Mike Thomas has been playing guitar for about 45 years. His favorite artists include the Beatles, Eric Clapton, John Mayer, Jimi Hendrix, Queen and Elvis. | Alison James

Archived Story

Sound of music

Published 10:08am Saturday, January 5, 2013

Thomas to teach second guitar class at CACC beginning Jan. 15

Mike Thomas was a youngster when his father bought him his first guitar. At the time, he had no idea what to do with it.

“It sat in the corner for I don’t know how long,” Thomas said with a laugh.

But today Thomas has been playing guitar for about 45 years, and in addition to writing songs and teaching private lessons, he is currently gearing up for his second Beginning Guitar Class at Central Alabama Community College.

A series of events brought Thomas to where he is today in his musical career, beginning with a little help from a neighbor.

“Down the street from where we lived there was this country guy, and he played in a country band,” Thomas said. “I asked him if he could show me some chords … he’d get me to come down and sit in his living room or out on his porch and his band would play country songs, and I’d watch them and copy them and try to learn.”

During elementary school, Thomas found his musical inspiration.

“The Beatles came out, and I went nuts,” Thomas said. “I had to have an electric guitar.”

Thus began several years of playing in bands, from elementary school band inspired by the Beatles – including the hair – to a regional band they called Piwacquet, to other groups in other parts of the country, experiencing the traveling musician lifestyle.

“You spend all your money on the road because you have to pay for everything as you go, so I wasn’t getting ahead,” Thomas said.

After a recording deal fell through, Thomas said he decided it was time to get a “real job” and worked for several years in sales.

“I just got out because I was trying to make more money,” Thomas said. “I should never have gotten out. I decided I had made a big mistake.”

Thomas said he’s been back in the music world for the past 20 years. He writes country, rock, Christian rock and even a little pop and is working on completing a contemporary Christian rock album.

His main focus is writing and teaching, and his love of teaching is one thing that drew him to start the class at CACC.

“If you work with kids or anybody, and you take them from zero to some kind of success, it’s a good feeling,” Thomas said. “It makes you feel good to help somebody out.”

The class is for ages 16 and older, and it will be held every Tuesday night for six weeks beginning Jan. 15 at 6 p.m.

Thomas said he starts with chords and then moves into rhythms with the goal of teaching the class to play one song by the end of the six week course. This session’s song will be Wonderful Tonight by Eric Clapton.

“We start putting the chords together and how it fits in the song,” Thomas said. “Close to the end, I teach them the little guitar lick that goes along with it. By the last two weeks they’re practicing the song all the way through.”

Thomas said he tries to keep the class interesting.

“I teach differently from what most teachers do,” Thomas said. “Most teachers will start with some music theory, notes … and it takes forever to get anything that you can say, ‘Hey, I did something.’ And that’s boring.

“I know how it is, so I want to make it fun.”

And although at one time Thomas said he thought he would never want to teach music, it’s now something he wants to delve into more deeply.

“I would like to build a guitar school,” Thomas said. “I’m just trying to figure out the best way to handle that … There’s just nothing around here. I’ve got to look at the population and see what will work.”

Thomas said music is just part of who he is, which is one reason having a “real job” didn’t work out.

“Doing this other stuff wasn’t me,” Thomas said. “I was forcing myself to do other stuff I didn’t want to do, didn’t like doing, and I was leaving what I really wanted to do on a table somewhere. So I just decided … I’d rather make less money and enjoy what I’m doing than more money and not enjoy what I’m doing.

“When you get music in you, it’s there for life,” Thomas said. “If you get out of it or don’t do, it eats at you until you’ve got to do it. Music is so important to me in my being … If I don’t use it, it’s wasted.”

For more information about the class at CACC, contact Thomas at piwacquet@gmail.com.