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Profiles in Online Learning: BlueLizardMan

profiles in online learning: BlueLizardManArtistWorks: What's your real name?

BlueLizardMan: Bob Ketterlinus

AW: How old are you?

BLM: 61 (yikes).

AW: Where are you from?

BLMI've lived most of my life in Glenside, PA, a wonderful, small close-knit commuter suburb of Philadelphia.  I live around the corner from the historic Keswick Theater (my first date when it was still a movie theater), host to top name acts like BB King, Buddy Guy, Johnny Cash and too many others to list.  I've also lived in  Loch Haven and Harrisburg, PA and Washington DC area when in college/grad school.

AW: BlueLizardMan is an interesting username... what are the origins there?

BLM: I picked up the nickname Lizard during a pickup football game in high school. I was very skinny and when I tried to tackle someone I was carried me into the end zone on their back - someone said I looked like a lizard on a rock.  All of my male friends have nicknames - Turk, Ear, Head, Sarge, Puswart, etc.  About 5 years ago when I was really getting into playing Blues and Blues Rock and Classic Rock covers on electric guitar with my buddies I had the idea I needed a new "stage" name - thus BlueLizardMan (a.k.a BLM).  

AW: How many years have you been playing mandolin? Do you play any other instruments? 

BLMI played trumpet, French horn and tuba in elementary through high school in the band/orchestra where I learned to read music.  I also took some organ lessons in high school (thanks Mom!) and picked up the acoustic guitar when I went off to college (to party).  I put everything aside for over 25 years (grad school and 3 kids).  In my 50s I bought a Martin and Strat and started playing again with friends.  In the past year or so I got the bug to try new instruments and bought and learned to play the rudiments of the electric bass, Dobro, lap steel and Uke, and finally a mandolin about 4 months ago.

AW: How did you find out about our online mandolin lessons? What drove you to seek out Mike's school?

BLMAs I recall (and my memory is a bit sketchy) when I was waiting for my mandolin to be delivered I was looking online for mandolin lessons and other resources and came across the ArtistWorks site and it seemed like a perfect fit for me - affordable, convenient and technology oriented - so I joined for 3 months to test it out.  It has exceeded my expectations!

AW: Why did you want to learn how to play mandolin?

BLMIn my electric band (RoadHead) I almost exclusively play rhythm guitar so I was looking for an instrument where I could play more melodies and lead role, and to start to move my band members more towards country, roots and traditional music in an acoustic format.  I started a splinter group (Acoustic Sluts + One) to play acoustic music and incorporate the mandolin and other instruments.  

AW: What drives you to keep playing mandolin? Why do you love it?

BLMI had not touched a mandolin until I received mine in the mail and fell in love with it right away!   I love the ringing tone and how it feels in my hands - it just fits my ear and hands.  I also love the large body of different styles of music that can be played on the mandolin and the challenges from learning to play a new instrument.  Darn hard to bend strings however!

AW: Who inspired you to play? Who are your biggest musical influences?

BLMListening to and playing music is one of the greatest pleasures in my life.  I always feel "at home" when music is around (think 17,000+ songs on my iPod and a self-built studio full of instruments and related equipment). Being part of the Woodstock generation I had the opportunity to see and experience in-person many of the bands and artists who created the world of Classic and Blues Rock which helped firmly implant that music (and its roots - the Blues) into my DNA. I also enjoy Country and some Bluegrass but until recently had not really listened to much or known who are the key artists and history of that music. The only person I was aware of in the "Rock" world who played mandolin was Levon Helms who has been a big influence.  I'm soaking it all up now like it is 1970 again ☺. Since I started the mandolin lessons here I've added to my list of favorite artists Mike Marshall (of course), Bill Monroe, Sam Bush, Chris Thile, David Grisman, and some of the younger female players including Sierra Hull, Sarah Jarosz and AJ Lee who plays/sings a killer version of Hickory Wind by Gram Parsons.

AW: What's your favorite memory and/or musical highpoint of your mandolin career?

