Our Guitar Man

Jim McCutcheon’s journey as a musician and educator transforms the local music landscape.

Article by Nan Paraskevopoulos

Photography by Kelly Settle–Kelly Ann Photography

Originally published in Centerville Lifestyle

Winner of the 2017 Ohio Governor’s Award for the Arts in Arts Education, Washington Township musician Jim McCutcheon's introduction to music was a happy accident. His parents purchased a ukulele for his older sister Judy. Seven years later, eight-year-old Jim picked it up, and Judy taught him how to play. 

“I sat cross-legged on the floor for hours going through a little book of folk songs,” says Jim. 

Growing up, Jim listened to the music Judy listened to - groups like The Kingston Trio and The Brothers Four - heavy with string instruments and vocal harmonies.

Jim got his first guitar at eleven. He took lessons at a local music store and practiced unceasingly for years before he hit a plateau while in high school when he struggled to find a knowledgeable classical guitar teacher. 

While he continued to practice guitar an hour a day, Jim went to the University of Dayton on a physics scholarship. As a freshman at UD, he learned about a free masterclass that touring classical guitarist Bunyan Webb was giving.

“I told him how frustrated I had been, and he said, ‘Well Jim, you’ve only got two problems: your left hand and your right hand,’” Jim shares.

Bunyan returned annually for four years, each time teaching Jim something new.

During his junior year at UD, Jim picked up the flute. He took lessons from a retired Cincinnati Symphony musician and started playing with a band and they quickly signed with an agent.

While Jim’s agent wanted his band to go on tour full-time, he had also been accepted to medical school. Jim secured a deferment from medical school, but after playing music 65 hours a week for 18 months he decided to decline his acceptance. 

“At the end of every week on tour, I was more energized than I was at the beginning of the week. So I listened to that,” says Jim.

He enrolled at Wright State, earned a degree in guitar performance and became the first classical guitar Bachelor of Music holder in Montgomery County. From there he was hired at Wright State, UD, Sinclair, Antioch, Miami and a Montessori school in Kettering as a guitar teacher. 

“This helped my mother relax. She just scratched her head when I declined medical school and said ‘I hope you know what you’re doing,’” says Jim.

Jim didn’t take long to become so popular that he needed help. He and his wife eventually bought a building in Centerville and hired teachers. Their business - McCutcheon Music - was in high demand and grew quickly.

“Now we have more than 50 teachers, hundreds of students every week, a sales staff, a repair shop and relationships with an incredible number of school systems. We built this business with the love and attention it needs. We call it our third child,” explains Jim.

Jim is a tremendous advocate for music education. One of his favorite educational avenues is “Guitar Man Does Science.” With programs for K-12, Jim pulls out his sparkly red electric guitar and teaches science through the lens of music. “Guitar Man” has also been a performer at Sinclair’s TechFest for decades. His goal is to make music education accessible.

“Music teaches the value of applying yourself and allowing yourself to be instructed. Just like in sports - you’re playing on a team. Everybody has to do their part, everybody has to do their best,” says Jim.

Jim is on the Ohio Arts Council Touring and Teaching Artist rosters, is president of the Dayton Guitar Society and is part of the Dayton Music Club and the National Federation of Music Club. He writes music reviews for the American Record Guide and has produced a weekly show called The Intimate Guitar for Discover Classical on Dayton Public Radio since 1986.

Jim's story is a testament to the enduring power of music to unite, inspire and transform lives. The Dayton area is fortunate to have such a dedicated musician in its midst, and Jim McCutcheon's contributions will undoubtedly resonate for generations to come. 

Jim.McCutcheonMusic.com | McCutcheonMusic.com

“I sat cross-legged on the floor for hours going through a little book of folk songs.”

“Music teaches the value of applying yourself and allowing yourself to be instructed.”

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