Guitar, Bass Guitar, String Bass, Ukulele, Banjo, Mandolin
About Billy Monroe
I started learning music by copying my father, who was a terrific amateur pianist and singer. He often performed in D.C. musical theatre productions, and even sang at the White House. He played every day and built a wonderful music library that we were welcome to explore (J.S. Bach's logical, yet playful compositions really grabbed me). Later on, we sang together in the St. John's, Ellicott City choir for 10 years; I'm grateful.
Seeing the Beatles got me working on the guitar, with some help from the great Charlie Byrd. Hearing Ali Akbar Khan with Ravi Shankar started my love of fretless instruments. Ron Carter's work with Miles Davis showed me that upright bass could sing. When my mom gave me John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme", it started an obsession with making my electric guitar sound more like his tenor. With B.B. King, I just loved everything about him!
I also played flute and violin in high school, joined every choir I could, and studied composition, piano, and voice seriously in college. Jazz arranging lessons with Hank Levy helped me learn to write for horns and rhythm sections. These experiences made it much easier to fit in with all the bands I've recorded and performed with since. Playing good music with others requires a lot of preparation, but it's so much fun that I've learned to love the work.
Lesson "blind alleys" have been helpful, too. Studying drums and pedal steel didn't suit me, but still helps me understand the frustration students can feel, and reminds me to keep it light.
I joined Music and Arts in the spring of 1985. My students constantly challenge me to learn new music and try new teaching methods; they really keep me on my toes! I love helping students overcome obstacles and learn to enjoy their work.