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About Us...

Let's be real for a moment... if there is one thing that will tell you everything you really need to know about a teaching organization, it's the accomplishments of the students they have served.


If you truly want to learn "about us" then we invite you to take a look at some highlights about our students over the years, who have shared the stage with artists like:

Norah Jones, Judy Collins, Tommy Emmanuel, Pat Benatar, BB King, GooGoo Dolls, Leo Kottke, Ritchie Havens, Amy Grant, JJ Grey, Kenny Loggins, Taj Mahal, Bozz Scaggs, Bela Fleck, Grace Askew, LeeAnn Womack, Lucinda Williams, Gov'T Mule, 3 Doors Down, Mark O'Connor, the Ramones, Jake Shimabukuro, 7 Mary 3, Frank Vignola, Michael Martin Murphy, Black Crows, Craig Morgan, Michelle Shocked, Cindi Lauper, Dustin Lynch, Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul, & Mary), Jefferson Starship, Punch Brothers, Chapin Sisters, Victor Wooten, Exile, Rodney Atkins, Andy McKee, Emmylou Harris, Grammy Hall of Famer Wanda Jackson, Joan Baez, and more.


Some have gone on to study at major music universities including Morehead State University, NYU, Belmont University, EKU, Vandercook College of Music, WKU, Berklee College of Music, and have appeared on national TV shows like NBC's The Voice, Woodsongs Oldtime Radio Hour, Chasing Nashville, and others on a list that grows daily.

Our History

The SDML Academy of Guitar is a national organization of guitar teachers, students, parents, friends and family members, and is based in Lexington, KY. We offer multiple instruction programs, events, services and certifications to beginning, intermediate and advance guitarists of all ages, styles and ambitions.

Founded by American guitarist, music instructor, producer, and music entrepreneur David M. McLean in 1999, he began teaching in Lexington in 2000 and the program was adopted as the national model for the YMCA of America.


Offering group and private lessons, player certifications, instructor certifications, and an instructor network, the SDML Academy is also one of only a few instructional systems ever sponsored by Gibson Guitars (via their Gibson Foundation).

But... what does  "SDML" stand for?

It stands for "Skinny Devil Music Lab" which is the umbrella organization under which the Academy of Guitar resides. Which, of course, begs the next obvious question: What's a "skinny devil"? Well, it's the nickname of our founder, David M. McLean, and there's a story behind it.

We'll let him tell it to you in his own words.


"So we had flown out to San Diego for the wedding of a very good friend. He picked us up from the airport and we zipped around the city a bit, then headed out to the mountains, grabbed lunch, and finally got to the hotel. We were going to meet some people and do some wedding prep, but first we needed to check in, unpack, get cleaned up, and such.


So my buddy takes off to handle a couple of things. We're unpacking and whatnot, and then I grab a quick shower. I come out to get dressed and my buddy walks back in, takes one look at me standing there in a towel, and says, 'Man, you really are a skinny devil!"'


We all laughed and went on with the day, but it kinda stuck; everyone referring back to the joke the rest of the weekend.


A few years later I'm trying to think of a company name and after pondering a dozen names or so, it just pops into my head. I laughed, but it kinda trumped all the other names, so....there it is!"



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