it.” -Dave Isaacs
For more information about Dave Isaacs, be sure to visit his website.
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