Hey Scott! How’re you doing? I was just reminiscing a little bit and thinking about you and I’m very thankful for the times hanging out with you and studying under you. You honestly were just an amazing teacher and mentor. I hope everything is going great for you. I’d love to reconnect and hang at some point if you’ve got the time! – Jon Hallman (April 21, 2021)

Scott Sawyer is an outstanding musician. He is an incredibly talented and versatile guitarist who has a wealth of influences, yet has a unique voice and a rich and advanced harmonic language. 

Sawyer’s music is free from cliches. Not only is it evident in his playing, but in his approach to teaching the guitar as well. His enthusiasm and curiosity for learning music is contagious, empowering and encourages students to find their own voices. He is one of the most patient teachers I have ever had! 

I am a better guitarist and (more importantly) a better musician for having learned so much from him. He is a musician’s musician. 

– Luciano Suarez (August 29, 2020) lucianosuarezmusic.com

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) alexmartinmusic.com

“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) jamesbensonsounds.com

Ten years ago, I was in the midst of renewing my interest in playing the guitar. I had recently moved here from the New York area and I had played rock and blues off and on for a number of years. In addition to rock and blues, I love jazz and really wanted to learn how to play it and tried more than a few times on my own(not too successfully). I was referred to Scott Sawyer by a co-worker of mine who’s son studied with Scott before going on to college as a music student to study classical guitar. I read through Scott’s web site and remember being impressed and excited that he had played with Nnenna Freelon who was an internationally acclaimed jazz singer, and hoped Scott would take me on as a student. Scott and I hit it off very well from the start. I was super excited to be able to study with him and although at times it felt overwhelming, he did an amazing job making this new language consumable, interesting and fun. I studied with Scott for 3 years and then had to stop due to personal reasons, but I knew even when I stopped that I would someday return and study with him again.
It’s been just over a year since I returned to study with Scott and in that time have made fantastic progress. While my guitar chops have improved, I am more excited about how my listening skills have matured and how I can now apply my new understanding of harmony across all styles of music. At 51 years of age, I am thrilled that I can now play through the chord changes of the Great American Songbook. I look forward to continuing to study with Scott and becoming a better all-around musician. My only regret is that I didn’t meet Scott and start this quest at a younger age. – Mark Masercola (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)