Nick Russo
Forest Hills, NY
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Nick Russo

Nick R.

Forest Hills, NY
Profile-background-check Background Check
This teacher successfully passed a thorough criminal background check with SterlingBackcheck. This badge verifies trusted teacher status.
Profile-student-favorite Student Favorite
This teacher is rated in the top 15% of teachers in the specialty subject. This badge demonstrates subject mastery on a nationwide scale.
Teaching Locations:
Profile-location-online Online
Teaching Locations:
Profile-location-online Online
Levels taught:
Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
acoustic guitar playing: both finger picking and playing with a pick

About Nick R.

Nick performs with Paul McCartney, Jon Batiste (Colbert Show), Zeb Bangash, Antonique Smith, Rob Morrow, John Lithgow, The Hot Sardines, grammy nominated producer/composer/Indian percussionist, Deep Singh (tabla player with Sting, Katy Perry, Robert Plant) and grammy nominated producer/trumpet player/composer, Frank London, Russell Hall (Bessie & The Rainbow Kids), Vince Giordano & The Nighthawks, Gordon Au's Grand St Stompers, Marcus Miller, Moroccan vocalist/composer, Malika Zarra, Bill Charlap, Frank Vignola, Victor Jones and Cultur-versy, Jim Nolet (Jazz Passengers), Jennifer Jade Ledesna plus the late greats Jimmy McGriff, Teddy Charles, Sonny Dallas, Joe Ascione and many others.
Nick also performs with Josh Holcomb (Lucky Chops), Andrew Nemr (tap dancer), Miles Griffith's New Ting, Terry Waldo, Dandy Wellington, New Orleans’ Aurora Nealand, Mona's Hot Four, Dr. David Pleasant, Jon Weber, John Colianni (Les Paul), Kim Clarke (Defunkt/Joe Henderson), Raphael McGregor, Anastasia Rene, Indian/pop singer, Meetu Chilana, & many others.

Professor Nick R. (guitar, banjo, mandolin, ukulele, dobro/resonator/slide, lap steel, tenor guitar, baritone resonator, bass, drums, composition) has been the adjunct professor at Essex College, Jazz clinician for the full 19 years length for the Jazz Project at Kupferberg Center (Queens College) and has been on the staff at Great Neck Music Conservatory, teaching artist for Midori & Friends and other schools. Nick has given lectures at Manhattanville College, at Aaron Copland School (Queens College) and at schools, nationally.

Nick has played African music extensively with Malika Zarra, including her Ebony Road CD release with Harvey Wirht, Mamadou Ba, Brahim Frigane and other great world musicians. As a pupil of Pandit Samir Chatterjee, Nick continues to study Indian music, plays harmonium, box tanpura and oud. (soon sitar!)

Nick has also played extensively with ELEW years before, when he was jazz pianist, Eric Lewis and trombonist, Clark Gayton as sideman in various bands, including the James Brown tribute band with the late great, Black Velvet (Charles Bradley) led by Victor Jones.

Nick currently leads/MC's 3 bands: The Scooches (Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches), Hot Jazz Jumpers and NickR+11

Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches (with Betina Hershey) album, Get Us Out Of Fearland was #2 album, #2 artist, (#5 song with 6 of our songs in top 20) on April 2018 International Folk Music DJs Radio chart!

Over the past two year, Banjo Nickaru Western Scooches has built a solid following in the Eastern U.S. with a half dozen tours while also playing such prestigious events such as NBC affiliate Kansas City TV, Falcon Ridge Fest, Kansas City Folk Fest (main stage), Folk Alliance International, NERFA, WFUV Sunday Supper, Jon Platt's On Your Radar, Blue Plate Special, WMOT Finally Friday, WNCW Studio B Sessions, WoodSongs, Isis Music Hall, the Mid-Winter Folk Fest at Club Passim and recent January 2019 APAP showcase in NYC.

“Nick has worked with artists all over the jazz spectrum. His latest release brings a decidedly unorthodox approach.”

"....the inimitable Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches"

— John Platt (WFUV)

“A heart as big as the sky…full of high energy and higher spirits.”
-Elmore Magazine

“A band that has to be seen to be believed.” — John Platt (WFUV)

"They go back to basics with songs that bask in a genuine roots regimen and a sense of timeless tradition." Elmore Magazine

"Americana music at its purest and most impressive." No Depression

“Unfailingly high-spirited." LONDON TIMES

"...Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches are ridiculously fun." Rambles.

