Sean began playing the guitar at the age of 13. His Mom and Dad had an old Yamaha nylon-string classical guitar just lying around not being played, and he had always been curious about it. About his first impressions of the guitar, Sean says, "I remember walking by and gently strumming the strings--I always loved the sound that came out when I did that, even though it wasn't a real chord or anything." Soon enough, curiosity overcame intimidation, and Sean asked if he could start playing it. So, Dad showed him how to tune it and how to play his first three chords, G, D, and C. Sean was instantly hooked, and spent many hours in his bedroom playing guitar when he probably should have been doing his homework.
Formal education on the guitar started soon after when Sean took a couple of guitar classes at his high school. Thanks to this early training, Sean learned to read music early on, a skill often neglected by guitar players.
Encouraged by Sean's progress on the instrument, Mom and Dad bought Sean his very first electric guitar. "I can still remember going to the music store for it," says Sean, "It was a Peavey Predator, basically a Stratocaster style guitar, but cheaper and still made in the USA." With this new palette of tones to work with, Sean was quickly learning songs from his favorite bands at the time, like Metallica, Nirvana, Led Zeppelin, and Green Day.
Another important experience early on was a brief stint of piano lessons. Sean's piano teacher, Misty Johnstone taught him some of the fundamentals of music theory, and how they could be applied to songwriting and improvisation. Although he never really practiced the piano, Sean was quick to apply his new knowledge to the guitar and would often come up with one melody after another for hours on end. "If I knew what I know now, I would have had a tape recorder going that whole time," says Sean, "There was some good material in there!"
This fascination with improvisation quickly led to an interest in Jazz, and during his Junior and Senior years of high school, Sean played in the Ponderosa High School Jazz Ensemble. This was an incredibly valuable experience for Sean, and a challenging one as well. "Before jazz band, I knew maybe 20 chords. After, I can honestly say I knew about 200!" Not only that, but the experience taught Sean how to be part of a rhythm section, a valuable skill for any musician.
By the end of his senior year, Sean was completely in love with the guitar and couldn't imagine doing anything else with his life. So, he decided to enter the classical guitar program at California State University, Sacramento. After picking up the old classical guitar he had started on, Sean taught himself two pieces from a book and successfully auditioned for Dr. Richard Savino, the head of the Guitar Program at CSUS and a world class performer himself.
For the next several years, Sean practiced anywhere from three to six hours a day while studying the subjects of Music Theory, History, Ear Training, and Piano (this time he practiced). Performing weekly for his fellow guitar students, every semester in a group recital, and for his Junior and Senior solo recitals taught Sean the value of preparation. During his school years, Sean excelled as a performer, playing in masterclasses and competitions, and being selected as a soloist for the 2002 Festival of New American Music. He also excelled academically, graduating Magna Cum Laude, and being selected for the Mu Phi Epsilon fraternity, an honor for which only two students were selected each semester.
Sean has been playing and teaching ever since. "You can have my guitar when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers," he says with a smile.