“Raise-the-Bar” (RTB) Classes

Treehouse clan

I’ve been teaching multi-level classes at Olympic College since 1978 and July 2022 marks ten years of my Raise the Bar (RTB) classes.  I started my first Raise-the-Bar classes with a fluctuating group of mostly guitar and mandolin students downtown Poulsbo.  The main focus of these first classes was learn the intricate harmonic devices used in pre-50s Swing music. I developed a class model to help students quickly identify the shorter swing chord progressions that ultimately string together, underpinning swing style harmony.

I enjoy sharing things I know will make your playing easier and more fun! I’ve held my RTB community classes in local restaurants, coffee shops and bars.  Some of the past places include the Hare and Hounds, the Martini Cafe in Poulsbo, Bainbridge Island’ Pegasus Coffee, Treehouse Lounge and Cups Espresso.  The Guitar Cafe in Silverdale was an especially popular spot, My classes were on hold throughout the pandemic and have now started up again in Kingston. Contact me for more info.

Classes are weekly, back-to-back, drop-in and on-going 

Suggested donation for each hour class is $20.

The goal is to have a great music group experience in a comfortable setting.

With drop-in classes each week varies in attendance and levels.

With drop-in classes, there is always a slight chance that you might be the only one to show up (it has happened) in which case you get a private lesson at the cost of a class admission!


Class Curriculum can come and go, but my beginner-mediate class has always been a favorite! It accommodates people who consider themselves beginners but is also for those who can already play some songs. I take people of different skill levels and musical interests (and instruments) and throw them all together in a group,  pick a song or piece then assign level-appropriate “parts” for the sake of learning to play together. We don’t use any form of written music but we’ll use typical  jamming language and etiquette which helps prepare for real-life jamming!

Folks can find it challenging and fun and frustrating at times. If you’re wanting to learn to play and jam with others and have the patience and desire to work on your music in a group setting, this class is for you. You don’t have to register or commit to anything. I tailor each class’ curriculum around the students who show up that day. Students get access to the class Dropbox with videos, charts and play along tracks. If some variant doesn’t come along and raise its ugly head, classes will continue on a regular basis.

The fear of playing in front others can be very scary, so we discuss some of the psychology behind those fears to help students overcome performance anxieties before they take root.

Though I am a “string” guy, this class is open to all instruments. If you are a violin, viola, or cello player please have already learned basic bowing and fingering techniques.  Same for horn players – but also bring a mute.

RTB classes provide musicians  in the community a chance to gather in a casual setting, play music and enjoy music instruction and spirits. The goal is to literally “Raise the Bar” of our understanding and our  enjoyment of music.


H&H logo

Offering music lessons at the pub was originally proposed by the proprietors of the Hare & Hounds Pub in Poulsbo. Knowing the potential commotion in a public place can be distracting, I had doubts how well this would work, but to my surprise it worked great!  Students could hear and focus with no problem and above all, they played with less inhibitions because the overall vibe was so casual… this proved to be great fun for everybody! While we are currently not in a pub setting, the name has stuck.

Raise the Bar pub Classes definitely raised the level of energy at the pubs as well as our level of music understanding and overall musicianship.