David Young, a local musician and artist, will host a Music Theory Workshop this month. Courtesy|David Youngman

Local musician and artist David Youngman will host a Music Theory Workshop at his studio in downtown Hillsdale on Feb. 26 from 6 to 7 p.m. For $10, attendees will have the chance to learn essential note pat­terns and rela­tion­ships from one of the region’s finest musi­cians.

Upon finding that many of his adult stu­dents had a dis­jointed com­pre­hension of music, Youngman began offering music theory work­shops to help them under­stand the rela­tion­ships between chords and equip them to transpose.

“Theory is just describing why some­thing sounds the way it does; why it sounds good and why it sounds bad. I’ve sim­plified music theory and made it step by step,” he said. “I know music theory inside and out. I get music theory, but I’m also very much on the organic side of music. It’s how you feel; it’s expressing some­thing.”

Inter­ested in art from a young age, Youngman found his love of music around the age of 12. He learned to play a variety of instru­ments, and remembers staying up late countless nights after school to work on music projects. Making do with limited equipment, his ear­liest foray into mixing required only two tape decks. After recording himself into one, he played the recordings back and accom­panied them into the other recorder to combine the two.

A Lakeview, Michigan native, Youngman studied at Spring Arbor Uni­versity, where he earned a degree in trumpet per­for­mance and met his wife, Liz Youngman. During college, he toured with his brother and a friend throughout the Midwest, gaining valuable expe­rience in the per­for­mance and business aspects of a musical career.

Youngman and his friend made a few albums together, but when his friend decided to go on to graduate school, Youngman sold his trumpets and devoted himself to guitar, an instrument he felt would be more con­ducive to a solo career. Shortly after, however, he developed wrist problems that pre­vented him from playing.

After dab­bling in water­color painting for a time, he found an instructor in Ann Arbor who could help him overcome his wrist injury, and studied under him dili­gently for two years.  

“I com­pletely started over, which was so hard,” he said. “I think of those two years as my unof­ficial graduate school.”

After relearning to play guitar, Youngman went on to study the Alexander Tech­nique, which he describes as, “learning to use your body as effi­ciently and effort­lessly as pos­sible,” and was thus pre­pared to launch his solo career.

Youngman wrote a number of songs and played at coffee shops and churches, but encoun­tered dif­fi­culty securing venues for solo per­for­mances. He realized he would need to make a name for himself in order to launch his career, so entered the top three fin­ger­style guitar com­pe­ti­tions: the Indiana State Fin­ger­style Guitar Com­pe­tition, the Canadian Guitar Fes­tival Fin­ger­style Guitar Com­pe­tition, and the Inter­na­tional Fin­ger­style Guitar Com­pe­tition in Kansas.

His first year of com­pe­tition, he took 2nd place in the Canadian com­pe­tition. Deter­mined to improve his ranking, he observed the tech­nique of the most suc­cessful com­petitors and wrote songs to showcase his style accord­ingly, which enabled him to place 2nd in Canada and Indiana and 3rd in Kansas. Still not sat­isfied, he had a custom guitar built by the man he con­siders the best guitar builder in the world, and finally won both the Indiana and Inter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions.

Youngman’s com­pet­itive accom­plish­ments jump-started his solo career, and he began per­forming throughout the Midwest. Designing, engi­neering, and exe­cuting his shows on his own, he pio­neered a style of per­for­mance involving lights and video pro­jection that has since become exceed­ingly popular. The gui­tarist has released four solo albums, and is fea­tured on a number of group albums.

In recent years, Youngman has switched his attention to art, pro­ducing works in various styles of pho­tog­raphy, painting, and drawing. But he con­tinues to operate his recording studio and offer music lessons and instrument repairs, and hopes to make music theory acces­sible through his work­shops.

“His vision right now is to be more con­nected with people through music,” said Juli Yoder, who got to know Youngman through the praise team at their church. “It’s meant to be rela­tional and reach out to people.”

Eric Moore has studied guitar under Youngman for about two years, and is impressed by his honesty and patience.

“I can’t say enough good things about him,” he said. “His knowledge of music is awesome, and he’s really able to break it down.”

Indeed, Youngman has created a work­sheet packet for the workshop which he has tested on his 10-year-old son, and is con­fident anyone can under­stand music theory.

“Theory can put you in a box, but think of the first person to ever play music. What do you do? Once you start finding notes that sound good together or similar to each other, you’ll start seeing a pattern.”

To reserve a spot at the the upcoming Music Theory Workshop, message David Youngman on Facebook.