-Down Beat magazine 2006 Ro review plus [Jan/Feb 2016] Hot Jazz Jumpers' "The Very Next Thing" DVD/CD review

-Jazz Insider magazine current issue [Dec 2015]
2.5 page interview

-Just Jazz Guitar magazine interview [February 2015 issue]

-Vanity Fair magazine (August 2013) interview

"Summer of 2013, Nick R. performed at Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin's home. It was an honor to meet Paul McCartney and jam with him while he played toy harmonica. Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Iridium, Bluenote, Birdland, U.N., IAJE, Cape Cod Jazz Festival, NJPAC, Sweet Rhythm, Smalls, Zinc Bar, Smoke Jazz Club, internationally: Japan, Spain, Russia, Brasil, St. Kitts, Canada, France, Bermuda, Sweden, Israel

-Toured/recorded and/or worked as sideman with Antonique Smith, Jon Batiste (from the Colbert show), Jimmy McGriff, Teddy Charles, Bill Charlap, Sonny Dallas, Victor Jones and Cultur-versy, Vince Giordano & The Night Hawks, Frank Vignola/Joe Ascione, Miles Griffith, David Pleasant, Jim Nolet (former violinist for the Jazz Passengers), Dandy Wellington, Jon Weber, Aurora Nealand (from New Orleans), Anastasia Rene, Mona's Hot Four, Gordon Au's Grand Street Stompers, Michael Arenella's Dreamland Orchestra, with Jesse Gelber, Raphael McGregor, Emily Asher's Garden Party, and many other groups.

-Appears in Sam Mendes Film "Away We Go"

-Movie Soundtrack: King George.

-Guitar/banjo: "Jew Grows in Brooklyn," "Take Me Along," "The Big Apple Circus" + others.

-Banjo/Guitar Chair: "New Girl In Town" (Irish Rep Theatre)

-Author: Metallica Legendary Licks series,volume 1 & 2)
-Editor GRP chords (both Cherry Lane Music/Hal Leonard).

M.A. from the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College
(partial scholarship)

B.S. from S.U.N.Y. Stony Brook, graduated magna cum laude. Dean's list all semesters

-Published interview (book): A New Face of Jazz (Cicily Janus)

-Playing guitar/banjo on first episode of new PBS cartoon "Peg and Cat"

- Current adjunct professor at Essex College

-Guest lecturing professor at Manhattanville College

-Substitute adjunct professor at Queens College

-Winning participant: I.A.J.E. with Miles Griffith's New Ting 2007. Performance and educational certificate granted.

-Winning participant; part-scholarship award: 2004 International Jazz Workshop at BANFF Centre, Canada (dir, Dave Douglas)

-Winning participant; full-scholarship award of the 2001 JAS academy in Aspen Colorado (dir, Christian McBride (Down Beat Dec. 2001)

-Studying Bol (Indian rhythmic system) with tabla player, Pandit Samir Chatterjee 2006-2007; 2013-current

-Studied with Pat Martino, Billy Bauer, Ben Monder, Tony Purrone, Pete Bernstein, Dr. Stephen Salerno, Dr. David Belser

-Studying African Rhythms with drummer, Harvey Wirht

*** Lesson Details ***
With over 20 years teaching experience, Nick is patient with children & adults. He has a creative, unique pedagogy emphasizing hearing through singing, ear-training & natural, organic listening. Nick instills healthy absorption of music while students have fun learning their music, sight reading, internalizing with focus on rhythm and time.
As a student, you will get to work on music that you, the student select as well as work on sight-reading, technique, ear-training. We will also work out of method books and use other sources of information.

*** Studio Equipment ***
Chairs, music stands, instrument stands, classical foot pedals, classical guitar pillows, guitar amps, guitar, banjo, mandolin, ukulele, drum set. Students usually provide their own instruments but it's possible to borrow an instrument during the lesson at the studio on the first lesson. (free street parking right in front!)

*** Specialties ***
Nick's pedagogy emphasizes ear-training, singing, reading and truly hearing the music we are working on. Rather than rote teaching and guitar tablature, he instills natural listening, transcribing, sight-reading and proper technique. Lessons are always enjoyable as Nick observes each student's unique needs and listen's to their song preferences and musical goals. Students have the opportunity to learn pieces and genres they select and they are trained to figure out tunes by ear (ear-training) and transcribe.

Nick teaches:

-classical guitar and Brazilian guitar (nylon 6 string and nylon 7 string guitar)
-acoustic steel string guitar, electric 6 string and electric 7 string guitar
- jazz guitar + an eclectic mix of styles: blues, Brazilian music, Latin Jazz, Afro-Peruvian, Indian music, rock, heavy metal, funk, R & B, Motown, reggae + other genres.
- tenor banjo (traditional jazz, jazz from New Orleans, Dixieland and world music)
-5 string banjo (Earl Scruggs finger picking [bluegrass and country])
-tenor guitar
-resonator slide/dobro.
-lap steel
-baritone resonator (slide)


Write a Review
49 Reviews
Steve B
Profile-location-studio Teacher's Studio

Amazing instructor. Patient and knowledgeable.

