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Student Spotlight: Philip Abrams Learns Mandolin as an Anniversary Surprise for his Wife

Student Spotlight: Philip Abrams Learns Mandolin as an Anniversary Surprise for his Wife

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NYC Guitar School student Philip Abrams has been secretly learning to play the mandolin for two years in order to surprise his wife for their anniversary! Read on for his story…and his wife’s reaction.

Phil with his wife and instructor Austin after the surprise

Phil with his wife and instructor Austin after the surprise

My wife accepted a job offer in New York, so we packed up our belongings, and moved here from San Francisco . This provided me with the perfect opportunity to take advantage of my time in New York by finding activities that continue to help me grow, even as I age.

I decided that my learning to play an instrument would be a terrific surprise for my wife. I loved the sound of a mandolin and it was small enough for me to hide in our apartment. I called NYC Guitar School and was more than welcomed by that first phone call. I perceived the task ahead to be daunting, but the idea that I had a team behind me led me to believe that music could actually become part of my life.

Learning to play a mandolin would be the last thing on earth my wife Jennie would expect me to be doing, so I thought this would have the makings of the perfect surprise for her. Everyone we knew was aware of my planned surprise, and over the ensuing two years not one person told her about my plans.

Learning anything new can appear to be overwhelming. Progress never happens overnight, but with determination, a little discipline, and a lot of desire, it doesn’t take long to see positive steps made towards and the goal in reach.

This experience has also produced a secondary benefit. It has generated a question worth repeating to myself, and that bears repeating by everyone, What else can I learn? What limits that I’ve placed on myself for no apparent reason that need to be questioned at this stage of my life? And what’s next? Now that I have had this wonderful experience, what other opportunities might I explore?

I certainly I give full credit and thanks to everyone at NYC Guitar School. I hope that my experience will serve as an impetus for others to take a chance, take a risk, and take a small step in a new direction. Hopefully that step might lead to playing guitar, ukulele or even a mandolin.


Philip Abrams

Wait, there’s more! We got Philip’s wife Jennie to tell her side of the story…

Well, after two years of not knowing what “class” Philip was taking I finally experienced and heard the fruit of his hard work and secret you all have kept so well!

It just so happened that our friends Sharon, Wilson, Pat and Howard were in town. They knew he had been taking mandolin lessons but did not know he was about to reveal the surprise when they were at our apartment in NYC.

The plans had been that we’d all go out to dinner after I came back from work. Phil came to pick me up from work as he always does and when our friends arrived he insisted that everyone come upstairs. They initially demurred not wanting to make an extra trip upstairs, but Phil was very insistent so they came along.

Once we go to the apartment we sat for a few minutes…and then the doorbell rings (which almost never happens!). Phil says, “who could THAT be”? A smiling young man walks in, whom Philip clearly knows but I don’t, shakes my hand and introduces himself as Austin Mendenhall. I am pretty befuddled and then he brings in a guitar….I think “Oh my, Phil’s been taking singing lessons and this guy is going to play for him while he sings!” Next, Phil goes back into our bedroom and emerges with a beautiful mandolin! I am the meantime our friends have figured out who “Austin” is since they have seen his picture and heard Austin’s music.

Philip brings out his pick, tests the strings, and he and Austin are ready to play. Before they start, Phil thanks Austin profusely acknowledging what an incredibly supportive and wonderful teacher he has been.

I sensed Phil’s both eagerness and nervousness as he checks with Austin as they begin playing. And then the amazing sound of music emerged, with vocals from Austin in our tiny space that is our living room with our four friends taking pictures on their iPhones! We heard two lovely Beatles songs, Norwegian Wood and You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away.

I am just stunned and so moved that Phil has done this so diligently for two years without my knowing all this was going on. And as it turned out, EVERYONE knew…from our apartment doormen to my manicurist and even the subway lady we used to see on my commute when he would wait for me to come home from work.

And so now, he can leave his music out and practice without worry or concern. I hope you’ll all have a chance to hear him play…it’s such a beautiful instrument. Thank you all for being a part of his joy and secret. I am blessed.



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