Sahuaro’s New Guitar Teacher – Mr. Hemmo


Gabriel Davidson, Editor

Although Sahuaro was sad to see Mr. Marrs depart, I think we can confidently say his spot as a guitar teacher has been left in good hands. Mr. Hemmo is a Sahuaro alumnus with a lot of experience under his belt, which no doubt made him an easy pick for teaching guitar at Sahuaro. As one of his first students, I’m proud to say I’ve learned a lot in my first semester of guitar, and I’ve come to the conclusion that while some of his classes–mine especially–don’t always give their all, he’s more than glad to give them his.

One of the first questions I asked Mr. Hemmo was what he thought of his experience as a student at Sahuaro, to which he replied, “Everyone’s trying to get through Sahuaro — that’s a universal truth.” He also commented that he had Dick McConnell, whose namesake our gymnasium bears. He took drama, but he already had his eyes set on a life of guitar. Although he can’t remember his freshman yearbook picture, he did recall his sophomore year’s photo vividly, stating that at the time he’d been going through a Heavy Metal and that it reflected heavily in the yearbook. One of the starkest contrasts between now and then, according to him, was that things just moved a little slower back then–that when he was at Sahuaro he’d be in the library looking through books and encyclopedias whereas nowadays everything you need can be accessed through your phone.

Mr. Hemmo conducting a performance at Notre Dame Preparatory

After high school, Mr. Hemmo graduated from the University of Arizona in 1991 and from Illinois State University in 1995. He then studied abroad in Tel Aviv, Israel, returning to the U.S. to teach at the U of A, Pima, NAU, and was a part of the faculty at Notre Dame Preparatory, and taught remotely at Central Arizona College. Having worked at U of A, he noticed that the guitar textbooks were really dated and taught strictly classic or non-contemporary music, so he wrote his own textbook teaching how to play contemporary songs, how to get a grip on tabs, and promoted a well-rounded approach to learning guitar. The textbook, ‘Beginning Classroom Guitar’, was published by Thompson Learning 1998 & 2004 but went open source in 2018 after it went out of print, a personal decision made by Hemmo which furthers his personal goal of fostering accessible and stellar music education. Since being published, his book has been used in nearly 2,000 schools across the United States. He can even see when students are learning through his YouTube channel’s video analytics. Evidently, much of his time is spent pursuing improving music education.

Mr. Hemmo has also toured across the states from 2007-2014, mostly performing classical concerts but also touring with Mozart’s Sister, a band he was a part of that was featured on MTV2, though the band’s name was sold after it broke up. Here’s a podcast from KXCI featuring the band. As of recent, Mr. Hemmo has worked closely with and has been a part of Arizona Music Educators, Arizona Band and Orchestra, and the Guitar Foundation of America.

As for the future of guitar at Sahuaro, Mr. Hemmo plans to negotiate a dual enrollment program with local colleges, allowing students to earn college credits while taking his classes. In addition, on the first and third Thursday of every month, the Guitar Club meets in the auditorium which usually comprises 15-20 students, working through topics not covered in class.

All that being said, we’re excited to have someone as experienced and eager to teach as Mr. Hemmo at Sahuaro. He’s already brought so much to the table, and he isn’t done yet. If you’ve got any interest in learning an instrument, you’re sure to enjoy the fast, well-rounded track that guitar offers!