We strive to help the students view their instruments as extensions of themselves and to feel confident that they can communicate through them. We don’t want students to just memorize rules. We want them to know the rules and then be able to consciously choose to follow or break them as they map their own life experiences in music.
Along with this approach comes the awareness that some people will feel overly vulnerable when asked to express themselves. We welcome the ‘I can’t do this’ students. With an intuitive sense of what’s blocking people from free self-expression, we nurture our students into surprising themselves. We never resort to empty praise and we don’t pull our punches in the pursuit of excellence, but our identity as teachers rests in a place of unwavering faith in each person’s creative potential.
It’s that faith that we’re actually teaching; music is just the means.
“I am not a teacher, but an awakener.” Robert Frost
Laura Shabazz (The Nurturer)
comes to Swan Music School from an eclectic background. As a child of single-digit ages, I set my life’s mission statement to “help people find their creativity,” sensing even at a tender age that creativity is inextricably tied to living a full and healthy life.
Her kind attitude and encouraging manner were relaxing, and I was able to enjoy the whole process.
― Student Maury Christie
I am the nurturer behind Swan, the one who keeps her lessons centered on personal expression and student-directed learning – and the one who teaches primarily private lessons. My commitment to self-expression comes from a longstanding interest in mental health and a devoted meditation practice, including certification from Banyan Education’s Spiritual Leadership Training program. My continued commitment to the creative process comes from experience in a range of disciplines in the fine and performing arts, including 13+ years of classical piano training, and work experience in interior design with a degree from Parsons The New School for Design.
After nearly 20 years spent teaching guitar, I have encountered an array of students and has developed my style ‘on the job.’ Using a flexible, intuitive approach, I target and loosens whatever holds someone back, from 70% deafness to a crippling fear of mistakes.
I am a Bernards High alum and have taught the Music In Somerset Hills (MISH) Guitar Camp in 2012 & 2013 at the high school. My mother, Andrea Skerratt, has been teaching piano in town for the last 35 years.
Shaheed Shabazz (The ambition)
behind Swan Music School. After teaching privately for a number of years, I decided to formalize his work into a full-fledged business with a website, newsletter, curriculum, and business plan. Constantly brainstorming new and better ways to run the business, reach people, and network, I am the propeller on Swan’s ship, always moving it forward. I have one rule when it comes to the guitar, you must have fun with it. If you are one of those rare people with the inability to have fun while learning to play, don’t call me. Yes, the guitar will take some work and can be frustrating at times but it’s your spirit of fun that will help you keep perspective and keep you playing. If it doesn’t bring you joy, you won’t play for long.
While teaching in NY I also taught guitar in an underserved school in the Bronx (Woman’s Academy Of Excellence) and at Saint Lukes Roosevelt Hospital’s Cares School for at risk teens.
My musical background is as a self-taught blues guitarist, spending hours systematically working and experimenting with a single note until I coaxed all possible sounds from it. My performance experience is widespread, having worked with several well-respected artists, including:
Davie Barns (harmonica master for Michael Hill Blues Mob and James ‘Blood’ Ulmar)
Gerard Guida (Hammond B3 genius from Jimi Hendrix)
Michael Hill (Michael Hill Blues Mob/Alligator Records)
Brad Vickers (Grammy-nominated bassist of Pinetop Perkins and Hubert Sumlin fame)
I owned and ran a recording studio for 13 years, where he excelled at helping clients achieve the results they wanted, rather than the results I wanted.
I am also a gear advisor. After 9 years working in various capacities at Guitar Center Manhattan, one of the largest retail musical instrument locations in the world, I am more than qualified (actually certified) to advise students on guitar-related purchases.
As a teacher, I run private and group guitar classes with a signature combination of humor and directness creates a fun, teamwork environment where great results and great fun are had by all.
As for me, I just started planting roots here. I left my NYC job at the largest music store on the East cost and took a job in town so I can meet and get to know people here.