Posted Oct 14, 2021
Profile-location-online Online

Nick was a patient and enthusiastic teacher. I was nervous to start music lessons in my late 30s, but he made me feel comfortable and I never felt embarrassed. He taught me the songs I was interested in learning, but snuck in music theory and the basics along the way! Highly recommend

Posted Sep 7, 2021
Profile-location-studio Teacher's Studio

Nick has done a great job with our 14 year old son! He has a great laid back style that is appreciated and keeps the lessons fun and engaging. Not only is he learning to play some of his favorite songs, but he is also getting ear training, music reading, picking, chord building, etc. We would highly recommend Nick!

Posted Apr 26, 2021
Profile-location-online Online

I would very highly recommend Nick as a guitar teacher. I've been taking lessons for five weeks and he has already helped me a lot with my technique. He has a great combination of the knowledge of a professional musician and also the patience and guidance of a very experienced teacher.

I also like that he is helping me with ear training. I've had previous experience with reading music, but he is really expanding my horizons with listening to music and trying to figure it out by using basic principles. This is a way to learn that I hadn't experience before in guitar lessons in the past, and I think it's a great way to learn.

I'm looking forward to many more lessons to come. This has really helped me to enjoy playing the guitar again!

Posted Mar 15, 2021
Profile-location-online Online

Ana C.
Guitar Lessons
My teen daughter has been wanting to take guitar lessons for the last 3 years. Looking over Mr. Russo’s extensive qualifications, gave me pose in hiring him, after all she was so new she did not even know how to old a guitar, I figured he would be over kill. That plus the fact that he seems to tour a lot made me concerned that, once the pandemic receded he would be back to touring extensively, leaving us to find another teacher. I am glad I decided not to let my fear guide my decision because, he really is an excellent teacher. He put my teen who is people shy at rest, now you cannot tell her she is not the next Joni Mitchelle in the making. One of her favorite things to do after each of her lessons, is to FaceTime me(she is in boarding school) and enthusiastically show me what she is learning.

Posted Mar 12, 2021
Profile-location-online Online

My two sons (ages 8 and 6) have been taking ukulele lessons with Nick Russo via Zoom for about 5 months. I have been very impressed with the lessons in every way. He is teaching them ear training, reading music, and technique on the instrument. He is clearly an extremely talented musician, and he is an amazing teacher (I am speaking here as a teacher with many years of studying music in my background). He is able to hold their focus for the entire lesson and redirect them if needed; he breaks the lessons into small chunks to keep them engaged throughout; he mixes music they know with pieces he’s chosen so they are always excited about what they are playing; and he is always positive and patient with them.

Posted Jan 5, 2021
Profile-location-online Online

Nick R. is truly an extraordinary guitar instructor. He is brimming with technical proficiency, enthusiasm, and a communication skill set that is unparalleled. His ability to hone in on exactly what you are doing wrong and right for that matter means you make progress rapidly and naturally. And he is a nice guy too!!

Posted Oct 17, 2020
Christina S.
Profile-location-online Online

Such a great teacher! I am an absolute beginner, but feel I am getting better every lesson. Plus, so fun! A +++++

Posted Oct 13, 2020
Profile-location-studio Teacher's Studio

Fun classical guitar lessons. Very knowledgeable and thorough teacher. My son really enjoyed his lessons.

Posted Sep 6, 2020
Jim K.
Profile-location-online Online

I've been self-taught for roughly 3 years and sought lessons to help me get out of the rut that I felt I was in.

Nick has exceeded my expectations. More than just a great banjoist, Nick is a fantastic all around musician. He's intimately familiar with genres of music I've never even heard of and is able to disseminate his vast knowledge of technique and theory into easy to understand lessons. One of my favorite things about Nick is he completely caters himself to you and your goals. On day 1, we laid down goals that I wanted to pursue, and every single lesson since has been centered around getting me there. Never once has Nick tried to trump what I thought was important to work on, he just works with me and helps me lay the ground work that I need to get moving closer to where I want to be. The other thing I really enjoy about Nick’s lessons is that he’s always respectful of me as an individual, and the environment that Nick sets up for his students often times make me feel like I'm just learning from an old friend rather than the expert, tenured, musician that he truly is. He has my highest recommendation to anyone looking to better their own musicianship.

Posted Aug 29, 2020
Jabari K. Noel
Profile-location-online Online

Nick is an incredible instructor! He was able to prepare me for a professional guitar audition with in 2 hour long lessons. His attention to detail and deep understanding of advanced musical techniques makes him a gem of a teacher, and a pleasure to work with. Will definitely continue lessons!

Posted Aug 25, 2020
Profile-location-online Online

Nick Russo sparked a love for music in me that I had once thought lost. I was hesitant to re-learn the guitar after years of playing aimlessly, but Nick has guided me and inspired me throughout the whole process. He is incredibly patient and understanding with me, even when I don't practice as much as I should. His knowledge of stringed instruments and music from Metallica to Carcassi is incredible. In our lessons, he blends everything that he has learned over his many years of education and performance to teach me a holistic view of music that has changed the way I look at the instrument. If you want to learn how to play an instrument or become a better musician, no matter your age, there is no better person to guide you than Nick Russo. Trust me, pick Nick!

Posted Aug 25, 2020
Glenn S.
Profile-location-online Online

Incredibly helpful in giving me that extra bit of advice in the areas I lack the most in. Even just a few lessons were what I needed.
Nick is also very friendly and great to work with.

Posted Aug 23, 2020
Profile-location-home Student's Home

On 10/7/2019 I had my first banjo lesson with Nick Russo. Nick created a calm, relaxed atmosphere in his studio, he was clear when he gave me instructions about technique, and he was incredibly patient when demonstrating the correct way to play a particular passage. His knowledge of music theory in general, and of the five-string banjo in particular, is very impressive. I would recommend him highly both to a banjo beginner and to anyone (like myself) who is in need of a refresher course. I should mention that I have also taken lessons from Nick on the lap steel guitar, an instrument that I do not know well. Nick’s expertise on this rather obscure instrument, his teaching ability, and – it is worth mentioning again – his patience, made these sessions very enjoyable and productive. He is, by any measure, an outstanding instructor. He is also very nice guy, who clearly enjoys working with his students.

Posted Aug 12, 2020
Profile-location-online Online

Our daughter has taken classes with Nick as part of her after school program with a larger group of kids. After the COVID-19 situation she continued having classes via zoom, and she very much wanted to do so. We observed great progress in both her musical skills and her desire to continue engaging with the instrument, ukulele in this case. The transition between in person and online class went smoothly, and Nick's follow up emails made sure we are on track with topics covered as well as the homework. Nick has a lot of patience and he's ways of engaging with Students are at age appropriate.
We continued ukulele classes online in a small group (2x1) and we are absolutely happy with our decision to continue taking ukulele lessons with Nick.

Posted Aug 11, 2020
Profile-location-online Online

I have been taking guitar lessons with Nick Russo since February 2018. In my opinion, Nick Russo is a terrific musician and an outstanding teacher. He is an active gigging musician with an encyclopedic knowledge of music theory and music history and is well-versed in various types of music including,but not limited to classical, jazz, metal, folk, world music, etc., etc. Nick comes from a musical family and is very passionate about music, and this comes accross loud and clear in his lessons.He lives and breathes music.

I came to Nick after taking lessons for several years with another teacher. I liked this teacher very much, and the lessons only ended because the teacher moved to another geographic location. Although I did like this teacher, the lessons were starting to get stale and repetitious. When I started working with Nick that feeling was turned around. Lessons with Nick are very stimulating and interesting. Although Nick knows sight reading and theory well, he places a great emphasis on aural (ear) training. I have worked with him learning intervals, scales and songs, using my ears instead of my head. It’s a little hard to explain, but it’s a very organic kind of way to learn music. You learn the instrument more intuitively and I have had a number of’ “aha” moments when some pattern or connection or aspect of theory makes sense in a deep way. In the time that I’ve worked with Nick, my knowledge of the fretboard, and my ability to figure things out by ear has improved tremendously although I still have a long way to go.

Nick is also an incredibly kind and compassionate person, and he has shown a great deal of patience when working with me. If I don’t understand something he will try to break it down or present it in such a way that it finally makes sense to me. He has also worked a lot with me on my technique, and has tried to help me play more efficiently and ergonomically. Earlier in my guitar playing career, I developed

tendonitis in my left hand from playing. In addition, I have chronic lower back problems. Nick has made numerous helpful suggestions so that I don’t exacerbate these problems or injure myself again. One suggestion that was particularly helpful was to use a bass guitar strap for my electric guitar. Because the bass strap is much wider than a regular guitar strap, the weight is more evenly distributed across my back, resulting in less back strain.

I began my lessons with Nick face-to-face, but this changed to video due to the coronavirus pandemic. We utilize Skype and it seems to work pretty well, although there’s no substitute for meeting in person. Nick seems very adept at working in this modality. For example, he will have me position the camera so he can see how I am playing something. He will also provide close-ups of his own fingering to show me how he is playing something. In addition, Nick sends his students notes regarding the most salient points of each session. This is something he did even prior to the pandemic. Nick allows me to audio tape the sessions, and when I am able to go through the tape I gain an even deeper understanding of whatever was covered.

In short I feel that Nick is great person and a terrific teacher and that I was very lucky to have found him. I would recommend him to anyone with no reservation.

Posted Jul 4, 2020
Profile-location-studio Teacher's Studio

He is fanstastic! A very patient teacher who was always willing to go the extra step to help me learn and improve. I miss our lessons. However I still follow much of the advice and tricks he taught me!

Posted Jul 1, 2020
Profile-location-home Student's Home

My son, who is 10 and has been playing guitar for two years, has been taking Nick’s band class for the last 9 months and we are very happy with it. Nick is not only a great musician, but as a father himself knows well how to teach kids and make them engage in whatever they are playing.

