Private Lessons: Acoustic, Classical, Jazz, Electric Guitar

Guitar is one of the most popular instrument choices at the Fox River Academy. We offer lessons in acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and bass guitar. Private guitar lessons center around the proper development of hand position, posture, relaxation for optimal technical execution, and rhythm/pitch. Students learn to sight-read, develop their musical ear, and understand music theory in relation to their instrument.

Recommended session duration:
Youth – 30/45 minutes; Teenage and Adult – 45 minutes/60 minutes.

The Suzuki Music Guitar Program is available for guitar students ages
3 and up. Learn More About Our Susuki Programs

Art Classes, Workshops, and Camps

Click below to be directed to a listing of our current and upcoming art classes.

Art Classes and Camps

General Information

Age to Begin Guitar Lessons

Instruction in guitar may begin for students as young as 4 to 5 years old. Smaller acoustic guitars with nylon strings are a good place for children (as well as students of other ages) to begin their studies and exploration on the guitar. Nylon-stringed instruments provide less pressure per square inch, making it easier on the student to learn to play, and are easier on the fingertips.

We also have many teenagers and adult students studying in Fox River Academy’s lesson program. Whether you always wanted to play the guitar, or you have an old guitar sitting around the house and have wanted to learn to make music, we welcome students at all levels and ages. Once a student has studied privately for some time, many opportunities exist at our academy for teenagers and adults to participate in various music experiences, such as our Adult Recitals, Guitar Ensembles, Evaluated Performances, Rock Ensemble, etc. Please contact our office for more information.

Acoustic Guitar or Electric Guitar?

Many teenagers are often inspired when they hear the power of an amplified electric guitar. If you are a rock music fan, and want to learn to play rock guitar in a group, starting on an electric guitar maybe your choice. However, many professionals and adults find it rewarding to learn the basics of guitar using an acoustic guitar.

If you want to learn guitar masterworks or learn a song to sing along to, then an acoustic guitar is probably the best choice for you. There is much overlap between these two, though, and you might even want to learn them both, according to your own individual musical goals. At Fox River Academy, we give you the choice!

Starting Supplies

Due to the nature of the instrument, most young students may need a special sized guitar appropriate for their age and size. we recommend young students to begin on acoustic guitars with nylon strings because steel strings may be too hard for their fingers at first, discouraging them from regular practice.

When shopping for guitars, you may find it overwhelming that there are different varieties of electric guitars and amplifiers, and acoustic guitars with both nylon and steel strings. Please feel free to contact our academy, and our instructors will be able to assist you with recommending a good starting guitar for your lessons.

Our Guitar Faculty

Fox River Academy’s guitar faculty has outstanding credentials and years of diverse performing and teaching experience to offer the best in musical education for classical, rock, folk, Latino, and jazz styles, among others. Our instructors can open your mind to the many and varied possibilities of music-making with the guitar.

Jordan Mandela Knudson

Guitar Instructor


Jordan Mandela Knudson began his musical studies at the age of four on the violin. Shortly thereafter, he embarked on what would be a long search to find an instrument that spoke to him as both a listener and a player. Finally, eight years and nearly as many different instruments later, he picked up a guitar and has not looked back since.

Jordan’s confident technique, creative musicality and enthusiasm for his craft have won him praise from audiences, as well as in master classes by David Russell, Pavel Steidl, Marcin Dylla, Berta Rojas, and numerous others. He has twice won second prize in the Society of American Musicians competition, in 2009 and 2010. In summer of 2011, Jordan was awarded a full scholarship to attend the Aspen Music Festival.

Jordan earned his B.A. in guitar performance from Columbia College, and his Master of Music degree in performance from Roosevelt University. Jordan inherited the knowledge of several distinct musical legacies through his private study with Sharon Isbin, Denis Azabagic, Brazilian master Fabio Zanon, and historical keyboard virtuoso David Schrader. He now shares his own synthesis of these traditions with audiences as well as his private students. Jordan has performed and taught throughout the United States and internationally.

In addition to solo recitals, Jordan regularly performs in chamber music concerts, and has played as a soloist with the Knox-Galesburg Symphony Orchestra and the Signature Youth Orchestra. He also maintains an active teaching schedule.

Ron Stark

Fox River Academy Director, Guitar Instructor


In August 2003, Mr. Stark co-founded/incorporated Fox River Academy of Music and Art, Inc. (a community music and art school) with musician Karen Kulzer, opening its doors with three employees and 40 students. Since then, Fox River Academy has grown to 400 enrolled students and 30+ full- and part-time employees, with members participating in student recitals, charitable fundraisers, art exhibits, and numerous other community art and music activities.

Ron received his music education at DePaul School of Music, where he focused on guitar performance and was DePaul Guitar Ensemble Concertmaster for three years. He studied under Brian Torosian (Northeastern University), Mark Maxwell (DePaul University) and Robert Guthrie (Southern Methodist University), and attended on scholarship two sessions of Southern Methodist University’s SMU-In-Taos Classical Guitar program. As an educator, Ron has adjudicated for the Chicago Classical Guitar Society, and been a staff member/teacher for OPUS Chamber Music Camp.

Ron has performed as a soloist/chamber musician for concerts hosted by Lewis University, Bradley University, the Chicago Botanic Gardens Concert Series, the Taste of Chicago, and The Art Institute of Chicago, as well as many other venues. Ron has been a private guitar instructor for over 20 years; he has prepared many of his students to be accepted and receive college scholarships at several universities and colleges across the United States. Ron has also contributed his talents to many charitable fundraisers and events, including the Kendall County Arts Guild and the Healing Arts program for Edward Hospital.

Ron is currently Executive Director of the Fox River Academy of Music and Art (in Oswego, IL), and, in addition to his involvement with the Caribbean-Fusion band Callaloo, performs regularly as a soloist and with the Fox River Academy Guitar Ensemble. He has also been a board member of the Chicago Classical Guitar Society since 2012.

Ryan Stark

Suzuki Guitar, General Guitar


Ryan Stark, a native of Oswego, started his guitar study at age of 7. Ryan is an active freelance musician and performer in the Chicagoland area. A first prize winner of the Grandquist Classical Competition in Geneva, Illinois, Ryan has performed in numerous master classes with some of the world’s leading classical guitarists.

His mentors include classical guitarists Dr. Brian Torosian, Bryan Albert, Ben McMunn, Ron Stark, and jazz guitar with Mark Fransiscovich.

Ryan trained with Suzuki educator Mary Lou Roberts at the Ann Arbor Suzuki Institute, and is a certified Suzuki Guitar instructor.

He has maintained an active Suzuki guitar program at Fox River Academy since 2011; his program is open to students ages 3 and up.

A faculty member of Fox River Academy of Music since 2003, Ryan brings his knowledge and expertise of classical, jazz, rock, folk, Latin, and flamenco elements into his lesson program and to our community. He is an active member of Chicago Classical Guitar Society.