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Master shredder Steve Lynch leads Federal Way School of Music
For Steve Lynch, the inspiration to pick up a guitar came in 1964, when he witnessed his sister and her friends go crazy over The Beatles album “Meet The Beatles.”
“I said, ‘That’s what I want to do,” he remembers.
And he did. First, he pretended, using a broom or yard stick. Then, his father bought him a cheap Sears and Roebuck acoustic guitar. In 1970, he got his hands on a Fender Stratocaster. By the 1980s, Lynch was lead guitarist in the band Autograph, touring with the likes of Van Halen, ZZ Top and Mötley Crüe. The band scored a smash hit in 1984 with the song “Turn Up the Radio.”
But through much of his musical journey, Lynch has been a teacher. He taught guitar in the 1970s, and it was in 1978, as a teacher at the Guitar Institute of Technology in Los Angeles, that he learned a different way to play guitar: using two hands on the fretboard, tapping notes at blinding speeds.
Now, Lynch is back home — he grew up in Des Moines and Seattle — and running the Federal Way School of Music. He and a group of other talented, professional musicians teach classes in everything from guitar, bass, drums and vocals at the school on 9th Avenue South.
“My youngest student is 7, my oldest one is 73,” he said.
Lynch founded the school almost five years ago, after Helmer’s Music shut down. He was a teacher there, and decided to strike out on his own with the other teachers at Helmer’s. His school has been so successful that he’s looking to expand. He wants to keep the school in Federal Way, but get a bigger space with room for a live performance area and a recording studio.
On a recent day, 19-year-old Keoni Buck took a lesson with Lynch. Buck’s father waited outside in the lobby, in audible range of Lynch and his session.
“Anything to keep him busy,” Steven Buck said about his son playing guitar. Keoni Buck just started a month ago, but can already play a couple of songs.
Other instructors at the school include Brian Lake on bass and guitar; vocal instructor Pamela Moore, who has a solo career and sang for the band Queensryche; drum teacher John Hargis; voice and piano teacher Amy Weitz; guitar instructor Jimm Boudreau; and brass teacher Mike Gergich, a former musician in the Navy band.
Lynch teaches five days a week between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and has 50 students. Look him up on YouTube, or either of his websites (www.stevelynch.info and www.lynchlicks.com), and watch his hands shred up and down the guitar neck like a pair of hyper-caffeinated spiders.
He learned the two-handed technique — and he grew to earn the nickname “the two-handed guitarist” — in 1978 from fellow musician and inventor Emmett Chapman. Chapman showed him how to play a scale with two hands on the fretboard; from there, Lynch transcribed loads of scales and guitar theory to fit the two-handed technique and published instructional books on it.
Lynch moved back to the Seattle area in 1995, after a stint as a teacher and solo artist in Florida, to care for his ailing father.
He looks back fondly on his Autograph days. He recalls, for example, that the group got going after encouragement from David Lee Roth. He likes what he’s doing now, and is glad he’s a homeowner and not breaking his back out on tour.
When asked what advice he would give to someone looking to learn an instrument, he references his current line of work.
“First of all, find a good teacher,” he said. “Buy a fairly good instrument and find a good teacher.”
Check out a video of Steve Lynch shredding on the guitar: