Phil Circle
Chicago, IL
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Phil Circle

Phil C.

Chicago, IL
Profile-background-check Background Check
This teacher successfully passed a thorough criminal background check with SterlingBackcheck. This badge verifies trusted teacher status.
Teaching Locations:
Profile-location-online Online
Profile-location-studio Teacher's Studio
Profile-location-home Student's Home
Teaching Locations:
Profile-location-online Online
Profile-location-studio Teacher's Studio
Profile-location-home Student's Home
Levels taught:
Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
I will begin by looking over what a student is already doing or not doing, from a business standpoint, to benefit their creative work. We will then work out a plan that works for your specific needs and immediately execute it.
As an established independent musician and owner of an indie label that's breaking new ground in the way business is done in music, and someone who's handled every twist and turn with success and never compromised his creative voice, I'm well suited to put you on the road that will not only lead you somewhere lucrative, but will be something you're comfortable with as an artist.
You never need to compromise your art, no matter what any business person may tell you. As an entrepreneur, you're endeavoring to be creative in your use of money, ideas, and the communication of your art. So, as a creative individual, you're better suited for this than you can imagine. Let's get started.

About Phil C.





I've taught both privately and in the classroom (in schools from Pre-K to college, and through workshops), and have been a working musician and teacher for more than 25 years. I have a degree in music from Columbia College Chicago (Summa Cum Laude). My students have included everyone from absolute beginners to working professionals like myself. Many of my beginner students have also gone on to careers in music.

My approach in private instruction involves tailoring the lessons to the specific needs of each student, while making sure that he/she has the knowledge and technique to succeed in their creative endeavors. Whether it's a hobby or a potential career, I leave nothing out. You will learn the entire instrument. In cases where a student works in more than one subject, one session can typically be applied to all/both of them. I strive to help every student find their own creative voice, while building the skill sets required to work in any style of music.

As a writer, I've written for everything from music publications to LinkedIn, and have an award-winning nonfiction book that chronicles my journey as an independent musician.

As an entrepreneur, I've had several non-music businesses on the side over the years, and have weathered every twist and turn of the music industry for more than 30 years. My indie record label, founded in 1994, is breaking new ground by empowering artists to have a hand in their own business success while never compromising their art.

As a public speaker, I started speaking in church at age 9. I have spoken to audiences large and small about everything from music education and the music business, to dealing with addiction, to the teachings of engaged Buddhism.

Please feel free to contact me with the "Ask Phil a Question" button on my profile here. This can include questions about my method, or regarding days and times for lessons. What you see in my availability here is based on my schedule away from TakeLessons. I have students elsewhere and perform shows regularly. I may have additional times available and tend to have some flexibility. I teach worldwide online. Just ask.

As soon as you're ready to book lessons, you can use the Green Button after selecting your area of study, day and time. I will receive a notification that you've signed up. I will then confirm with you and send a questionnaire regarding your lesson needs within 48 hours.

Thanks for your interest.

I look forward to working with you!


Write a Review
27 Reviews
Norman S.
Profile-location-studio Teacher's Studio

very helpful

Posted Mar 16, 2021
Profile-location-studio Teacher's Studio

Very helpful, knowledgeable, and a good teacher.

Posted Mar 9, 2021
Ed B.
Profile-location-home Student's Home

Very knowledgeable and put me at ease right from the beginning.

Posted Jan 9, 2020
Ben B.

Phil is very personable in his approach. He is also very knowledgeable and throughout in his explanations regarding the topics we are working on and I'm very happy to be working with him.

Posted Dec 5, 2019
Glenn F.
Profile-location-studio Teacher's Studio

1st meeting/lesson went well....Looking forward to future lessons.

Posted Feb 7, 2019
Reenee H.
Profile-location-studio Teacher's Studio

Just my first lesson but I enjoyed it and feel like I am learning the basics well.

Posted Jan 9, 2019
Mya A.
Profile-location-home Student's Home

Very patient!

Posted Nov 14, 2018
Profile-location-home Student's Home

Phil is walking me through the theory and we are making progress so it’s goinf well.

Posted Jun 25, 2018
Profile-location-home Student's Home

Had a great lesson, Phil is a real pro, makes Me comfortable with our pace. At My age, He’s a great choice.

Posted Jun 4, 2018
Jeremiah Z.
Profile-location-studio Teacher's Studio

Phil is EXACTLY the kind of guitar teacher I was looking for. I couldn't ask for a better instructor. He knows his stuff and breaks things down so that you can understand and apply what you learn. He's also a deep soul and has a love for music that is contagious!

