For most aspiring musicians, the guitar is the symbol of cool. And for most angst-ridden teenagers all over the world, learning how to play the rock' n' roll catalyst is not always a simple task. That is why many Harford County residents have chosen longtime rock band frontman and guitarist-turned-teacher, Jim Bowley, as their teacher.
Raised by a single mother who worked as a banker, Bowley, 45, graduated from Archbishop Curley High School, an all-boy school in Baltimore, in 1984 and then received a Bachelor of Science degree from Towson University in music education in 1988.
"I joined my first band right out of college. I played guitar and did lead vocals for a band called The Express & the Powerhouse Horns," says Bowley.
He played professionally for 20 years with several different bands as the lead singer and guitarist. His last band, Captain Quint, toured the East Coast and, according to Bowley, his band's claim to fame was opening for Jimmy Buffett.
"I was always musically inclined and from as early as I can remember, I used to sing along with the radio and records…I just had a knack for remembering lyrics. When I was 12, I started playing the guitar in church, and just fell in love with it," says Bowley.
Bowley took the leading roles in his high school plays and musicals, but it was a friend who turned him on to one of his earliest musical inspirations.
"I was always naturally inclined to play music, but I can recall one pivotal moment when my friend introduced me to a Kiss song, 'Calling Doctor Love.' I thought it was so cool, and I wanted to mimic them," says Bowley.
After years of following his passion, in 2006 he decided to change his platform of expression from performing to teaching. With wife, Raquel, and two children, Daniel, 16, and Olivia, 11, Bowley moved his family to Bel Air in 1999.
"The years of travel and performing had taken its toll. I missed family outings with my family and, at 40, you get tired of unloading equipment at 2 a.m.," says Bowley.
Raquel Bowley encouraged her husband to pursue a career in teaching and, in true rock star fashion, he went to Harford County's Maryland Conservatory of Music under the tutelage of founder, Duke Thompson, and started a rock band program for the school called "The Classic Rock Ensemble."
In 2009, Bowley left the conservatory to open up his own teaching studio. He teaches guitar seven days a week and has about 30 students. He focuses mostly on pop styles that include pop, rock, country, acoustic guitar, and blues.
"The best decision I have ever made was to follow my passion with a 100-percent conviction," says Bowley.
Today, Bowley shares that same enthusiasm and love for the guitar with his students. But says that he values his students as people first and musicians second.
When asked if he tires of hearing guitar playing neophytes make an error on a song or play the wrong chord, he says, "Absolutely not! Mistakes are important to the learning process. Plus, I get to listen to and play music with a diverse group of terrific people, and help them reach their musical goals. We're spreading the guitar gospel here. This is the greatest job in the world!"
Jim Bowley, guitar instructor