He has taught my son not only how to play with well with other musicians, but also how to find his “voice” within a band both in the rhythmic and solo sections of the songs.

He was accommodating when we had to reschedule a class due to personal reasons, and is always willing to make the class a little bit longer if necessary to finish what they were practicing.

When the Covid-19 pandemic forced us to have the lessons remotely, he started to use ZOOM and, while things remotely cannot be the same, he did a great job at making sure that they stayed as close to true form as possible.

Posted Jun 30, 2020
David Z
Profile-location-online Online

Nick has given my kids lessons on drums, piano, and musical performance. (both online and in person). He has amazing levels of patience that are essential for kids and beginners. Critically, he's given my kids the mindset and the space to be creative and realize that they don't have to be virtuosos to start writing their own songs.

Posted Jun 16, 2020
Profile-location-online Online

I have taken a lot of lessons over the years. I grew up playing piano and cello, and I’m a professional singer. I knew first hand what a phenomenal musician Nick Russo was, and I had a hunch that he would be a marvelous teacher as well.

Now that I’ve been taking ukulele lessons with Nick for the last three months, it’s clear my hunch was correct. He’s a phenomenal teacher. Patient, clear, willing to explain things in multiple ways. He’s also extremely flexible. Always willing to go in a different direction if that’s what’s needed. And, most of all, he wants his students to have fun with their instrument and he’s always looking for ways to ensure that happens.

Nick is a musician with a huge musical range. In addition to playing many instruments Nick has a broad and deep knowledge of many different musical traditions. It brings a richness to his offering as a teacher which are hard to match.

I can’t recommend Nick highly enough. A wonderful teacher and a kind, compassionate person. If you’re looking for a teacher, you can’t go wrong by choosing to work with Nick!

Posted Jun 10, 2020
Profile-location-online Online

TLDR; The guy is fantastic. He knows his stuff, he is a real performing musician, and he is a great and inspiring teacher.

Long format:

I've had a guitar sitting around my flat for about two years. The only thing I could do, other than looking at it, was playing three open chords very very very badly. And I just thought that playing music wasn't for me and that I didn't have the mind for it.

Because I am stuck at home for the quarantine, I decided to check if maybe I could do something productive with my time and decided to give taking some guitar lessons a try.

Doing research online for someone willing to teach me remotely, I found Nick, and I am thrilled I did.

We have now had only about 6-7 lessons, but he has ignited in me a passion for learning the guitar and also made me believe I can.

He has a style that will accommodate and inspire any sort of student.

In my case, I want to learn the blues. But because I knew nothing about guitar playing, I need someone that can take me through the basics in a structured way where things build on each other. Nick did just that.

The guy is a proper performing musician with a great personality and loads of experience under his belt.

I have been inspired and made confident by his way of teaching, and I want to study with him for years to come.

Posted Jun 8, 2020
Profile-location-online Online

First off, Nick is patient and very proficient at guitar playing. There were so many times when I've practiced with him that I was either out of tune, hitting the wrong note on the wrong fret, or just wasn't understanding the ear training while staring at the webcam. Yet he showed his positivity and encouragement for me to improve upon my playing, especially when it came to my ear training. There's always patience coming from Nick, since he wants you to learn as much as you are able in order to develop your songwriting and be a better, more confident composer. Thank you!

Posted Jun 5, 2020
Profile-location-online Online

I have been taking lessons with Nick now for a little over a year and it has been a great experience. I appreciate that Nick tailors lessons to my ability and musical interests and incorporates a little musical theory at times. Having started with little knowledge of the guitar, I think I've progressed a lot and that's due to his teaching. Lessons are also a joy. Nick has an easygoing teaching style, while at the same time he's focused on helping me progress. I feel lucky to have found Nick as an instructor, and I would recommend him to anyone looking to learn the guitar.

Posted May 29, 2020
Profile-location-online Online

As an adult, I was hesitant about learning a new instrument. Nick has been amazing at helping me learn the banjo! He is encouraging, patient, professional, and extremely knowledgeable. I would highly recommend Nick to anyone at any age.

Posted May 27, 2020
Profile-location-home Student's Home

Nick is an amazing ukelele teacher! He has been teaching my 9-year-old son for about 8 months now. He is cheerful and enthusiastic, and an undeniable talent. His teaching style is at once relaxed ("feeling" the music over strict adherence to technique), and rigorous (dropping in some heavy music theory early on). He's teaching my son to be a "musician", not just a "ukulele player". He encourages creativity and tailors the lessons to what our son enjoys. He sends a great summary email after each lesson with notes and reminders and things to work on for the next week. And his lessons even carry over nicely to how my son is learning piano. We would recommend him highly.

