USF Instructor Erol Ozsever Helps Music Students and Non-majors Alike Advance Their Musicianship

Monday, February 25, 2019

USF instructor of guitar Erol Ozsever teaches two sections of an elective guitar class that allows any USF student at any playing level the chance to learn the instrument.

As a guitarist of 23 years and an interdisciplinary music scholar, Ozsever brings expertise and energy to the classroom to enable USF students to become better musicians.

Ozsever is equal parts classical guitarist, popular guitarist, music researcher, arranger, and music industry mentor.

“I like to do everything,” said Ozsever. “I like to try to do as much as I possibly can and have as many open doors as I can for future projects.”

In the summer of 2018, Ozsever presented a literature review at the Guitar Foundation of America. There, he explained how educational psychology concepts can be applied to music performing and teaching to create better music educators and musicians.

The article, “The Psychology of Learning for Effective Practice,” was published in the September 2018 edition of Guitar Foundation of America’s periodical, Soundboard Magazine.

In this aricle, Ozsever proposes that through metacognition, or awareness of one’s own thinking processes, musicians can make the most out of their practice time. While musicians may know the importance of practice for advancing musical skills, few may question their practice habits or consult psychology literature to become better players.

“Just because you sit in a practice room for X number of hours doesn’t necessarily guarantee you’re going to get great results out of your practice,” said Ozsever.

Ozsever instills this perspective in students in his elective guitar classes and the class Creative Performance Chamber Ensemble, a music education class he’s currently teaching in place of Professor Clint Randles, who was on a Fall 2018 sabbatical.

Ozsever shows students how to study a piece of music to reduce it to its smallest parts by looking at the piece’s form. The performer can begin to notice repeating phrases and to develop a deeper understanding of the piece to learn it most effectively.

He compares the process to learning a second language. Instead of trying to memorize a long list of words, the brain works best by learning smaller pieces and noticing patterns to process via chunking. For students in the music education class, this is a perspective that is foundational to their success as future music teachers.

Ozsever also thinks it’s important that music education students gain competency with popular musical instruments and ensembles.

As part of Creative Performance Chamber Ensemble, students learn new instruments such as guitar, electric bass, and drums as well as music technology skills such as using MIDI instruments. The students choose their instruments, create their own ensembles, and select music to play in a truly learner-centered classroom. Competency in classical music and popular music prepares students to have active careers as both performers and music educators.

“In the 21st century, for people to actually make a living performing music, it is more important now than ever to be as stylistically diverse as possible,” said Ozsever.

Ozsever calls attention to how local orchestras, such as The Florida Orchestra, employ musicians to play in a pops orchestra. Additionally, music teachers are increasingly encouraged to take on new types of popular music classes, such as guitar ensembles.

He heeds his own advice by challenging himself with a new music genre. After moving to Tampa, Ozsever started playing guitar for the country band One Night Rodeo. Before this move, Ozsever had never performed country music, nor was he very familiar with the genre. He saw the band as an opportunity to venture into new territory.

“The fact that I didn’t really know that much country music at the time I started playing with them was just a challenge to see how many ways I can broaden my knowledge base, and how I can just consume something new,” said Ozsever. “Because it’s exciting and exhilarating to learn a new skillset you didn’t have before.”

Ozsever also performs with a variety of local acts including singer-songwriter Michael J. Weiss, country artist Andy Pursell, and the band Shaman. He continues to perform classical guitar in recitals at USF and around the Tampa Bay area, and he enjoys teaching guitar and acting as a professional mentor to students in the local nonprofit The Del Couch Music Foundation.

Students interested in studying with Ozsever can register for two guitar classes, the online section titled Beginning Guitar and the in-person section Class Guitar. The classes touch on both classical and popular guitar techniques. Both one-credit hour classes can accommodate players of all levels and are open to non-majors.