BLMMy favorite memory is receiving my new mandolin in the mail, opening the box and case, putting the instrument in my lap and strumming the open strings, then picking out some random notes and learning some basic chords. It just felt "right". Regarding the musical highlight of my mandolin career - well I've been playing mandolin less than 3 months but I would say it was when I was able to play my first fiddle tune and submit it to Mike for feedback which was very encouraging!  Every time I (more or less) master a new song or technique and I get more great feedback from Mike which becomes my new highpoint.

AW: What's your favorite part of the Mandolin School?

BLMInitially, coming from a non-bluegrass background and having never played the mandolin,  I really enjoy soaking up all the new tunes and learning the limitless number of variations of how to play fiddle tunes.  Recently I've discovered how great Bach sounds on the mandolin and have begun to learn some of his "easier" pieces.  Overall, I really love the resources available including the tabs and backing backing tracks, but especially enjoy and find useful other students Video Exchanges (VEs) and Mike's feedback.  The lessons are really great too - lots of information and things to work on for weeks if not months in each lesson.  For the price, the value of this site is amazing!

AW: What's the biggest improvement you've noticed in your playing?

BLMHaving started at ground zero, and transitioning from guitar, just being able to play clean and musical versions of a half-dozen or so fiddle tunes (and 1 Bach) in-time.  Also, with Mike's help I have improved the technical aspects of my playing, from the proper position to hold the instrument, hand placement and pick angle.  These changes have made playing the instrument even more enjoyable because it helps me play more complicated versions of songs - and it makes me sound better!  

AW: What has surprised you most about the Online Mandolin school once you became a member?

BLMHaving come from outside the bluegrass and mandolin community, I had NO clue who Mike was or what a influential musician he is (sorry Mike!).  Even more surprising  is the quality of Mike's teaching beginners like myself - always positive, constructive and encouraging.  That’s rare even among teachers of much less stature than Mike.  The other surprise was the sheer amount of resources available on the site, especially the archive of other student VEs  - a real treasure trove and amazing value.  I also enjoy communicating with other students in the shout-outs and email.  Great group of folks.


Watch Mike's Free Mandolin Lessons

AW: What would you tell another mandolin player who was considering learning online with ArtistWorks?

BLM: If you are a total beginner (especially those transitioning from guitar) this is a great place to start!  Try it for 3-months and if you don't make significant progress and really come to enjoy playing and wanting more, I would be very surprised.  For more  advanced players, where else can you access the knowledge, experience and one-on-one support of a master of the mandolin so easily and for such little cost (we all pay the same membership fees).  Mike has a knack for tailoring his feedback to match each person's goals and skill level - and he is always positive!

AW: Are there any other mandolin students who you have been inspired by?

BLMI try to watch at least parts of all the other student VEs and Mike's feedback and have learned something from virtually all of them - including technical aspects of playing, approaches to practicing, musical theory, and just learning cool new songs and licks for songs I've already tried.  I was recently inspired by a student named Simon who submitted a Bach VE which inspired me to learn Bach.  I enjoy seeing young people starting to play and be so enthused about learning.  I have 4 grandchildren and hope to pass on my love of music and the mandolin (and guitar) to them.  I also am inspired by all the "old heads" like me who are not afraid to face all the challenges of learning, and for just diving in and going for it!

AW: What's next in your life as a mandolin player?

BLMI want to build my repertoire of fiddle tunes and also other styles of mandolin friendly music like jigs and hornpipes and Bach. I need to work more on developing my tremolo and standard and chop chords.  I also am focused on incorporating mandolin into songs I am selecting for my acoustic group including Oh Atlanta, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, Hickory Wind and Will The Circle Be Unbroken.  On the long-term  "to do list" - re-learn reading standard music notation and exploring other styles of mandolin-friendly music.  I also want to dive into the new free music theory lessons available to all students at no extra charge.

AW: Anything else you'd like to add, words to all the other mandolin players out there?

BLMTake advantage of the incredible resources available on the site, and more importantly, the chance of a lifetime opportunity to learn from one of the great mandolin artists and teachers.  Also, never think you are too old to learn something new or get better at what you already know - the possibilities for growth are limitless! 

profiles in online learning - BlueLizardMan


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