Posted Apr 19, 2020
Profile-location-online Online

Nick is a great ukulele teacher. He works with my daughter in her after school program but we've also done online/virtual lessons and even I learn so much! He's fun, easy going, super encouraging and a true talent that he can see what my daughter (and I) are doing right and wrong. He's the best music teacher you can find.

Posted Apr 17, 2020
Profile-location-online Online

My son takes beginning band with Nick. This group of very young players is learning how to hear a piece of music, break it down, play it together, and make it their own. Along the way, Mr. Nick teaches them theory, technique, and joy in playing music. Nick has the patience of a saint. His expertise is in guitar and banjo, but he knows his way around the whole band, and can teach rhythm and technique on a wide range of instruments. I highly recommend. Note, we’ve done lessons both on line and in person. Both were good.

Posted Apr 11, 2020
Profile-location-home Student's Home

I first heard Nick play about 4 years ago and a friend of mine took lessons from him. When I decided to start lessons, I naturally decided to go to him. As I went to his place, I thought, "Oh wow! I forget to ask my friend whether he's a good teacher!" I need not have worried. He's superb. He focuses on musicality: listening, hearing, enjoying; and then pulls out the technical things you could improve at and delves deep. I leave every lesson feeling great, and (proof of the pudding) people I jam with comment on how much my playing has improved. I'm an "advanced intermediate" player, but Nick also teaches kids, beginners, etc. In the age of coronavirus, our lessons are on Skype, and they are great, too. He comes out of jazz and plays trad as well as modern, but he also has an Americana band, and he knows classical, and the student before me is learning Hendrix-style rock. So no matter what direction you want to go, Nick is your man!

Posted Mar 18, 2020
Profile-location-studio Teacher's Studio

I’ve been trying to teach myself guitar from online videos and just started taking lessons with Nick. It’s making a huge difference. He’s worked on my posture, left and right hand positions, started me on basic ear training, sight reading and understanding of rhythm. He’s given me exercises to help with chord changes I’ve been struggling with. Nick’s a great musician who loves to play but also loves to teach, so a beginner with no music training can gain from his knowledge. He’s a kind, patient teacher and an enjoyable person to spend time with. My guitar playing sounds better already.

Posted Mar 14, 2020
Bob Tilton

This was my first lesson with Nick. He is a very nice guy. He created a calm, relaxed atmosphere in his studio, and he was clear when he gave me particular instructions. His knowledge of music theory in general, and of the five-string banjo in particular, was quite impressive. I would recommend him highly to both a beginner and to anyone (like myself) who is in need of a refresher course. I am very much looking forward to my next lesson.

Posted Oct 7, 2019
Profile-location-studio Teacher's Studio

Nick Russo is a fantastic tutor for kids and adults who would like to learn Ukulele, guitar, banjo or other instruments. He makes ‘learning fun’ he's friendly and cheerful. I don’t have any background in music but, Nick made it easy for me to understand the notes and how it works. I always look forward to every lesson. I Highly recommended Nick to everyone.

Posted Apr 2, 2019
Profile-location-studio Teacher's Studio

I’ve been taking guitar lessons with Nick now for a few months and it’s been a terrific experience — cannot say enough good things. Each lesson builds on the last and Nick tailors them to my ability and musical interests mixing in enough music theory, which makes learning both productive and enjoyable. Most importantly I feel like I’m beginning to understand how music works and not just blindly memorizing patterns or scales. I considered online courses before choosing Nick, but there’s no substitution for one-to-one instruction. Nick’s feedback and instruction are invaluable.

I was a little concerned about trying to pick up guitar in my early 40s, but its been a rewarding experience so far and I’m looking forward to more lessons with Nick.

Posted Mar 22, 2019
Sarah M
Profile-location-studio Teacher's Studio

Nick has been teaching my 7 year old guitar for one year now. His excellent, progressive curriculum, patience, and allowing my son to pick some of the music has fostered a joy in his playing and even the work that goes into learning a difficult instrument. My son even "teaches" me a weekly lesson. I couldn't recommend Nick enough!

Posted Mar 19, 2019
Matthew H.
Profile-location-studio Teacher's Studio

He does a great job cater the lessons to your needs

Posted Jan 18, 2017
Profile-location-home Student's Home

At just my 1st lesson with Mr. Russo -- HE'S THE MAN!!! Very concerned with getting the most out teaching/reaching the student!!! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED; thanks to Takelessons!!!

Posted Oct 8, 2016
Sara G.
Profile-location-home Student's Home

Great musician, great instructor. Learned more than I ever thought I would be able to at this age. Very patient.

Posted Oct 3, 2016
Profile-location-studio Teacher's Studio

Nick was quick to assess my ability and direction and we made immediate progress
at a comfortable pace.

Posted May 24, 2016
Profile-location-studio Teacher's Studio

Nick was a terrific teacher -- very enthusiastic and encouraging. He knows what he's talking about as well. He definitely breaks things down so even beginners like me can follow along and understand.