Posted May 15, 2018
Profile-location-studio Teacher's Studio

I have been looking for a high quality guitar teacher for a while and I found it in Phil Circle. He is a professional musician and makes a living at it, so you know he is good.

He understood the skill level I was coming from and what I needed to improve. Phil gave me some exercises and scales the first meeting, and I learned more from those exercises than I did in my previous lessons with two other guitar teachers.

Phil is the real deal, he knows how to teach, and he will make you a better musician!

Posted Apr 27, 2018
Profile-location-home Student's Home

Phil is a passionate, dedicated and talented Uke and vocal teacher. He has been working with our 8 yo boy who does not have an easy character and was able to establish a great relationship with him allowing for very productive lessons.
Phil is creative with teaching method and was able to adapt to our son's needs. I would highly recommend Phil

Posted Mar 30, 2018
Profile-location-home Student's Home

Phil is a fantastic guitar teacher. My teenage daughter has had a few teachers over the years, but he’s the first to help her learn to read actual music, teach her to restring her guitar, and provide a true musician’s perspective that keeps her interested and excited to learn. His focus on classical as a springboard for all other music genres is refreshing. We are thrilled to have found this gem of an instructor, his love for music and guitar is infectious and inspiring.

Posted Nov 16, 2017
Profile-location-studio Teacher's Studio

I started voice lessons which turned into combined voice and guitar lessons with Phil almost two months ago, and I've had an awesome experience! I came in nervous with crippling stage fright, but Phil has taught me to own it and realize that it's normal. He's a super cool dude with great stories and crazy amounts of music knowledge and experience. He is helping me find my true personal voice, which no vocal coach has ever helped me with. Although we get down to business and work, there's also sure to be laughs (and tears... but good tears, don't get me wrong here!) during every lesson. Would highly recommend!!!! Phil roxxxxx!!! 8)

Posted Nov 16, 2017
Profile-location-studio Teacher's Studio

A 5 star teacher. My daughter is very happy with this teacher.

Posted Oct 28, 2017
Profile-location-studio Teacher's Studio

Preparing for a performance at my friend's wedding. His experience has been vital in prepping me to anticipate variables and how to play through mistakes etc.

Posted Jun 9, 2017
Sunny H.
Profile-location-home Student's Home

Phil is an absolute delight! We had a great time working with Phil learning the basics of Ukulele. He prepared a great lesson for us while creating a fun atmosphere for people of different musical backgrounds. Highly recommend Phil!

Posted Jan 31, 2017
Profile-location-studio Teacher's Studio

Phil is a phenomenal teacher - right from the start, he will get you on track with exercises and practice routines that keep you focused on learning to play the guitar. He will cover the areas that you must know to become proficient on the guitar, including forms, modes, chords and progressing toward learning to read music.

After struggling to teach myself to play the guitar, I realized that I had hit a wall in my self-instructed learning and I needed to find a guitar teacher. I found Phil through word of mouth - and I have made great progress under his tutelage.

If you want to learn to play the guitar, Phil is the teacher you want - if you just want to learn to play songs, well, there’s YouTube.

Posted Jan 10, 2017
Profile-location-studio Teacher's Studio

Took vocal and guitar lessons from Phil and both helped me tremendously and gave me the skills needed to be a professional musician. Highly recommended!

Posted Jan 6, 2017
Profile-location-studio Teacher's Studio

Phil has been so great to learn from. He is very professional and I appreciate the way he gives meaningful and honest criticism when needed. It took some time, but I'm not shy about my voice anymore! Thank you, Phil!

Posted Jan 4, 2017
Profile-location-studio Teacher's Studio

Are you kidding me??
Who is still trying to figure out how great Phil Circle is at what he does?
He's well known for a reason: he's the best.

His approach to voice (with me, at least) is to address the entire body as part of your instrument. By making me aware of everything from my posture to keeping my jaw loose, he has drastically improved my range and control!!

He's an amazing guitar player & songwriter too and I often run into fellow musicians that have studied with him for those things also, but I (for now) only have experience with him for voice lessons. He has me sing through exercises with guitar that are hugely helpful- singing octaves, matching note and timbre, etc.
It's a vocal workout! But it gets results and he really makes it a ton of fun!!

