Tim Porter: Music is Math

Tim Porter is a CPA and guitar instructor at this year’s HCAMP on Feb 16-18. Photo by Phil Houseal

Feb 7, 2018–When his clients ask why Tim Porter, CPA, spends so much time playing guitar in addition to working on their taxes, he has an answer:

“Music is math,” he said. “I find it’s all related.”

Be assured the Hill Country musician does get his clients’ Forms 1040 turned in on time, while building in time to play guitar with Harry and the Hightones and Men In Black, plus soloing at parties, weddings, and funerals. He is also an adjunct professor at Schreiner University, where he teaches both accounting and guitar. On top of that, he will return as a guitar instructor for the upcoming Hill Country Acoustic Music Camp.

As any musician will tell you, teaching an instrument is more difficult than playing it. The biggest challenge, especially in a camp setting, is facing a group with a range of talent and experience. Porter has a strategy.

“I try to meet those classes where they are, from beginners to someone with the nerve to call themselves ‘advanced,’” he said. “I let them tell me what they would like to concentrate on. We make a list. Some want to know about jazz, some want Travis-style picking. Together we come up with a little curriculum.”

Another challenge is working with “students” who are beyond their school years.

“Some flat out say they can’t learn because they are old,” he said. “Of course that is not true. I have taught people to play all the way from 8 to 70. I think they all can learn how to play if they relax and give themselves a break.”

In several ways, he finds older students more eager to learn.

“Yeah, some may have lost their dexterity from youth, but we work with that. Sometimes it takes longer to learn chords, and they express discouragement that it is not as easy to do as it looks. But an additional advantage is that adults have longer attention spans. Like everything, it takes lots of repetition to learn to play any instrument.”

No matter the talent level, Porter finds one aspect that all his students need to work on.

“A lot of people playing by themselves have trouble with rhythm,” he said. “A music camp is a great way to take musical knowledge, and put it into a framework of song in a set rhythm.”

That’s because at camps like HCAMP, under ever shade tree and in every corner, groups of like-minded individuals can huddle for both formal and impromptu jam sessions. As camp director Bob Miller, who runs the camp with his son Cory, puts it, “it’s all about playing well with others.”

No matter how accomplished he is on guitar, Porter embraces one quality shared by all the best teachers–he never stops learning.

“One of the points I make in class is that if you think of learning guitar as being on a road, some of us are at the beginning of that road, and some are further down it. But we never get to the end of the road. I’ve got things on my music stand I’m still working on. There is always more to learn.”

And beyond that?

“I like what Chet Atkins said after having made some 60 studio albums: When I get old and nobody wants to hear me any more, I’m gonna play by myself on the porch,” Porter said. “That’s perfect.”


Tim Porter will be one of the string instructors at Hill Country Acoustic Music Camp (HCAMP) to be held Feb 16-18, 2018, at Mount Wesley Conference Center near Kerrville. For information and reservations, visit www.hcamp.org or call 830-459-2120.