Posted Feb 3, 2016
Eric Falconer
Profile-location-studio Teacher's Studio

Nick has been a great teacher so far. He's patient and takes the time to adapt to my current strengths and weaknesses in order to tailor the lesson to fit my needs. Highly recommended.

Posted Jan 30, 2016
Profile-location-studio Teacher's Studio

Nick took me on as a banjo student and did an amazing job of quickly finding out how much I already knew and then ran with it, pushing me further while letting me direct us into areas that I wanted to pursue. He's very patient and insanely knowledgable. Every lesson has been packed with a ton of information, practice, instruction and music theory. (He's also a very nice guy to have a conversation with.) I couldn't recommend Nick highly enough as an instructor.

Posted Jan 21, 2016
Profile-location-home Student's Home

Nick is very talented, knowledgeable and patient. He communicates material extremely well and is a pleasure to work with.

Posted Jan 4, 2016
Donna Q.
Profile-location-studio Teacher's Studio

I've been taking lessons with Nick for a few months now and it's been a really positive experience! I have no guitar experience at all so I'm coming in as a true guitar novice. Nick takes time to explain techniques and encourages you to "listen" to the notes and to hear how the music comes together. He's very patient and definitely has a wealth of guitar knowledge. If you're looking to learn guitar, then I'd definitely recommend Nick!

Posted Dec 26, 2015
Sabrina S.
Profile-location-studio Teacher's Studio

I started my lessons with Nick just one month. I know I am inquisitive, intense, overly involved and very detail oriented with my interests in general and I treat guitar the same way. I enjoy and immerse myself into it. I think Nick has a very broad knowledge of guitar playing and comes across as a very conscientious instructor in the way he handles my overachieving demands. I would surely recommend him.

Posted Jan 21, 2015
James B.
Profile-location-studio Teacher's Studio

Exceptional musician. Skilled and patient teacher.

I have been taking weekly guitar lessons with Nick for nearly four months now and it has been all I hoped for and more. As a recent retiree and amateur musician one of my goals is to rapidly improve my novice guitar skills. I was looking for a teacher who would push me hard but was willing to work with the particular songs and musical questions that I might bring to him each week. I could not be more pleased. Nick is able to immediately bring his knowledge and experience to any material that I bring to a lesson and he uses it as the basis for a wide range of teaching moments – whether it be technique, harmony, or improvisational approach. What I didn't anticipate was the extent to which his holistic, listening (and singing) based approach to playing an instrument has challenged me. Nick is making me a better musician not just a better guitar player. (And it is very helpful that he types out notes on all that we discuss and sends an email following each lesson.)

Posted Jan 2, 2015
Koji Y.
Profile-location-studio Teacher's Studio

Mr. Nick R. is an absolutely great guitar player and music instructor. I'm a young professional jazz guitarist and instructor and have been taking jazz guitar lessons with Nick R. weekly since September of 2014. Every lesson, I receive a lot of information that I didn't know before and Nick always give me proper quantity and quality of task

Many ideas, information from his suggestions, including how to practice myself and instruction that goes beyond musical and guitar technique, also including psychological and philosophical concepts from Nick's experience and knowledge. His explanations are incredibly clear and easily to follow.

I've been playing guitar over 15 years. In my experience, it's very, very difficult to find a mentor like Nick R.

I truly appreciate meeting him and have tremendous respect for Professor R.

Thanks as always Nick!!

Koji Yoneyama (professional jazz guitarist and instructor), Dec. 23, 2014

Posted Dec 24, 2014
Shimun (Sam) A.
Profile-location-studio Teacher's Studio

You can say that I'm a rookie when it comes to playing guitar. So, I decided to do something about it. I'm taking 45 minutes sessions with Nick and I have to say that he is a really talented a teacher as well as he is a musician. While having fun during the lessons, I rake in so many new tricks up my sleeve. I love his individual approach, flexibility, and creativity just to outline a couple. For the short while that I've known Nick, he's been all, a patient teacher, a talented musician, but most of all he's been an inspiration to me. My goal was to learn to read music and learn how to play the instrument more fluently. But now, the whole world of new and fascinating opportunities opened up to me because of his mentoring and support. Thank you Nick! I wish I could take longer sessions with you on a more regular basis.

Posted Nov 23, 2014
Jerry F.
Profile-location-online Online

Finally found a guitar teacher who provides individualized instruction based on what I know and don't know. I previously depended on my guitar to make music. Nick showed me how to make the music yourself in your head and then find it on the guitar. He has great patience and also answers every question . And, most important for me, he writes out the lesson notes at the end and sends them. Every previous teacher told me 20 things in a lesson and I remembered two. Nick makes sure that every minute of my lesson is given proper attention.

Posted Aug 11, 2014
Tom N.

