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Guitar teacher enjoys the learning process

There are some people who pick up a guitar, pluck out a couple notes, strum a chord or two and put it away, maybe to do it again later. Or maybe not. Then there are others who pick up a guitar and know that they are holding an instrument that allows them to communicate what is inside of their souls to others, expressing themselves and conveying a love of music. Local musician Jim Van Arsdale is one of those people. From his studio above the Speno Music Store, Van Arsdale teaches guitar to students of all ages and playing abilities.

“I’ve been playing guitar since I was 13,” Van Arsdale said.

He was at the house of one of his friends when the friend’s father pulled out a guitar and started playing. So Van Arsdale kept going back and the friend’s father, who name was Bob Semenza, kept showing him things on the guitar.

“I was really impressed,” he said. “He inspired me then to do what I still do now.”

Van Arsdale jokes that he learned the basics of the guitar from “the three Bobs,” because his first three guitar teachers each had the same first name: Bob Sememza, Bob Bachta and Bob Piorun.

Van Arsdale also happens to be a schoolteacher, teaching fifth grade in the Moravia School District, which is a very complementary field of training for a music teacher.

“I love teaching guitar, and I love seeing the learning process happen. My friend Bob Nodzo encouraged me a lot to pursue a teaching degree.”

Nodzo is a school teacher and professional musician, who teaches part-time at Van Arsdale’s music studio and occasionally plays out with him in an acoustic duo.

Throughout his career, Van Arsdale has played with Spellbound, Alibi, Blacke Sheep Shenanigans and Diana Jacobs and Groove Theory. He occasionally performs solo, and has recently released “I Believe,” a CD of original material. The CD features the song “The Gift,” which Van Arsdale wrote to honor his first guitar teacher.

As if that were not enough activity to keep him busy, Van Arsdale has discovered a way to instill a sense of helping the community into his music students, while at the same time giving them some performing opportunities. The organization Van Arsdale established is called Perform 4 Purpose.

This began as recitals of the studio’s students and Van Arsdale, encouraged by his oldest daughter, Jennifer, thought it would be great if they could become fundraisers for community charities. P4P’s mission statement reads it was formed “for the charitable purpose of fostering and encouraging youth involvement in the arts in the central New York area by providing opportunities for live performance events that will benefit local charitable needs in our community.

Van Arsdale said, “I organize the event, line up the venue, print the tickets and supply the student and professional musicians.” More information can be found about P4P by going to, or by following the link at

Joe Sarnicola is an employee of the Auburn Enlarged City School District and the owner of Revision Resources Writing and Editorial Services. He can be reached at


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