Pluckin' Some Strings

“So Corey, how long have you been playing guitar?”

“Oh I’ve been playing for about a year or so. How about you?”

“Okay. Well, let’s see here,” he says as he squints his eyes, takes of his glasses, and looks towards the ceiling. “About…54 years now.”


When I began asking around about potentially taking guitar lessons at UD, everyone gave me the same answer. Jim McCutcheon. I was told he is not only brilliant when it comes to everything guitar, but is also an all-around great human being. Anxious to meet this guy and begin learning, I registered for guitar lessons this semester. After the little time I have spent with McCutcheon thus far, it is clear why he is referred to as the “guitar man.”

About halfway through my first session, McCutcheon picked up a guitar to demonstrate a technique. As he began to play, his fingers gracefully danced up and down the strings creating beautiful, effortless music. His intention was not to show off, but rather to showcase the important role technique has when digging into complex material.

In terms of teaching, McCutcheon’s success, and reasoning for having been at the University of Dayton since 1978, comes down to two simple factors. First he has a remarkable understanding of music (he plays multiple instruments, I’m not certain how many. I’m sure if he randomly picked up a bagpipe he could spew out a few tunes). Second he has a warm, patient demeanor. I felt comfortable right off the bat, as if we had been friends for years.

In addition to McCutcheon’s unbelievable shredding capabilities and supportive teaching style, his office might be one of the most fascinating places on campus. Upon entering his musical domain on the 4th floor of Fitz Hall, I was overcome with the memorabilia and equipment in McCutcheon’s office. If my memory serves me well, McCutcheon’s response to my favorable comments about the room were quick, side-to-side glances without moving his head. With a determined face he said something along the lines of, “I’ve got a pretty sweet set-up.” It sounded more like a universal truth than a simple observation.  As a beginner entering the guitar world, I knew I was in the right place.

A mere 30 minutes a week is all I have with the guitar man, but I can assure you it is my favorite 30 minutes every week. Hopefully this is enough for a few specks of his mellifluous knowledge to find it’s way to me. With his track record as an instructor, I’m certain they will. 

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