Like many of Michael Dailey’s guitar students, Will Douglas remembers his former teacher as much for his mentorship as his weekly lessons.
“My first lesson with him was in November 2001,” Douglas recalled. “I was a freshman. I felt really lost after 9/11. I had just left home when this horrible thing happened.”
Dailey, a tall and imposing man, was a gentle giant who saw potential in Douglas even as the teenager failed to realize the amount of work it takes to be a professional musician. The chance meeting and subsequent lessons led Douglas to major in music at the University of North Texas.
Dailey’s death from an undisclosed illness last fall left a void in the local classical guitar community, Douglas said. To honor the life of the 65-year-old pedagogue and performer, Douglas and past friends of the revered teacher are organizing a benefit concert 7:30 p.m. Friday at Texas Wesleyan University’s Martin Hall. Ticket proceeds and donations will fund the Michael Dailey Scholarship that will be awarded every year to a music major who demonstrates financial need.
The choice of Texas Wesleyan as the beneficiary of the scholarship was intentional, Douglas said, because Dailey volunteered much of his time performing and teaching at underserved public schools near and around the university.
Born in 1956 in Midland-Odessa, Dailey was the son of an Osage Native American father and Caucasian mother. He grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, and began teaching himself guitar at 4. By 16, he had toured with an opening act for the Grateful Dead and soon after had performance credits with Eric Clapton, John Denver, Stevie Nicks, and Linda Ronstadt, among others. Dailey moved to Fort Worth in the early 1980s for his wife at the time, pianist Janet Dailey, to study with concert pianist Steven De Groote.
Dailey founded The Guitar Studio soon after moving, and the first location was just behind Ridglea Theater. Douglas, who now owns and manages the studio at its current North Hulen Street location, said Dailey was as dedicated to teaching as he was performing.
Former Dailey student Deanna Valone said he was extremely gentle with his students.
“He always met you where you were at as a student,” she said. “I didn’t know about classical guitar when I started lessons in 2006. I came to lessons with this junky steel-string guitar. Michael would suffer through that. I had just learned this hard piece. I guess Michael felt like I was doing well. He gave me my first classical guitar. He just gave me a guitar. No one had done anything like that before. It was super-amazing and overwhelming. He cared about music so much. He wanted people to reap the fruits of it.”
Cyndi Reep, who knew Dailey for the last 20 years of his life, said he had a soft and caring voice that calmed anyone he spoke with.
“He loved to help everyone through sharing his wisdom and knowledge,” Reep said. “He once said, ‘Everyone needs a quiet place to rest their soul.’ For me, he was that person. He helped me through some of the toughest stages of life, like losing my mother, and changed me as a person in the process. I learned to not sweat the small things and that the path of peace was the key to happiness. He will forever be a huge part of my life and who I am.”
Douglas said the Fort Worth guitar community is still mourning the loss of their mentor and friend. The vast majority of Dailey’s students have stayed on at The Guitar Studio, something that Douglas says is a testament to how loyal the deceased teacher’s friends and students remain. The local classical guitar community owes much to the long-bearded and kind-hearted man who was never seen without his guitar.
Friday’s concert will feature around a dozen guitarists who were former students of the great master. The concert will be held every September to ensure that scholarship funds are available for Texas Wesleyan University’s newest scholarship.
Donations to the Michael Dailey Scholarship can be made at Advancement.TXWes.Edu/Dailey.