A high school graduate on a full ride scholarship to the school of his choice, Ben Sebulsky will attend Warminster Automotive Training Center in September of 2021. Sebulsky is an aspiring diesel technician with a passion for heavy metal music. After frustration with previous classical guitar lessons, training at CMI offered him a fresh perspective on music education with more structure, encouragement, and freedom.
Developing his skills at the CMI studio since 2018, Sebulsky has found a way to improve his playing while breaking out of his comfort zone in CMI Sessions. As a generally reserved person, Sebulsky initially felt apprehensive about the idea of playing in front of people, but soon overcame the fears that held him back. After a few months of private lessons, Sebulsky joined his first CMI Session in 2019 where he played guitar with another keyboard player, and immediately experienced a completely new form of development as a musician.
When training in private lessons, the focus often remains on developing technical skills and working through student-specific obstacles, whereas a CMI Session allows players to combine their individual strengths to build a full ensemble. Feeling his own music mesh together with his peers’ was an incredibly valuable experience to Sebulsky, and inspired him to continue to join other CMI Sessions with a variety of players. He currently plays with two other electric guitarists in a group that focuses entirely on heavy metal, where guests such as electric bassists or drummers are welcome to supplement the projects being developed. “Even if [guests in CMI Sessions] are way better than we are, they're always positive and they always offer compliments on our playing,” said Sebulsky. “It feels really nice to have people that are better than you that help lift you up […] it gives you motivation.”
In his current CMI Session, the students collectively chose to work through entire albums by metal icons like Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden. With the first three Black Sabbath albums successfully conquered, the three guitarists continued on to other albums, something that provided Sebulsky with a more advanced understanding of the music that he previously loved. “[Playing the first three Black Sabbath albums] was really interesting to watch as [the band] changed and refined their sound more,” said Sebulsky. “They came up with more and more complicated things instead of how the first album was a lot of single notes drawn out [...] as you get on [the songs] get more and more complicated in the music and have more and more feelings.”
This attentiveness to music and its layers also translated to Sebulsky’s understanding of other aspects such as theory and technique. “Before I started [at CMI], I didn't realize there was quite as much going on behind music. There's a lot about tonality and which notes make sense to each other, and just a lot of theory behind [music.],” said Sebulsky. “If I hadn’t come here I would have just been like ‘Music is cool. Music makes noise. I like noise.’”
As someone who found a release through music, the ability to choose the material he studied allowed Sebulsky to continue to use music as an escape from troubles in daily life--something that also encouraged him to play collaboratively. Creative and musically oriented people know that the ability to unwind with music is a valuable way to work through thoughts, ideas, and reconnect with oneself when life becomes overwhelming. “I use music a lot as a way to not think about things and as an escape,” said Sebulsky. I [would go] on the porch and strum some chords while I thought about things, as a way to get away from everything.”
While working with CMI instructors to create a roadmap to reach his goals, Sebulsky follows the suggestion of committing to a practice schedule, allowing him to elevate his focus. Using music as a tool for emotional expression, Sebulsky views the guitar as a companion through life, and working on precision according to a set schedule reflects the discipline and immersion which he chose as his own path to success. “Before I came up with a schedule, I played about maybe once a week or twice a week, sometimes not at all, and I didn't really try anything new. I didn't learn anything on my own,” said Sebulsky. Once I had the schedule, it was a half hour every day. I’d go through a skill set, all the open chords, all the barre chords, and then pick a new song and try to learn at least half of it.” The routine set for him feels natural and introduces a way to maintain the level of rigor he desires in his study, while still being flexible as it is still entirely up to him when, where, and how he practices.
As new musicians begin to work on developing their skills, the importance of a daily practice schedule is often overlooked or presented in a way that feels forceful. However, Sebulsky's experience was the exact opposite, as he was drawn to the idea of learning how to practice. Encouraged by CMI instructors and students, Sebulsky easily adhered to the established schedule, and never found himself becoming overwhelmed. “You learn what you want to learn, but not necessarily at the pace you want to learn it. I think if I would have tried to learn everything that I wanted to by myself, I would have burned out and stopped a long time ago,” said Sebulsky. “But I think with the way that [CMI] has taught me so far, it's about [my own interests]. [Working at CMI] lets you pick what you want, but then shows you how you're going to study it.” The ability to combine freedom with discipline consistently proved to be one of the greatest factors that contributed to his success at CMI.
With the guidance and support of the CMI community, Sebulsky has already grown tremendously as a guitarist as well as a person, and sees being involved with music as a definite part of his future.
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