Highly Recommended

I've taken classes with Nick in a group setting (at Jalopy) and privately, and while I studied guitar as a kid and trombone in school, and I've never had a better music teacher. And I do mean music teacher, not just guitar teacher - Nick's approach is to start with the MUSIC you want to play, not just the guitar as a collection of strings and frets or a series of fingerings to memorize. He's realistic about where people are starting and how much time and energy they have to devote to the instrument with all else happening in their lives (school, work, family, whatever), but he really wants all his students to get better, to learn and progress and love the music like he does, and leads by example of his own musicianship and dedication to the art form. Highly recommended for all levels, all styles.

Posted Feb 8, 2014
Ann K.

Exceptional, musically rich learning

Nick is a terrific, terrific teacher whose main goal is to nurture my son’s love of music and instill the idea that learning to play guitar or drums is not hard, it’s “unfamiliar.” Robby has been learning from Nick since he was 7 years old. I love watching Nick balance solid technique with fun. Like taking a contemporary song that my son loves and teaching him to play a portion of it. Or inviting another student (or sometimes even a professional musician) to sit in on a lesson and jam with Robby. Nick is teaching the whole person, not just their fingers on the guitar. He really cares and I would recommend him to anyone!

Posted Oct 12, 2013

Photos & Videos

13 Photos & Videos


Performances with Antonique Smith
Sep 2013 - Present

Antonique Smith

-Nick performs with: Paul McCartney, Jon Batiste (Colbert Show), Zeb Bangash, Antonique Smith, Rob Morrow, John Lithgow, The Hot Sardines, grammy nominated producer/composer/Indian percussionist, Deep Singh (tabla player with Sting, Katy Perry, Robert Plant) and grammy nominated producer/trumpet player/composer, Frank London, Russell Hall (Bessie &The Rainbow Kids), Vince Giordano & The Nighthawks, Gordon Au's Grand St Stompers, Marcus Miller, Moroccan vocalist/composer, Malika Zarra, Bill Charlap, Frank Vignola, Victor Jones and Cultur-versy, Jim Nolet (Jazz Passengers), Jennifer Jade Ledesna plus the late greats Jimmy McGriff, Teddy Charles, Sonny Dallas, Joe Ascione and many others. Nick continues to perform with Jon Batiste, Russell Hall, Marcus Miller, The Hot Sardines, Josh Holcomb (Lucky Chops), Andrew Nemr (tap dancer), Miles Griffith's New Ting, Terry Waldo, Dandy Wellington, New Orleans’ Aurora Nealand, Mona's Hot Four, Dr. David Pleasant, Jon Weber, John Colianni, Kim Clarke, Raphael McGregor, Anastasia Rene, Indian/pop singer, Meetu Chilana, & many others. - performed with Antonique Smith Sept 10th, 2015 at BAM Gilman Opera House, September 28th for Environmental Grant makers Association and I continue to perform with her.

Jan 2010 - Present

Essex College

Professor Nick R. (guitar, banjo, mandolin, ukulele, dobro/resonator/slide, bass, drums, composition) Currently, adjunct professor at Yeshiva, accredited through Essex College in New Jersey

Performances at Lincoln Center
Feb 2016 - Feb 2016

with Patrick Bartley ensemble - Bix and Tram: A Retrospective

LATE NIGHT SESSION: Patrick Bartley - Bix and Tram: A Retrospective


M.A. in performance
Sep 1994 - Jun 1996

Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College

Science degree with double major in classical guitar
Sep 1988 - Jun 1993

S.U.N.Y. Stony Brook



Fluent / Native Proficiency


I.A.J.E. Performance and Educational Certificate
Apr 2007

I.A.J.E. in NJC with Miles Griffith's group

-Winning participant: I.A.J.E. with Miles Griffith's New Ting 2007. Performance and educational certificate granted.


Banjo Nickaru: Get Us Out Of Fearland review
Mar 2018

Elmore Magazine

Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches Very Next Thing review
Sep 2016

London Times

Ro Review
Sep 2006

Downbeat Magazine

Endorsed by Thomastik-Infeld Strings
Jan 2004

Connolly Music Company

2001 JAS academy full scholarship
Jul 2001

JAS academy in Aspen Colorado (director, Christian McBride)

Endorsed by Roger Borys guitars
Sep 1998

Borys Instruments


Folk Alliance International
May 2016
To nurture, engage and empower the international folk music community — traditional and contemporary, amateur and professional — through education, advocacy and performance.
Golden Key International Honor Society
May 1989
Golden Key is the world's largest collegiate honor society. Membership into the Society is by invitation only and applies to the top 15% of college and university sophomores, juniors and seniors, as well as top-performing graduate students in all fields of study, based solely on their academic achievements. As an international honor society with more than 400 chapters at colleges and universities around the world, Golden Key is committed to a high standard of scholastic achievement, and an ethos of integrity, innovation, respect, collaboration and diversity

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