Scott is the best instructor I have ever had in any discipline. I was already an admirer of Scott’s playing and unbelievable musicality, and when I met Scott for the first of our many lessons together, I was understandably nervous. Scott immediately put me at ease with my playing, and inspired me to create my own voice. As an instructor, he creates a bond of comfort that allows him to get the best possible performance out of his students.
As a musician, there aren’t enough superlatives to describe Scott. His playing floats effortlessly over any genre, and by the end of a set, you know that you have experienced greatness.
I am incredibly fortunate to have Scott as a mentor and a friend. – Duane Gay (May 2014)
I studied jazz guitar with Scott Sawyer in 1990-91 and again for several years in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and I can say without a doubt that he is the person who has most influenced me as a musician and now also as a guitar teacher myself. Even though I now live in the Washington, DC, area, I still try to get together with Scott for a musical recharge whenever I am in North Carolina. His expressiveness on the instrument, the openness of his musical mind and ears, and his generosity as a person are all values I try to take forward as I seek to continue the lineage.
Alex Martin (2011)
“To say that Scott Sawyer is an instructor of music is to make a pebble out of a boulder. He inspires, he motivates, he gets into the mind and heart of his students and guides them to the skills that will turn his students into performers and composers. He can tell when they know what they are doing as opposed to just producing sounds to please themselves. A commitment from him requires a commitment to him if there is going to be a fruitful exchange. If you are open, then he will invest, and your profit will be out of this world.” – Art Bode (2015)
I have studied jazz guitar with Scott Sawyer since 1985 when he was recommended to me by Paul Jeffrey, the Director of Jazz Studies at Duke University. When I began taking lessons with Scott, he helped open up the world of jazz to me by sharing influential artists and recordings with me, in addition to teaching me the basics of chord formation and harmonic content. What Scott taught me helped to move me from someone who didn’t know a single jazz lick to someone who could play with a big band (The Duke Jazz Ensemble) and in small group settings. My pursuits took me elsewhere during the 1990s, and in the early 2000s I began returning to Scott for intensive lessons, 3 hours at a time, and sometimes 2 days in a row. During this period, Scott laid out for me the details of his harmonic framework for understanding and improvising within jazz music. Scott has presented key concepts to me in such a clear and compelling way that our discussions of these core ideas have remained in my memory for years after the session in which we discussed them. In general, Scott takes the approach that helping musicians to understand new ways of conceptualizing what we are doing is the best way to help us become more effective and expressive musicians. What Scott has taught me forms the basis of my harmonic understanding of jazz, and I use this framework when I play in a variety of settings—solo guitar, duos, small group jazz combos, and a recent fusion recording. I feel that my training with Scott has prepared me well for learning and navigating through challenging material. – James Benson (2011)
I was just studying some for my nonverbal communication course and I had an inspiration. Knowing you, I have an idea that you are sensitive to nonverbal forms of communication, however, I wonder if you have ever taken time to analyze your own style of nonverbal communication. Even if you have this is an extremely difficult task which can be much aided by the feedback of others… so here is some feedback.
Looking back on our lessons together (I hope that there will be more at some point soon) I realize certain things that made them exceptional. You really communicate the fact that you value your students and their input to the lessons. Through your tones and body language (posture etc) you encouraged me to speak up and put in my 2 cents. This was evident from the first day when I must admit I was a little intimidated. In fact (I don’t know if this was a pattern set up by previous teachers), I am a little shy in that type of setting to begin with. I don’t enjoy being judged at all, but you completely took that aspect out of our lessons. I know that you work a hectic schedule and are often very tired when lessons roll around. Never once did I receive one signal that you didn’t really want to be there teaching me how to make music. Those types of messages are hard to hide. I can only speak for my lessons, but if the others are getting what I got you are doing a great job. What goes around comes around. – Sonny Rains (1999)