Yelm residents learning banjo, guitar, life lessons from longtime music instructor

Bob Goodwin’s lessons are more than picking up an instrument


Yelm residents of all ages have learned how to play the banjo and the guitar from Robert “Bob” Goodwin. In their lessons, students learn rhythm, strumming techniques and music theory, but they also gain self-confidence and patience.

Deanna Lopez of Yelm drives by the Goodwins’ large “Horse Feathers Music” sign in front of Stewart’s Arena & Stables often, and in doing so, her 11-year-old daughter, Sofia, grew interested in learning how to play the banjo. Sofia has dyslexia, ADHD and autism, but her mother said she has always been musically gifted.

“She has always been able to play by ear. Bob told me that as soon as she picked it up and started strumming, he could tell that she was going to be a good banjo player just by her picking it up without instruction,” Lopez said of her daughter, who is entering her second month of weekly banjo lessons.

Ellie Hancock, 13, has also been taking lessons for two months after seeing the large sign. Goodwin said that she is one of his fastest-learning students, and Hancock credits the knowledge of her instructor for her quick start.

“I don’t necessarily feel like I have it down quite yet, but it’s definitely surreal for me that he thinks that I’m very fast,” she said. “It’s cool to see his perspective because, in every lesson, he’s not talking about how fast you need to go. He actually tells you that that’s the last thing you need to worry about. You need to get the rhythm down.”

Lopez added that Goodwin has helped Sofia feel comfortable during the lessons, and that she appreciates the informality of them.

“After a while, she’ll have trouble paying attention, and he lets her get up and pace when she needs to,” Lopez said of her daughter. “He’s just very informal and very attentive to Sofia’s needs. He’s very empathetic toward her, and she feels appreciative of that.”

Yelm residents Curt Cleaveland and Marco Deavila are also students of Goodwin’s, as Cleaveland has learned from Goodwin for over a year and Deavila has spent five years with his teacher. Deavila’s wife has taken harp lessons from Goodwin’s daughter, Laura, for 15 years.  Roxana also taught harp for many years and played in front of large audiences.

Cleaveland said that lessons with Goodwin are enjoyable because of his knowledge of the banjo and music theory.

“You’re not going to stump Bob with a music question or a music theory question. He’s not going to say ‘I don’t know,’ ” Cleaveland said.

“He knows music very well, and he’s been teaching for a very long time,” Deavila added. “I enjoy his company.”

Yelm resident Steve Medeiros lives across the street from Goodwin’s sign, and he decided to take guitar lessons from him. He said he chats with his neighbor several times a week about life, music and the art of teaching.

“I met him through watching his progress with the sign that has mutated into folklore in the neighborhood,” Medeiros said. “He just struck me as an interesting person. I think it’s more of a friendship as opposed to a student and teacher relationship.”

Goodwin’s lessons are focused on the fundamentals, teaching students how to hold the instrument, plucking/strumming techniques and rhythm, if the latter does not come naturally. He is patient with his students and wants to help rather than show off what he knows, according to his students.

“He’s just really nice. I wouldn’t have anybody else as a teacher except for him,” Hancock said of Goodwin. “He really helps you learn to your best ability, and he’s able to figure out how you learn and what pace you learn at. He’s able to accustom how he teaches you based on that, and I think that’s unique.”

To learn more about Goodwin’s lessons, call 360-458-3993.