How long have you been playing guitar?
Since '99. Actually, drums were my first love, but my parents convinced me to take guitar lessons first. Good move.
How did you get into worship leading?
I grew up in the Church of Christ, and what's interesting about that is they were known for not using instruments during worship services. Just a cappella. So my first musical role in leading worship was to lead congregational singing. When the time came that I was playing guitar in middle school and high school, I had a band and one of the members went to a church where they used instruments. Their youth pastor approached us and asked if we'd like to lead the youth in praise for an event. We said sure, and that's when I specifically started using guitar for worship leading. It just snowballed after that.
What's your favorite thing about worship leading?
I mean, what can I say, knowing more of God, experiencing Him together with the church, being one. It's hard to pin point one thing, but something I truly love is when God suddenly allows you to understand a deeper spiritual reality as you lead. Such as when you're with the church all worshipping the Lord together in this kind of wild unity, and you suddenly realize there's no way all these people of different backgrounds and ethnicities would be here together if it hadn't have been for the incredible work of God to draw us to Jesus and fill us with His Spirit. We are his craftsmanship. I mean, it's a concept you could have "known about." But, it's as if you finally get it.
So, what inspired you to put together jwithrow.com?
Well, anytime I would be leading worship, whether that was from a stage or in a small group, I was forevermore having people come up to me saying, "Jairus, I would love to learn guitar," or "I'd love to play like that," or "I only know how to play D, A, and G and I wish I knew more." And as a guitar instructor my schedule was already full with students and it was impossible to teach everyone who came up and asked me. Plus, even if I did have time in my schedule, the chances were pretty slim that our particular schedules could line up. So, I realized that making the program available online would completely solve these problems and let students learn from me in a way that fit their schedule. And of course, another huge bonus is how affordable the internet makes things. The cost is drastically cut which allows even more students to take lessons.
Have you ever named a guitar?
Contrary to popular belief, I do not name my guitars like children. But some have nicknames. Like my very first guitar I ever owned I'll often call Ol' Faithful. Honestly, I've always found it odd to name a guitar like it's a person, although sometimes I'll refer to it as she.
How old are you?
I'm sorry, but I can't let you know since I want to maintain my eternally youthful internet mystique.
Any funny stories about playing guitar?
Well, I've definitely had some odd things happen! I once dropped a baby carrot, slathered in peanut butter, through the strings and sound hole of my upright acoustic guitar--all the way to the bottom. I've also had gum fall out of my mouth into my guitar. How these things happen, I don't know, but each time they do I'm stunned. Food and music just belong together.
If you only had one last thing you could say to your students what would it be?
It's worth it. The time, the effort, the joy of learning, the challenges you have to work through (that I and every other guitarist have had to go through)--it's all worth it. I mean, just being able to play in itself can be life changing, but also to do it in context of leading the church in the praise and adoration of God--it's eternally wonderful and important! So, that's what I would say. Keep on!