Woodwind Instruction

Phrasing Instruction

There is certainly enough information on this website regarding my professional playing and recording accomplishments and on the the customized sax and clarinet mouthpieces I sell and service. Here, I want you to know what my teaching specialties are.

I currently teach clarinet, saxophone, and flute. Though I performed on the oboe throughout my 50 years of professional performance work, I let it go when I retired from full-time playing. I have a deep knowledge of the classical literature on the three instruments I currently play. In addition to classical, I also teach jazz and rock. I teach all ranges of students, from relative beginners to very advanced musicians. You must have at least a year of music experience to apply for a place in my roster of six students. If my roster is full when you first contact me, I will put you on a waiting list and keep you informed about your place on it. For qualified applicants, I also offer short-term (even single visit) consultations to students who are looking for advice on a particular issue or piece of music. Because I am not a full-time teacher I can pay a lot of attention to each student.

An interview is necessary between myself and any prospective student.

Another specialty I offer musicians playing any instrument is phrasing. Phrasing is the last and most important part of being a finished musician. It is the art of taking the music off the page so you can sing through your instrument. It is also the art of understanding how each set of notes becomes married.

In addition to this website, you can visit mikevaccaro2.bandcamp.com to hear any of my ten recordings in various genres. My book Music and Life will be available by Christmas 2023 on Amazon and Kindle websites.

Testimonials about my Teaching
and Quotes from my Diary

When a student asked Pablo Casals why he still practiced at the age of 90,
he said, "Because I think I am making progress."

"I studied with Mike for five years, and he taught me everything I needed to know about the language of music. Whether I was playing oboe or saxophone, classical or jazz, he was a master at teaching me how to play it right. When I first started lessons with Mike, he established my musical foundation by providing the necessary exercises for mastering my technique. Once I had the dexterity to play serious music, he knew exactly how to teach me every piece I brought to him. Above all else, Mike showed me how to sing through my instrument and make sense of any phrase. He also provided a hands-on approach to the craftsmanship that comes with being a wind player through his own workshop where he built equipment and made reeds. As a performer, Mike gave me immense confidence through his sincere encouragement. I lean on his wisdom during my performances, and I credit my success as a professional musician to his mentorship."
~Will Stevens

"Bar lines are like being in a jail cell."
~Andras Schiff

"I had been away from playing my clarinet for close to 40 years when I decided to return to playing again. With only a high school education and never taking lessons, a friend recommended Mike Vaccaro for private lessons to get me up to speed. After meeting Mike and starting to take lessons, I discovered that all I had to offer was a will to work hard. My knowledge of the clarinet was next to nil. After working with Mike for four years and receiving a sound foundation about the instrument I held in my hands, I have reached the next step in my venture to conquer the clarinet.

"Because of his knowledge of woodwinds and his unending patience I am now able to participate with various wind bands and contribute as an asset by playing music not just playing notes. In short, Mike teaches you the basics of your instrument and how to unite every part of your body with the the keys on your horn to make what the audience desires to hear, beautiful music. He can guide you to reach the limits and the goals you set for yourself."
~Manuel Flores,

"We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence, then, is not an act,
but a habit."

~Will Durant

"After many years of playing in community groups, I had still been struggling to be a better player. After working with Mike, I now understanding why: he immediately looked at my approach and put some fixes in place. I am glad of this because, after all these years, I now know what to do. Getting these lessons has been a great experience. I wish I wouldn’t have waited so long. I very much recommend his instruction. All the experience he has gives him real wisdom and the musical interaction is very rewarding.

"I now feel very motivated to practice and to move forward, and am very grateful for the experience with him."
~Kevin Oviatt

"You can read all the textbooks,
and listen to all the recordings,
but you must play with musicians that are better than you."

~Stan Getz

"In returning to play my saxophone after 40 years, I decided to pick up where I left off from the El Camino College Jazz band. Not being able to find a teacher because of the Coronavirus, I was about to give up on my last attempt to go online to register, looking for a saxophone teacher. Within three days Mike called me and, lo and behold, we connected!

"Mike helped me get on the Jazz Band at El Camino. He brings a wealth of knowledge of all reed Instruments. He has an endless amount of patience when teaching a lesson. His articles are a must-read and his recorded albums are enjoyable to listen to. In grading Mike as a teacher and friend, I would rate him an 'A+'"
~Don Noday

"Your plan? Write it down!!!
Now put it where you can see it every day.
Work the plan daily,
and wait for your success."

~Mike Vaccaro

"My high school music director recommended that I study privately with Mike Vaccaro many years ago. Because of that recommendation and Mike’s teaching, I live my life in music as a music educator and professional musician. I make the same recommendation to others. I continue to gain insight and benefits from Mike's knowledge and experiences, from musical considerations to his talents in mouthpiece refacing. It was my lucky day when my high school music director recommended Mike to me. It's now your lucky day too!"
~Gary Matsuura
Woodwind instructor at the Hall-Musco Conservatory of Music,
Chapman University,
Professional Musician, and Yamaha Performing Artist

"With so many great young musicians,
you never know what your entrance
to the world of music will be."

~Emanual Axe

Maestro: a master, usually in an art,
especially an eminent composer, conductor,
or teacher of music
"Mike Vaccaro is the perfect embodiment of the word maestro. More than simply teaching the language of music, he teaches motivation and life guidance. My thirteen-year-old son is excited to go to his ‘lessons.' The boy is motivated to make his teacher proud. This is what a teacher should do: both motivate and inspire. How wonderful to have a hero such as Mike Vaccaro! How wonderful to be able to recognize his work and his musical voice while watching our favorite movies. Mike requires 'one' minute of practice per day because within that minute a flame will ignite the passion and desire to play. It’s not about scales, posture, embouchure, or tedious exercise. Mike teaches both the love and joy of playing. He is a fountain!"
~Dennis Justice

"A person with a talent for listening
can hear things not yet spoken."

~Gary Jennings

"What a find: A professional musician who teaches music and a resume too long to list! Mike has played with Stan Kenton, Johnny Mathis, and many others. He has performed in orchestras, movie scores, musical plays, produced numerous CDs, and the list goes on. A musician who knows the ins and outs of the music industry. A master of the saxophone, clarinet, flute, oboe, and I am not sure how many more instruments he has in his arsenal. But just because you can play music does not mean you can teach music. Mike certainly can do both. My son started with Mike around 7th grade and is now graduating high school and he just received the John Phillip Sousa award for 'outstanding achievement and interest in instrumental music, for singular merit in loyalty and cooperation and for displaying those high qualities of conduct that school instrumental music requires.' This is in part (a big part) of Mike and his patience and teaching. My son now plans on continuing with music in college. With Mike it's not just about playing scales and learning to read and understand music, which he does and does well. It is also about discipline, respect, and appreciation of life and music, in the manner a pre-teen and teenager can understand. Mike teaches in his studio behind his house in a safe environment and encourages parents to sit in on the lessons, which I have enjoyed.

"The bottom line is that he understands kids and young adults and knows how to connect with them, finding their talents and passion for music. I unequivocally recommend this gem of a teacher to everyone. Soon you will be enjoying beautiful music!"
~Richard Fleck,
Grateful parent

"Practice is not linear, even for musicians.
One day to the next.
One hour to the next.
All aspects can fluctuate significantly.
It is normal."


Music is a lifetime of study.
It is important to accept that.
It is bigger than all of us.