For many, it doesn’t get better than hearing electric guitar in the context of Iron Maiden or Metallica, but there certainly is a more mellow side.
And that’s what Aaron Augustine and Mila Shadel, who are studying in Duquesne University’s jazz guitar program, bring to appreciative audiences.
Equipped with a relatively audience amplification system, they’ll knock your socks off with technique, effortless picking and strumming fairly complex melodies and rhythms of tunes that became standards long, long before either of the guitarists was born.
Helping to draw Mila to that style of music was her joining the Peters Township High School Jazz Band when she was a freshman, all the way back in 2014.
“But I didn’t really start to take it super-duper seriously probably until my junior year, and that’s when I started listening to it a lot more,” she said following a recent performance with Aaron at the Mt. Lebanon Uptown Market. “And going to Duquesne, you’re immersed in it.”
They started playing guitar together there in performance development class.
“You literally get in front of the class and perform,” Mila said. “We started doing duo stuff and said, ‘oh! This is kind of cool.’”
And so they’ve been taking it on the road, so to speak.
They also perform frequently with other musicians. Aaron, a Bethel Park High School graduate, is in a band called Intrinsic Jazz, which also dabbles in some pop and “a little bit of rock,” he said.
And, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, he said his musical tastes can sometimes lead away from jazz.
“I’m a big country fan,” he said, saying that after college he might want to share his talents in the Country Music Capital of the World – Nashville, Tenn. – as a teacher and freelance musician.
Prior to attending Duquesne, he took lessons from R.J. Zimmerman, an adjunct professor of guitar at Duquesne University. Mila’s instructor throughout her four years of high school was Tony Janflone Sr. of Washington, who has earned the right to be called a Western Pennsylvania guitar legend.
When she graduated from Peters Township, she was awarded the 2018 Dave Pew Memorial Scholarship, presented each year in honor of a music teacher at the high school for nearly 30 years.
“What I want to do is be a freelance musician, so just kind of be able to pop in anywhere and play,” Mila said, referencing one of the all-time greats in that regard. “I love Carol Kaye. Love her. She’s like the dream. That’s what I want to do.”
For those who aren’t familiar, Kaye played electric bass on an estimated 10,000 recordings by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Simon and Garfunkel, Stevie Wonder, Barbra Streisand, the Supremes, Temptations, Four Tops, Monkees and Beach Boys.
“I also want to teach, too, private lessons or guitar classes, stuff like that,” Mila said. “I just like sharing music with people. That’s why I do it.”