The first things you notice about music teacher Jeff Rady are his positive energy and sense of humor. His enthusiasm about music shines through when you speak to him and see his website which details his lessons for pedal steel and acoustic and electric guitar.
And Jeff’s no stranger to the Denver Folklore Center. “My mom used to live on Pearl Street in the early ‘90s so I’d go there often. I’d see Harry Tuft and I remember blowing up some of his amps. He was a good sport about it. And he let me play whatever and he was encouraging and nice.”
Jeff knows all too well the importance of taking music lessons considering he’s taken them since he was thirteen years old. “I’m from Littleton, CO and my first guitar teacher was Billy Ryan, a sort of ‘80s rock guitarist. He had the leopard skin pants and he’d have a cigarette hanging out of his guitar neck, the long hair and purple glasses. He taught me a lot and let me play open mics with him. That’s when I got better and started to take playing music seriously. When it was time to play a show, I seemed to concentrate harder. Billy was one of my first important teachers and he was pretty well known in Denver."
He also took private guitar lessons with Denver guitarist, Neil Satterfield who taught him how to read music. Jeff credits Satterfield with teaching him how to read music and try out for the Berklee School of Music – later on, he was accepted and graduated.
After graduating from college with a degree in professional music Jeff needed to make money. Gigging wasn’t paying the rent, so he took a job at a guitar school in a strip mall in Austin, TX. He discovered he was pretty good at teaching, so when he moved back to Denver a year later, he took a job at Swallow Hill Music subbing for other teachers. Michael Schenkelberg, the director at the time liked Jeff and started to give him more teaching opportunities at the school. “People liked my classes and they started to fill up. That’s how it started – me teaching at Swallow Hill for six or seven years, five days a week. I did a ton of classes there.”
While working at Swallow Hill, Jeff met another instructor, Trent Nelson, and they began doing rock ensembles. Those ensembles became very popular. “I think it’s the first time Swallow Hill had gone electric.”
Ready for Launch
Like most teachers, Jeff believes it’s better to learn the basics the right way before venturing out on your own. “A teacher is someone who can focus your efforts or see where you need to improve or give you resources to start in a direction. It’s a better way to go than having to figure it out for yourself. When I started playing pedal steel I tried figuring it out on my own and there were all kinds of stumbling blocks (like how to tune it). They didn’t teach you certain tricks in books, like they didn’t tell you how to temper tune it. You have to go to a teacher to get some resources in order to get launched. I think it’s always a good idea to take lessons because you’re going to get that influence a lot quicker.”
While he teaches acoustic and electric guitar, he also really enjoys teaching and playing pedal steel. “Throughout all these years the one thing I focused on completely was pedal steel. I didn’t just hone one thing, there’s lots of things I like, but you never really get great at one thing unless you zero in on it – like a bluegrass player who just focuses on bluegrass. I did all of it because I just liked too many things. It makes me a decent teacher, because a lot of people are interested in a lot of different stuff, so I can at least touch on everything.”
Jeff teaches teenagers to older adults and offers private in-person lessons, online classes and in-person ensembles. Musically, his lessons are fairly eclectic – country, rock, blues, acoustic, fingerstyle, soloing, country and rock lead guitar and slide. Jeff also teaches pedal steel. “I don’t teach much jazz, even though that’s what I’m trained in. But I teach most American kind of root styles, rock n roll included, and I teach all levels.”
He enjoys seeing his students get a kick out of playing music like he does. “It’s something you can share that’s unique and something you can do with people that’s fun and productive, and it’s always a challenge no matter how good you get. It’s fun to see people make those connections and get better and find stuff they like about music or their own style, or things they like to explore. It’s always exciting for me.”
Get In Touch with Jeff
Jeff runs electric ensembles at The Band Cave every Monday and Tuesday night from 6pm-9pm. They play classic rock, American roots rock, meta-modern country and more. They have a full rhythm section, drums, bass and they’re always looking for drummers and bassists. Guitarists, singers, everyone is welcome. For more information about ensembles and his music lessons, email Jeff and check out his website.