New Faces: Sno-Isle Co-op Free Guitar Lessons

Editor's note: Here's a special treat: a guest blog by Sno-Isle Co-ops' Leah Scates introducing a fun new class for the community. Enjoy!

The co-op classroom is a community space welcoming people of all ages to create, learn, and engage. Classes often include topics on fermenting, crafting, healing, and in March – Guitar! We are so excited to welcome our newest instructor Jonathan Olson, for his new (and free!) beginner’s guitar class: The Guitar Circle.

With a warm and inspiring glow, we couldn’t help but to ask Jonathan a few questions.

Tell us a bit about yourself, have you lived in Everett long?

My family and I are originally from Madison, Wisconsin. We moved here about 2 years ago in what we call our pursuit of a "new chapter". Big change, but good change, and we are so glad we decided to be a part of the Pacific Northwest.

I currently work as an audio engineer and craftsman, enjoying such wonderful simplicities like coffee, a crusty-flakey croissant, and listening to the same albums on end for months. Men’s fashion is also a big interest of mine.

Neat! How long have you been playing guitar? 

I began playing guitar around the age of 7. I built my first guitar from some craft supplies around home. I took a large red sheet of plastic, cut it into the shape of an electric guitar, threaded yarn "strings" through it, and voila. It made no sound whatsoever, but it encouraged my parents, "Perhaps we should invest in a real guitar for him". They ended purchasing a red Samick "stratocaster" for my birthday. 

And what made you decide to teach?

In my teens, I was approached by people after shows asking if I could teach them. I didn't really know how to teach, but I enjoyed helping people in general, plus music was always an exciting passion of mine. I thought I would give it a try.

How about group lessons? What inspired this as opposed to one-on-ones?

Growing up, I have this specific memory of seeing students exit my private instructors room as I waited for my lesson to begin. There was little communication or no exchange at all, but yet, we already had so much in common. We had the same instructor and enjoyed the same instrument. That missing line of communication and/or loss of potential friendship made a large impression on me and how I viewed private instruction.

My first group lesson was at Berklee College of Music, where a circle of us jammed to "Little Wing" by Jimi Hendrix. All of us watched each other and would take turns improvising a guitar solo, then hand it off to the next guitarist. It was magical, filled with friendship, and encouraging to my growth.

Back in 2012/2013, I was a part of a church ministry where my role was heavily involved with music. There, the pastor of the church had seen me providing private lessons, and approached me, "What would it look like to start a ‘school of the arts?’” It was a BIG dream idea, but it was exciting to me. I developed a curriculum for guitar, and opened the class to groups.

The energy and fun in those classes was fantastic - the desire to learn was enriched by seeing the diversity within the room: parents taking lessons with their son/daughter, brand new beginners, even some students who wanted to have a reason to pick their guitar up again. I uncovered the hidden beauty of community with group lessons; it was an unforeseen discovery.

Thus, The Guitar Circle! A great name! Does it have a story too?

Yes! In group lessons, students sit in a semi-circle on one side, while the teacher faces them from the opposing side. With these two semi-circle formations, you get a completed circle! "The Guitar Circle" name was born from what it is, but also the value and potential it has for community involvement, fellowship, and mindset. 

When I started developing the heart of the business, I took time to research the name and confirm its uniqueness and availability. Unaware to me, Robert Fripp, the guitarist from King Crimson, created an organization called "Guitar Craft/League of Crafty Guitarists". Many of these groups performed live as "The Guitar Circle" worldwide, so I immediately reached out to the organization.

After speaking with some of his representatives to share my intentions of starting group guitar lessons under the "Guitar Circle" name, they were delighted to learn about my desires and approved.

To be clear - Robert Fripp will not be attending my classes, but we do share a spirit of music and community, for sure. 

We’re flattered to have you, but why host lessons at the co-op?

The co-op honestly couldn't be a more fitting place. I believe we both have matching values of involving the community in all matters of education, and having a multi-purpose classroom makes this possible. I personally enjoy shopping at the co-op, heard about the room, visited the location - and knew it could be a great fit. Thank you!

Thank YOU! So, who can take your lessons?

At this time, students ages 8 and above are welcome to take lessons. I am hoping to design classes for younger students down the line as well. I have a 2 year old myself and am still learning about his development.

What do you hope to see from your business in the future? 

Big picture for me would look like "The Guitar Circle" transforming into a music school, with teachers of multiple instrument disciplines, and a stage for both practice and recitals, located on the developing waterfront! Big dream, I guess! I can't do it alone, but I can start somewhere, and this is the beginning.


Jonathan’s class will be on Saturday’s from 10-11 AM from March 4th-25th in the co-op’s classroom (located just down the hall from the store). This is a free class and sign-ups are extremely limited. To sign up, head to the Guitar Circle's website here. And for more exciting classes and events at the co-op, check out our event calendar here.

The co-op is always seeking teachers! If you’d like to host a class or event, you can do so here.

Photo credit: Kristin Olson