Michael is a Chicago-native guitarist and teacher. He was born and raised in Oak Park, Illinois and began his musical journey at a young age with internationally respected Jazz guitarist, John Moulder.

During high school, Michael worked extremely hard to earn money to pay for his own guitar lessons from various teachers. And after succeeding in complex AP music theory courses, teaching guitar on the side, and spending typically six hours per day practicing, he was accepted into Columbia College of Chicago with a full-ride scholarship. During his education at Columbia College, Mike was greatly influenced by his beloved guitar professor and mentor, Frank Dawson (RIP 1938-2010), and guitar professors Norm Ruiz and Bill Borris. Michael received his bachelor's degree in Music Performance from Columbia College in 2012. 

Michael then went on to earn a master's degree in Music Performance with a concentration in Jazz at the University of Toledo. While earning his master, Mike studied under acclaimed artists such as: the director of the "Dave Liebman Big Band", Gunnar Mossblad; Jay Rinsen Weik; Tad Weed; and Dr. Olman Piedra. During his education at Toledo, he also worked as a graduate assistant, teaching numerous undergraduate courses. 

He has played with artists such as: Buddy Guy, Koko Taylor, Otis Taylor, Jon Hendricks, Organic Flow, and more. Mike has opened for groups such as: Styx, Arrested Development, and Serengedi


Q: How would you describe your teaching method?

I adhere to a very personalized teaching approach to maximize learning and engagement—based on age, proficiency, and interests—to coax genuine understanding and passion for guitar.

Q: What skill levels and guitar styles do you teach?

All skill levels—from first time beginners to very advanced students. I can teach the following styles: Jazz, Classical, Rock, Blues, Spanish, Slide, Finger Style, and more.

QWhat is one of your key goals as a teacher?

One of my chief goals is to ultimately lead the student to their own intrinsic desire to learn.

Q: Why do you think learning an instrument is important? 

Learning music is a profound way to develop mindfulness, discipline and unlock one’s own latent creative potential. Until the modern era music education was considered an integral part of education. And as Plato said: ‘I would teach the children music, physics and philosophy; but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning’.


Guitar Teacher & Professional Guitarist   |   Fairfield, Iowa   |   mrcantafio@gmail.com