Jonny Hale began playing the guitar when he was 13. By the time he was 14, he was leading worship services with the instrument. By the time he was 17, he was giving lessons and doing studio recording work. By the time he was 19, he had opened a music store and lesson studio.
Currently, Hale is one of several guitar instructors at Gorilla Guitars in Columbus.
It is just one of the jobs that keeps the married father of two busy.
As the owner of JHM, a music and management ministry, he serves as the worship music coordinator for Fort Benning, for which he helps organize 20 worship services a week.
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Hale travels the country performing and preaching. While visiting the various venues where he trains and mentors worship teams, he seeks Christian musicians to record on his label, Real. Raw. Revolution Records.
He began Real. Raw. Revolution Ministries in 2009.
"We have got a lot of guys here who have a heart for soldiers and the ministry," he said.
Coming into the ministry was natural for him as his father is a pastor in the Assembly of God denomination.
On his website, Hale declares, "I'm not here to define Christianity. I'm here to demonstrate it."
As for recording and teaching music, well, that came as no surprise to anyone who knew him as a child.
"I always loved music," Hale said. "When I was three years old, I used to sit with earphones on and listen to music. I would do that for hours. Most children that age are running around all over the place."
He played the drums at age 8 and became proficient enough to teach that instrument.
Hale said he never had formal guitar lessons but learned from a number of sources and hung around with good musicians. He said the better guitar players were always willing to share their knowledge.
All of the lessons by Gorilla Guitars are given in the store, and he has about 25 students. At one time, when he lived in Tampa, Fla., where he attended River School of Worship, he had as many as 80.
Hale said he just "loves the idea of making music" and he tries to pass that love to his students.
"Music is a language. It conveys ideas and emotions," he said. "Think what a movie would be like without music."
He said a lot of parents bring their children for lessons and some end up taking lessons themselves.
The Ledger-Enquirer sat down to talk with Hale. This interview is edited for length and clarity:
Is guitar as popular now as it has been through the years?
Guitar still has the cool factor.
Are a lot of people taking guitar lessons?
Plenty. Once school is out, it is like a circus around here.
I have heard the ukulele is also popular.
It is making a major comeback. It is hot with the hipsters.
Is it much like playing the guitar?
It is very similar. Not really much difference.
Are boys the majority of your students?
No. I'd say we are actually seeing more girls.
Why is that?
The big influence is Taylor Swift. The girls come in and say they want to play guitar like Taylor Swift. They want to write songs like Taylor Swift.
Is there some frustration when they realize how long it takes to play like Taylor Swift?
With some, yes.
What is the hardest part of playing the guitar?
The first month is the toughest. Your fingers hurt. You get calluses.
What age is best for starting guitar?
Few under 10 have enough muscular development.
What do you stress the most to your students?
That playing the guitar well takes discipline. It takes commitment. You have to practice a lot. Playing the guitar is about muscle memory. You have to get the repetition.
You can tell when someone is not practicing?
You can't fake it. I can tell. If you have not been practicing, you can't play.
It is not just popular music being played on the guitar these days, is it?
Even church music is being driven by guitar. Fifteen years ago it was all piano and organ.
I imagine as a teacher you like to build a relationship with your students.
I do. I have to do small talk quick because the short time we have together needs to be spent on becoming a better player.
Name: Jonny Hale
Hometown: Born in Oklahoma but calls Columbus home
Family: Wife, Aaron, who is a photographer, and two daughters, Eden and Isla.
Education: Home-schooled. He is a graduate of The River School of Worship in Tampa, Fla.
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