Former student shares his experience learning from Sonny Boy Terry at Houston Harmonica Lessons.


I studied blues harmonica with you during 2017 (Aug - Nov).  Since moving to Canada in 2018, I have also had lessons with Carlos del Junco (2019 - 2020).  I am writing this email to express my deepest appreciation for your approach to teaching me to hear music in a completely different and wonderful way.

You were the first teacher who forced me to learn music by listening, getting my ears educated.  Because I previously depended on having harmonica tabs or music scores available, this was a painful removal of a “crutch” I had relied on to quickly learn songs.   Carlos did the same thing as you — requiring me to listen - sing - play.  Today, I spend most of my time listening and singing tunes I want to learn with the aid of slowdown software (Transcribe! and Amazing Slow Downer) - driving, walking, going to sleep.  When I begin to learn segments of a tune, I’m a kid on a treasure hunt instead of a wandering blind man.     

During 2021, I experienced a breakthrough similar to that which had only occurred for me in the context of martial arts.  I was learning music by ear easily, however, what made the greatest impact was that suddenly I could “hear” or “sense” multiple paths of improvising, and I have not made any effort to improvise in the past. A rhythm or sequence of notes appears in my head that won’t go away, so I start playing, wandering all over my harmonica.  I observe myself doing this without consciously controlling where I’m going, and I don’t care what result I get, I’m only focused on the exploration of the musical terrain (I wonder what’s over there?).  

In martial arts, I used the term creative indifference to describe my mental state when I finally learned to let go of win-lose, good-bad, right-wrong.  In that mental state, I dance with what’s happening in this moment without consciously thinking or clinging to any preconceived ideas.  I explore with curiosity, simply noticing what happening.

Now I’m playing harp from that perspective of creative indifference.  It’s like a drug!  Every note I play sounds like music.  I don’t know what hole I’m playing or the notes, I simply explore paths of notes that seem to appear before me.  I don’t claim to be a great and skillful improviser at this time, but like a baby who starts uttering sentence, I’ve learned enough blues harmonica as a language that it’s beginning to flow out of me without conscious thought or effort.  

Thank you for your teaching.  I am more grateful than I can express.  Oh, Hey Zydeco still sets my hair on fire with excitement.


Denis Dorris

Note:  you may quote any part of this email to advertise your teaching.



Give the Gift of Music! Beautiful gift certificates available - Elegant holiday and birthday gift certificates are also available for a wonderful presentation for that special someone. Printed on your choice of 8.5X11 grey card stock or white cloth resume paper or you can pay online and we will email you the personalized certificate so you can print it out yourself saving time and money. We can provide your harmonicas and instructional guide too as part of a specially priced bundle with the lesson purchased. 


Sharing with my humanity and teaching harmonica.

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