Ira Gitlin

Music Instruction

Teaching—mostly bluegrass banjo, but also various styles of guitar and bass—has always been a big part of what I do. Since 1994 I’ve been on the teachers’ roster at the House of Musical Traditions in Takoma Park, Maryland, and I taught at Baltimore Bluegrass from 1994 until that store closed in 2000. I’ve also worked as a banjo instructor at the American University and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. In addition to numerous festival workshops, I’ve taught at Common Ground on the Hill (1996, 2007), the Maryland Banjo Academy (1998, 2000, and 2002), the Swannanoa Gathering (2001-03), Pete Wernick’s Jam Camps (since 2003), the Augusta Heritage Center (since 2004), and Banjo Camp North (2010).

I try to show my students the big picture. Learning an instrument isn’t just a matter of learning this lick or that song; it involves learning how music works in general, and understanding how your instrument fits into the style of music that you’re playing. My goal is to make my students self-sufficient. Once you learn some fundamental techniques and a little theory (which is really nothing to be afraid of), you can move on to jamming and improvising—and that’s when the fun really starts!

Here’s what a few of my students have said:

“A real passion for bluegrass…the teacher we all dream of finding.” –C.C. (Paradise Valley, PA)

“An uncanny ability to break down the banjo into easy-to-understand and consumable pieces.” –S.Z. (Laytonsville, MD)

“The best, most understanding teacher in the world. No one even comes close.” –Z.M. (Weaverville, NC)

“Knowledge and first-hand experience with the roots of the music…He’s the real deal.” –D.S. (Washington, DC)

“I always leave my lesson looking forward to sitting down and learning what he has shown me, and it’s almost always something I can apply right away.” –D.W. (Alexandria, VA)

“Ira listens to where you are musically, asks where you want to go, and gives you practical instruction that leads you in that direction.”
–B.D. (Arlington, VA)

“Ira Gitlin is the BEST!!! “ –G.S. (Alexandria, VA)

Individual lessons

Locations

I teach in Alexandria, Virginia, on Mondays and Tuesdays, and in Takoma Park, Maryland, on Wednesdays and Thursdays. The exact schedule varies from week to week as I try to accommodate the needs of my students. (There are two dogs at the Alexandria location.)

Payment and scheduling

I charge $60 for private lessons, and I usually recommend hour-long lessons for adults. I ask my students to commit to, and pay for, a calendar month’s worth of lessons at a time. Here’s how that works: On the last lesson of the month, we’ll schedule lessons for the following month, and you’ll pay for those lessons at that time. As a general policy, I don’t give refunds or make-ups for lessons you cancel. If, however, there’s another available time slot during that same week, I may offer it to you as a substitute—at my convenience.

Additional information

I strongly encourage my students to record the essential parts of their lessons. Please bring your recording device of choice. It can be a digital voice recorder, an iPhone with the appropriate app, an mp3 player with a recording attachment—even a cassette recorder will do the job!

Group instruction

From time to time I conduct workshops on various topics. See my schedule for more information.

Kids’ academies

An exciting trend at bluegrass festivals in recent years has been the rise of “kids’ academies”—programs designed to give young pickers an intensive but fun experience with other kids who share their interest in the music. One of the biggest of these is the Grey Fox Bluegrass Academy for Kids, held every July at the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, where I’ve been teaching banjo since 2000. I’ve also been working as the music director and banjo instructor for similar programs at the Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival (since 2003), the Joe Val Bluegrass Festival (since 2004), and the Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival (since 2010).

D'Addario Strings