In 2006 Thomas Byers moved to Flagstaff to continue his education at North Arizona University. In 2010, he graduated from NAU with a Masters Degree in Guitar Performance and Pedagogy. He also studied privately and in masters classes with international artists such as Ignacio Rodes and William Kanengiser. Besides studying classical guitar, Thomas has also studied other styles of guitar including jazz with Steven Marquez and flamenco with Chris Jacome. In 2010, Thomas began teaching at Northland Preparatory Academy in Flagstaff.
In 2014, Northland Prep was honored with a Grammy. Thomas prepared the application for the award. He submitted recordings of the school’s musical performances and completed an extensive application process on behalf of the music program to secure the Grammy Signature Schools Enterprise Award. This brought a $5,500 grnat to the school.
Northland Preparatory Academy has the largest guitar program in Northern Arizona. Thomas teaches the William Leavitt method and heads the guitar program (a type of guitar education used at the Berkee College of Music), and through his experience and professionalism, he has earned the Academy an excellent and superior rating from national and state-wide guitar festivals throughout the region. In 2012 his students placed fourth in the U.S. competition, and in 2013 they placed third in the same competition.
It was also in 2010 that Thomas began offering private guitar lessons inside Custom Sound Instruments. At this point, he realized there wasn’t an adequate location/facility in Flagstaff to teach quality guitar lessons. As more and more students enrolled for lessons, it became apparent that more space would be needed. Within a few months, Thomas Byers Guitar Studio opened just a block away from Custom Sound Instruments, one of their current partners in the business.
Even though he has opened the studio and has realized this dream, he hasn’t stopped there. Not only does Thomas provide lessons at the studio and online, along with five other teachers, he also uses his studio and his talents to further the cultural environment and musical education of children and residents throughout the region.
The studio has three master guitar teachers and offers five positions for interns throughout the year. Each intern must maintain a 3.5 grade point average to work at the studio. While interns, the teachers at the Guitar Studio help prepare them for upcoming college auditions.
As a matter of fact, Thomas’ focus is never far from cultural enrichment in the community. On his website he proclaims at the top of his page that, “We aim to enrich the community through quality guitar lessons and education.” First and foremost, Thomas believes in education through music and through cultural integration.
Thomas has partnered with Northland Preparatory Academy to submit several grants to further music education in the Flagstaff area. In October 2013, he won a grant which was used to fund the production of three music workshops in Flagstaff high schools during January 30 – February 1, 2014. The New West Guitar Group presented the workshops as part of Thomas Byers Guitar Studio’s (Studio) Listening Room Series (LRS). The LRS sponsors and supports professional musicians who offer unique and provincial music for Flagstaff students and residents. The New West Guitar Group also provided a public concert as part of their visit.
Living in Flagstaff and supporting the cultural atmosphere of this city is a dream come true for Thomas and his wife, Amee. He plans and produces several community events each year. Following is a listing of some of the ongoing activities Thomas participates in:
- Member of the Flagstaff Arts Council
- Each month he opens his studio to the community for a free guitar music appreciation night. The community is invited and each session has been well-attended.
- First Friday ArtWalk – Thomas routinely opens his studio to other artists in Flagstaff as a venue to showcase their work and guitar music opportunities.
- Tertulia Nights throughout October and December.
- Flagstaff Independent Business Alliance member and opens his studio for meetings.
- Volunteered to play classical music at the Surgeon’s House Bed & Breakfast in Jerome during their annual holiday decorating event for the Shimmering Snow Blue Serenity Special.
- Participant in the Flagstaff Folk Project since 2010
Among Thomas’ many supporters throughout the music industry, one long-time supporter is Giovanina Bucci, a well-known song-writer and guitarist who has performed all over the United States. Giovanina won the 2011 Advance Music/Singer Songwriter Contest in Burlington, Vt.