THE HUB: The string section—bringing harmony to Williston

Nick Caiano, guitar teacher

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

In 1976, the year America celebrated its bicentennial, Nick Caiano celebrated a different milestone: his first electric guitar.

He was 13, and if it hadn’t been for his older and wiser cousin putting a Kiss record on the turntable, Caiano might not answer to the handle “The Guitar Teacher” today.

“My head exploded,” Caiano recalled of his first taste of Kiss’ “Cold Gin.” “I ran into the next room and I told my father, ‘You have to get me a guitar.’”

Caiano, now 49, is a graduate of Berklee College of Music. Before settling into a career as a guitar teacher, he woodshedded as a session guitarist in New York City and served as recording engineer for the once in a lifetime session that paired Boris Grebenshikov (“the Russian Bob Dylan”) with members of The Band (Dylan’s backing band during his tempestuous 1966 world tour).

Caiano, who moved to Vermont 17 years ago, is in the process of moving his instruction studio from Shelburne to Williston. He hopes to relocate to a space on Cornerstone Drive by Nov. 1.

Although he has had five students who have gone on to graduate from Berklee, Caiano said he accepts students of all talent levels and customizes his lesson plans accordingly.

“The lessons are tailored to each person. There’s no set plan, there’s no book. We make the book as we go,” Caiano said. “With me, the bottom line is joy of music. I love music, and I make sure that when you walk in that door, there’s an air of joy in the room.”

For more information about Nick “The Guitar Teacher” Caiano, visit


Shay Gestal, violin teacher

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

When 24-year-old Shay Gestal doesn’t have a soccer ball attached to her foot, she can usually be found with a violin wedged under her chin.

That’s because Gestal, the assistant women’s soccer coach at Saint Michael’s College, is also a violin teacher.

Gestal began teaching violin while she was a student at Gordon College in Wenham, Mass. She now gives lessons at the Elley-Long Music Center in Colchester’s Fort Ethan Allen.

A Vermont native, Gestal began playing the violin when she was 5.

“I was lucky enough to start at an early age, because as a little kid, whatever’s in front of you, you just pick it up,” Gestal said.

While she credits her violin teacher with making her the player she is today, she disagrees with her mentor’s style of instruction.

“When I took lessons, it wasn’t fun. I would come out crying a lot of the time, because my tutor would yell at me,” Gestal said. “So probably because of that … I’m all about technique and doing things right, but you’ve got to have fun at the same time. I want them to go home and want to practice.”

In terms of her teaching methodology, Gestal said she tries to bridge the gap between learning by ear and learning through sight-reading.

“Some people, they stress really heavily the playing by ear, but there’s some people that stress too much playing exactly what’s in front of you,” she said. “There’s a happy medium there. You have to know how to (read music) but you don’t want to be too glued to the page.”

Shay Gestal can be reached at 323-3752.