Friday, May 8, 2015

Olem Alves at LBCC and LCC

Musician Gone Instructor: Olem Alves

Police sirens flashed upon a house as a group of teenagers played heavy music.  The amps blared leaving the teens unable to hear the wailing sirens.  The party was raided, yet the music continued. 

Years later the guitarist on that stage is now a part-time instructor at both LBCC and LCC.

His name is Olem Alves.

Alves gives guitar lessons at LBCC and teaches the Intro to Rock class.  At LCC Alves teaches music theory, improvised jazz, and guitar lessons both on a group and personal scale.

Alves has 33 years of experience in playing guitar, and according to his band, Inner Limits, he was trained by James Thornbury, the frontman of the legendary blues band "Canned Heat."  Alves earned his Master's degree in jazz guitar at the University of Oregon.  

At age 9 Alves started playing guitar.  “I started playing pretty seriously in a performing aspect when I was young like going to blues jams and performing in bands,” said Alves. 

LBCC student and musician Luke Yokoyama has taken six terms of guitar lessons from Alves and his Intro to Rock class. 

Yokoyama states, “He is very skillful… like extremely skillful.  I’ve learned a lot from him over the past, almost, two years.  He definitely did spark a little more interest in jazz and gave me more of an idea of what jazz is all about, and what the jazz guitar is all about.”

Alves has a love for the blues, but the complexity of jazz mesmerizes and intrigues him.  World reknown guitarist Scott Henderson is one of Alves' biggest inspiration.  Henderson said in an article in Guitar Habits, "for me, the ultimate form of expression is blues, where jazz appeals to me on an intellectual level."

Alves may sound like a music instructor, but all through his time instructing people, whether it be students at LBCC or youngsters in his childhood, Alves has also been a performer at heart.  The life of being in a band can only last so long, and once he had children, Alves made the decision to devote more of his time earning money instructing others.  Alves may still play in a band, Inner Limits, but he also has made a living instructing both in Eugene and Albany.

There is a struggle all too common in musicians, and that is being stuck between being a part-time musician and a part-time instructor.  “In order to make a living you can’t do any one thing with all of your time and effort,” says Alves.

Alves says, “musicians I know that do this, they have all these different streams of income and all those streams add up hopefully to one living wage that you can raise a family on.”

Some days Alves busts out his guitar during his Intro to Rock class and plays the class a song to help teach them the stylistics choices made in said song.  “As soon as you break out a guitar, and you start playing something now they’re interested.  They’re like ‘wow’ maybe just for that five minutes, and then when they go home they remember that part of the class,” says Alves.

Yokoyama says, “I’ve taken lessons here and there, and they are all with different people.  I have worked with a lot of musicians.  Some people would know absolutely nothing they are talking about, and some people know everything back and forth, and sometimes it can get a little too much.  With status-wise for him it’s much more than some of the other people I have worked with.  I can definitely tell he put his time in, he really studied the material he is proficient at, especially jazz.”


Has 3 children and a wife.

Master's degree in jazz guitar.

Teaches guitar lessons and Intro to Rock at LBCC.  Teaches music theory, improvised jazz, and guitar lessons at LCC.

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