Sonja Röhrig – Musician, MUM & Music Teacher

Sonja Röhrig - I think the way I teach is something unique!

By Ian Browne Shamrock News

From a sad beginning, this young guitar teacher found music as a way to cope,

and a way to inspire!

“Even if I didn’t like the music we were playing, the emotions

that were transported through it - always got me!”

Sonja Röhrig Musician, MUM & Music Teacher from Wuppertal, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Tell us a wee bit about ‘you’.

What was your childhood like; your neighbourhood, family and hobbies?

Ok, so we start with the dark part first… 😉

My childhood wasn’t very nice. We, my Mum, my Dad and I (I have no siblings) lived in a nice house at the edge of the city, but we weren’t this little perfect family. My Mum died when I was 8, my father died when I was 16. I hadn’t a good relationship with them, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. They were self-employed and hadn’t much time for me, so I always had to take care of myself. I learned guitar at the age of 6, my mother forced me to learn an instrument. I wanted to play drums in the first place, but my parents wouldn’t allow it, so I chose guitar instead. A good choice, as it seems.

I had lessons for many years, till I was 16, I think. I always was kind of lonely and depressive and music helped me a lot to make it through the hard days. I had so much work to do since my mother died, so Music was my only real hobby, besides reading. I had to help my father at his auto repair shop and run the household. I always dreamed ‘me’ out of my life - because it wasn’t that funny. So Music is the only thing that runs through my whole life.

Inspiring Artists…

As a child I loved Rock’n’Roll , especially Elvis Presley, because my father listened to it. As I grew older the music I loved got harder. First it was Heavy Metal, then Black and Death Metal, Gothic. It was always dark and loud. It was kind of representing my inner self, my soul. It was a strange opposite to the music I played on the guitar. I always loved playing Folk and Classic, and I still do. I rarely play Metal, I have an electric guitar, but it’s more for teaching than for playing it myself. The only artist I still really like is Marilyn Manson. I have all of his CDs, his music always inspired me. Nowadays I have to be in the Mood to listen to it because I’m much happier, and sometimes I can’t get in touch with it the right way.

Music I love playing most!

I mostly play classic and folk, and covers of pop music in classical arrangements.

There isn’t much music I don’t listen to nowadays, most of it Rock, like Rolling Stones or something like that, but I don’t have any favourites. If the song catches me, I’m in, no matter what Band or Genre. In my Playlists you will find nearly anything from AC/DC to Vivaldi.

I’m working on my own songs. I do recordings as a session guitarist. I will have gigs as a solo performer (when Corona is over of course)!

My studies in MUSIC…

I went to a public Music School from the age of 6, till I was 16, I think. Then I began to study at the Music Academy of Remscheid, which was part of the University of Cologne back then. I studied classical guitar and piano. My focus was classical Spanish guitar and folk (mostly Slavic and Spanish). I didn’t make the degree because I got pregnant, and with my ex-husband, I couldn’t get on with my studies. Now I have 4 children (15,14,12,10 years old).

I really hated music Theory, because it left all the emotions aside, and It was always my intention to play and compose. I couldn’t get in touch with this part. I enjoyed improvisation the most, and playing really hard sheet music, all the classical ones. It was much work, but I felt ‘totally’ about achieving it. Sometimes I played till my fingers bled, but then it works in the end - it was a sacrifice.

My skills were strengthened the most by my teachers, who always pushed a little harder to get a little beyond ‘your’ personal level. I loved to find out what was beyond my personal level, and I still do. All the lessons I took, and all the teachers in the study and workshops, were really inspiring. Even if I didn’t like the music we were playing, at all, the emotions that were transported through it always got me.

The one thing I learned early was: practicing is the ONLY way to reach the level you want to be. If you want to play like Santana, you have to play as often as he does...every time!

SONJA the guitar teacher…

I love to see what the kids can achieve when I can get them motivated the right way.

Sometimes it is hard to see how frustrated they are when things don’t work out in the first place, but it is also a very good feeling when I see how they proceed, when they practice.

We are always having fun together; they tell me much about their lives aside from our guitar lessons, and we get connected. On this base, it’s much easier to teach them.

I always teach classical guitar first, as I learned it (for the young children). With the older children (or the adults) we develop the ideas together for the classes. A mix of the songs they want to play, and the songs they have to learn to get the right technique. For e.g. you want to learn a pop song, but to get it right, we play an old Irish folk song to learn the right technique for the fingers on the left hand - or the strumming part on the right hand.

I think the way I teach is something unique, that’s probably why I’m writing a book!

The German music industry…

I like that nearly all music genres can be in the charts, even if it’s only for a short time. There are sometimes rap, heavy metal and a German chanson in the charts at the same time. But everything is really short-lived nowadays. Songs are popular today and out tomorrow. It’s hard to be a musician in this surrounding. If you want to reach a great audience, it is kind of complicated, because you always play what the people want to hear. The people stream a lot these days and sometimes don’t even know which band they are listening to (I often have this problem when I want to play songs with my students).

At the moment I seem to be right where I belong…

I’m always looking for new opportunities to record or get gigs, but I’m feeling really comfortable in my actual situation.

I am a good teacher because I always try to understand my students, and always try to find the songs which can support their learning. I give them a good feeling. For me, music is all about emotions, and I try to get the students to the point they can explain their own emotions through music. Plus, I always teach a lot of technique to get them to a point that they can learn the songs they want, on their own, which is much easier if you have the right technique. Trying to get it as near to their real life as possible.

Therefore, I’m writing a book called “how to teach your hand to play guitar”

Most of my students play guitar only as a hobby and there is no need (for me in person) to get them to play Bach sonatas, if they don’t want to. The more fun they have the more they will practice, the better they will be.

Nowadays I enjoy…

My only real hobby, aside from spending time with my kids, is music. But I really like cooking and whenever I have the time, I try new recipes from all around the world. I love to try new flavours or interpret old German recipes in new ways. I try to spend as much time as possible with my boyfriend and my kids in nature, or while cooking. I went to nearly every corner of Germany with my parents when I was younger, and I always loved the landscape of the Black Forest. But if I have the time to travel nowadays, it would always be the UK. I’ve been to England, Scotland and Ireland several times, and always loved it! It feels like coming home, I can’t really explain why.

I love travelling, seeing all the beautiful countries all around the world and meeting so many different people. 😊

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