Posted Jan 4, 2017
Profile-location-studio Teacher's Studio

Phil has the techniques and know-how to get the best out of you vocally. He'll also work with you on music theory if asked, which helped me greatly with improving my ear. Outstanding and highly recommended teacher!!

Posted Nov 6, 2016
Profile-location-studio Teacher's Studio

At 39 I decided it was time to learn to play guitar, I had wanted to do it for years but just hadn't. So I bought an electric guitar and played around for a month or so before deciding lessons were in order.

I shopped around for someone cheap, don't do that, they are cheap for a reason. I eventually came across Phil and we hit it off well. He is very well versed in blues and rock music which I was looking for. He knows music theory and breaks it down well. He's a straight shooter and will call you out when you're lazy, but always gives kudos and encouragement when appropriate.

It's nice when your teacher has practical real world experience to back up the teaching. Phil can back up his teaching and truly loves entertaining people, he puts on a great live show.

I would certainly recommend Phil as a teacher as well as a musician. Phil is a "Rock Star"!

Years later I am still playing guitar and now bass with a band several times a week and having a blast.

Thanks Phil.

Posted Nov 4, 2016
Profile-location-studio Teacher's Studio

Phil is great. I took vocal training lessons from him years ago and still use training materials we created. My voice improved a lot, it's clearer and stronger now, thanks to Phil. Add to it that I sing in different language and Phil was able to customize his lessons to accommodate it and you have a best teacher your money can buy. Speaking of money - the rates were very reasonable! You can't go wrong with Phil as a teacher!

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

Phil is a great teacher. He really helped give me confidence in my ability to sing. And the lessons I had with him gave me skills that I can always go back to when I need to practice or warm up. I highly recommend him.

Posted Nov 3, 2016
Simi A.
Profile-location-online Online

Posted Nov 22, 2017
Profile-location-online Online

Posted Mar 10, 2017

Photos & Videos

25 Photos & Videos


Music Coach / Writing / Speaking / Entrepreneurship
Feb 1994 - Present

Phil Circle Music and Guilt By Association Records

I'm proud to say that I've been Rated among the Top 12 Music Schools and Lesson Facilities in Chicago for 3 years in a row (2019-21) by Since my first teaching jobs and release of my first self-produced recordings in 1994, I've been an advocate of doing it yourself. I fell into teaching quite naturally and this work has led me to work with students to develop their careers in music, and in many cases I've coached them outside of the arts. Every subject you see in this profile is something I cover at my school, Phil Circle Music in The Flat Iron Arts Building in Chicago's historic Wicker Park. Please feel free to inquire further by using the contact button on this page. You'll hear back from me within 48 hours.

Writer and Author
Apr 1992 - Present


Before I made the conscious choice to go into music, I wanted to be a writer. As a result, I've kept this alive through the years in my songwriting and by writing for pure enjoyment or for hire. I'm a regular contributor on Medium. While at Columbia College Chicago for my music degree, I did all of my electives in the Fiction Writing Department, even choosing one of their professors as an advisor. I took every class in their mainstream course offerings up to the graduate level. I have contributed to various publications with articles appearing in business, science and arts publications. In the world of theater, I've scripted comedic plays and written a TV pilot. In 2016, I published an award-winning book that chronicles my 30+ years as an independent musician. It's called "The Outback Musician's Survival Guide" and is available in print, e-book and audiobook everywhere books are sold online.

Singer Songwriter Guitarist / Producer
Mar 1986 - Present

Guilt By Association Records

I've been a working singer, songwriter, guitarist for 30+ years. I've released multiple albums that received critical acclaim, and I've toured nationally. I perform regularly both in the Chicago area and regionally. My performances vary from solo acoustic to 3-piece to a full electric band. I have appeared on local and national radio shows, and often return to many of them, even co-hosting on occasion. I regularly receive media attention for my various work. I also produce extensively. I have sync licensing deals with several outlets. Sync licensing is when your work is placed in TV and movies.

Music Instructor
Sep 2016 - Sep 2019

Flatts and Sharpe Music

I began teaching here immediately after my return to Chicago and ended my contract after establishing my new studio. This is where I take younger students, since they have a lobby for parents and do 30 minute lessons. When I'm not here, I'm in my private studio. I am fully vetted by Flatts and Sharpe, as well as TakeLessons. In addition to teaching privately one day a week at each of their two locations, I coach some of the student bands for the quarterly "Flatts and Sharpe Rock Show" at a major Chicago venue.

