Feedback from Students
Michael is an extraordinary player who has that elusive combination of great professional chops coupled with great teaching skills. He is very supportive and patient for beginners, but able to challenge as you progress. I especially appreciate the way he gave me the confidence to start ripping off pro solos right away. He explains music theory in plain English, and is comfortable in many styles from straight-ahead jazz to soulful blues to current pop/rock. Every time I left a lesson I had learned something new about music and playing.
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I started playing alto saxophone in elementary school and got very deep into it during junior high school, Unfortunately, I lost touch with my horn when I attended a high school that lacked a serious music program. In my twenties, I decided to reconnect with my horn. As I started playing consistently, I soon realized I needed more direction than just the books I’d found. I checked out a variety of instructors, but nothing really clicked until I started studying with Michael. He provided a nice balance of technique and theory without forgetting that playing music is fun. In the many years we worked together, Michael helped me in finding my musical voice on my horn, developing my tone, deepening my understanding of chord changes, and much more. Plus I have enjoyed getting to know him as a friend. It’s clear Michael loves teaching—I was always appreciative and amazed at the amount of time and energy he put into developing exercises, study materials and play-along tracks. He even coordinated and prepared arrangements for a saxophone quartet that was wonderful fun for many years.
I started studying with Michael when I was in my twenties. I am now fifty years old and am even deeper into playing than when I started. My time with Michael has provided the foundation and inspiration that has continued to unfold and bring me some of my greatest joy playing my horn on my own, with friends, and in bands. Thanks!
David Egert, Ph.D.
Biology Professor, College of Marin
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I have been taking jazz saxophone lessons from Michael for nearly twenty years. He helped me as a beginner playing alto sax, and then he helped me graduate to tenor. Now I am working with him to learn baritone sax. Obviously I would not have stayed with Michael for so many years if I had not enjoyed (almost!) every moment of these lessons. He has taken me from learning how to hold the instrument to the final steps in getting a beautiful tone. More importantly, he has helped me through the complexities of jazz improvisation, all the way from “What is a dominant chord?” to “How I can use an exciting jazz ‘lick’ against complex chord changes in a modern, sophisticated jazz melody?” Michael has outstanding communication skills, and he is extremely resourceful in selecting from a wide range of musical exercises and tunes that can be used to help you make progress in your understanding of jazz. Whether you are a beginner, or an experienced musician, I am sure that Michael will have something to add to your jazz education.
Harlan E. Ives
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I studied with Michael Graziano for several years when living in San Francisco. I came to him fortuitously through a university bulletin board recommendation! I had been playing alto sax for a few years with two other good teachers, but had reached a musical plateau. This was especially frustrating as I have studied classical guitar for ten years and felt that I knew something about music. From my first session with Michael I knew that I had found the right person to direct my studies in a useful and productive way. Michael was able to immediately assess what I knew and didn’t know, and build on my strengths while taking me in many new musical directions. He has an interesting and for me quite effective approach to teaching. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of jazz (past and present). He is fanatical about technique and tone, as a sax teacher should be. He is also extremely organized mentally when it comes to music theory, and he can access any exotic scale or mode at will, and explain to a student how to get to that same place. He has extensive teaching materials at his fingertips during lessons, with a well thought out syllabus tailored to needs and interest. And of course since he teaches jazz, the performance/improvisation emphasis during lessons is strong (we often played together, “trading fours” endlessly, which was a wonderful learning exercise for me). I also attended his quartet (sight reading and improv) class which was challenging and exciting for me. And finally, although these days Michael is primarily a teacher, he has the chops of a seasoned pro (which he is) when he performs live. He even let me get up and jam with him in a club one night in SF! I also saw him take a sax apart with every piece laid out on a table, then repair it and put it all back together correctly (think that’s easy? Try it!)
In summary, I recommend Michael Graziano for anybody who really wants to learn to play sax or flute. You get out of it what you invest time wise, but Michael will show how to make the most of that time. Music is a very serious intellectual and physical pursuit, but a lot of fun and very rewarding as well—this is Michael’s message for students.
Dr. Tom R. Karl
Alto saxophonist and guitarist (Baby Blue Sound Collective)
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When I began taking lessons with Michael Graziano I had already been playing the saxophone for over ten years. I loved jazz and was ready to start developing my improvisational talent, and Michael was just the teacher I had hoped to find. As an alumnus of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Michael has the academic foundations to understand and digest jazz theory, but he also has decades of experience practicing the art and has recorded several albums of his own.
With Michael, I ran the gamut of the jazz musician’s bread and butter: I practiced scale patterns, arpeggios, overtone exercises, articulation, sight reading, and navigating common chord changes. I learned to identify color tones and key notes in major, minor, and diminished harmony.
He challenged me with new tunes every week, and we spent a considerable amount of time analyzing and interpreting their chord changes. These valuable sessions stretched my mind as I learned different ways to look at the same changes, honing in on the composer’s intent. Although there was a lot of information to internalize, Michael always had a simplifying trick up his sleeve to help remember how to build a particular chord or to identify the key notes of a certain chord change. Even for songs and standards I was familiar with, Michael offered new perspective.
We also worked on transcription, a critical skill for any aspiring jazz musician. Michael taught me to pick out simple motifs from the transcriptions I would bring in and use them as a springboard to develop my own ideas. I learned to take simple three-, four-, or five-note phrases and vary them rhythmically and harmonically in order to use them in many contexts.
Ultimately, my time with Michael broadened my jazz vocabulary. But more importantly, it opened up the music so that I could better decipher it. Michael was extremely patient with me—always upbeat, cheerful, and supportive. It’s obvious that he loves to teach, and as with any great teacher, I learned about more than just music along the way.
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I have been taking lessons with Michael for four years. I had always wanted to play the flute, but had never studied music before. At age twenty-seven I began taking lessons with him. I went from not being able to read music at all to now being able to sight-read proficiently. Michael has taught me the fundamentals of music theory and truly listening. I think the most valuable part of our weekly lessons is the ear training. He has helped me be able to improvise and play along with almost anything I listen to, including jazz, blues, rock, and bluegrass. I love his style, he is patient and keeps lessons fun and fresh. I truly cannot thank him enough for the gift he has given me, the language of playing music.
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Michael Graziano is a fantastic music teacher. He teaches with a perfect balance of theory and application. His lesson plans are well thought out and organized. He also makes music enjoyable, playing a variety of jazz and blues standards. If you’re motivated and have the heart of a musician, Michael is your mentor.
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