Local Denver music teacher Barry Albright started out like most of us, taking music lessons as a kid. First, the piano and later guitar with one of the best teachers in St. Louis, Frank Wahl. Barry was lucky to get instruction in a broad range of styles including flat and finger pick in classical, flamenco, folk, pop and jazz music. These days Barry not only plays and teaches guitar (bass, open/altered tunings and bottleneck slide), he’s added banjo (three-finger and folk style) and ukulele.
After taking lessons for four years, Barry studied a bit of music theory in college and learned a lot by playing with other musicians. Over the years he’s taken a few guitar workshops and voice lessons, but “also learned just by listening to lots of music. I’m self-taught on the banjo, bottleneck guitar, ukulele and bass”. Barry began playing banjo in the ‘70s “to have more fun playing bluegrass and took up the slide after hearing the likes of Charlie Patton, Willie Johnson, Ry Cooder and Leo Kottke.” He picked up the ukulele to work with kids “and because they are just plain fun to play”.
When it comes to what he listens to, Barry likes Duke Ellington’s idea that there are really just two types of music: the good kind and the other kind, and he likes almost any of the good kind. “My big sister was into early folk…Kingston Trio, Chad Mitchell Trio, Joan Baez and so on, so I listened to that when I was first starting to play, but also classical and standards.” He discovered bluegrass music (as well as players like John Fahey, Norman Blake and Leo Kottke) in his twenties and later country blues and swing. Barry also performs and has “worked in folk duos and trios, bluegrass units, dance bands and blues groups as well as solo performances”.
Barry began teaching in college around 1975. Later, when he moved to Colorado, he discovered the Denver Folklore Center and “Harry was kind enough to let me start teaching there”. He taught at the store (until it closed at its first location) and for a while at Swallow Hill but left to work “in the corporate world – aka the dark side”. However, he was able to reconnect with Harry and the store after the move to the South Pearl location.
Currently, Barry teaches in-person one-on-one private lessons in a studio behind Kolacny Music on South Broadway. He works with all levels of students from beginning banjo players to the front man from the Montana band Daily Confused (he’s learning the bottleneck slide). His teaching method includes “finding out about the music my students are into and arranging songs they want to learn to fit in with their skill sets. It’s all fun!”
Like other teachers, Barry knows taking music lessons is “the quickest way to learn and to avoid those bad habits that can later plague players.” For kids, lessons can be a way to “develop an appreciation of music and fine motor skills, not to mention a fundamental understanding of music which will stand them in good stead no matter what instrument they choose to play.” Barry helps his students, adults and kids alike, understand how to apply the techniques they learn in a particular song to songs they want to learn. “Adults of all skill levels come to me for a variety of reasons - to learn to play from scratch, to pick up new and different techniques and styles, to stay mentally active or just to learn new songs.”
Whatever the skill level, Barry says “the Folklore Center has always been and still is THE place to go in Denver for acoustic musicians, pros and students alike”.