Music Instructor
Sep 2010 - Sep 2013

Eau Claire Music School

I was a private instructor in guitar, bass, ukulele, and voice. I also conducted a couple of workshops in songwriting. My roster included about 20 thirty minute lessons a week, at its peak.

Music Instructor
Mar 1997 - May 2005

Quinlan and Fabish Music

As a private instructor in guitar, bass and voice, I also started a summer program for student bands. Two other teachers and I would combine students of various instruments, teach them a short set of music, and put on a show, all in one to two weeks with daily rehearsals. My roster at Quinlan and Fabish included 55 thirty minute lessons a week, at its peak.

Music Teacher
Sep 1993 - Jun 1999

Fran Center (Catholic Schools)

I was a classroom teacher of General Music for several Chicago Catholic Schools, as placed by Fran Center, and educational provider for parochial schools. I taught from Pre-K through 8th Grade. I also occasionally subbed for other subjects, directed the choirs, and put together classroom shows with the students. At my busiest, I taught from 8:30am to 2:30pm Monday through Friday.

Music Tutor and Teacher's Aide
Jun 1994 - Jun 1995

Columbia College Chicago

Beginning in my second semester as a student at Columbia College, I was asked to be a private tutor and to work in the classroom as a teacher's aide for the music program. I was able to hone my approach to private teaching through tutoring. As a teacher's aide, I watched an experienced classroom teacher in action and gained insight into ways to engage a larger group. Both of these part time jobs also allowed me to tighten my understanding of music theory to the benefit of my own work at the time, as a student and teacher.

Music Production Assistant
Jun 1994 - Jun 1995

Columbia College Chicago / Chicago Jazz Ensemble

While attending Columbia College Chicago, I was the production assistant for The Chicago Jazz Ensemble and personal assistant to their conductor William Russo. Russo was also a ground breaking composer and the founder/artistic director of the Contemporary American Music Program at Columbia. This experience allowed me a great deal of insight into the real world of music, not to mention the mentoring I received from Russo and many of his contemporaries regarding the craft of music. Through this job I met and spoke with many legendary figures in jazz and blues. Naturally, I benefited from the knowledge they shared.


Interdisciplinary Arts
Sep 1998 - Jun 1999

Columbia College Chicago

Music Composition and Performance
Feb 1994 - Jun 1997

Columbia College Chicago



Fluent / Native Proficiency


Creativity & Entrepreneurship at Berklee X
Apr 2021

Berklee College Of Music

Working through the intersection of creativity and being an entrepreneur, this four part course from Berklee X, created by SonicBids founder Panos Panay, was completed by Phil Circle with 100% credit received.
Top Music Schools in Chicago
Feb 2021

For a Third Consecutive Year! After a survey of nearly 600 Chicago area music schools and lesson facilities, using several criteria, Expertise awarded Phil Circle Music among their Top Music Schools certification.
Top Music Schools in Chicago
Mar 2020

For a second consecutive year: After a survey of nearly 600 Chicago area music schools and lesson facilities, using several criteria, Expertise awarded Phil Circle Music their Top Music Schools certification.
Top Music Schools in Chicago
Jul 2019

After looking over 574 Chicago area music schools and lesson facilities, using several criteria, Expertise awarded Phil Circle Music their Top Music Schools certification.
Summa Cum Laude (Honors Graduate)
Jun 1997

Columbia College Chicago

I graduated in the top of my class at Columbia College Chicago. My diploma was presented with honors.


Top Music Schools in Chicago 2021
Jan 2021

Top Singles of 2020
Dec 2020

NBT Music Radio

Top Music Schools in Chicago 2020
Feb 2020

Best of Chicago 2019
Dec 2019

Chicago Music Guide

Top Albums of 2019
Dec 2019

NBT Music Radio

Top Music Schools in Chicago 2019
Jul 2019

Book Award / Nonfiction / Entertainment
Jun 2018

2018 Readers' Favorite Book Awards

Top 300 Singles
Dec 2017

NBT Music Radio

Best Of 2017
Apr 2017


Best Actor In A Dramatic Role Nomination
May 2008

Chicago Actors Studio

Presidential Scholarship
Sep 1994

Columbia College Chicago


May 2009
Broadcast Music Inc. was founded in 1939 by forward-thinkers who wanted to represent songwriters in emerging genres, like jazz, blues and country, and protect the public performances of their music. Operating on a non-profit-making basis, BMI is now the largest music rights organization in the U.S. and is still nurturing new talent and new music.

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