Neil ZaZa has taken guitar lessons since he was 10 and spent a good three years in college studying classical guitar.
Ask him his most valuable education, though, and he lists something altogether different.
"I would say the most important training is playing a club, getting out at 3 a.m., eating bad food at Denny's and staying at a bad motel. That's what it's about. That's the seasoning," he said. "That's paying your dues."
This philosophical approach perhaps is why photos and videos of ZaZa playing his beloved guitar show an unfettered look of joy on his face. No cool, rock star grimaces for this guy.
"When someone comes to the show, they don't want to see you looking at your shoes. And for me, I definitely want to see people I'm playing for smiling and having a good time. The bottom line for me is I'm playing my guitar tonight, so how bad can that be?"
ZaZa brings his current trio and joins the band Morglbl at The Empy Glass Saturday night. Yeah, he'll be smiling - because he'll be playing guitar.
And that's all the Akron, Ohio, native has wanted to do.
"Everyone has a moment in their life they said, 'This is what I want to do.' I heard the very first Van Halen record one day and that was it," he recalled. "I never wanted to do anything else."
His parents, neither of whom was musical, nonetheless encouraged his passion. He headed off to the University of Akron to study classical guitar and made it about three years before he decided his time could be better spent.
"It stays with me to this day," he said of his classical training. "It's a layer I refer to as being sewn into my musical fabric and it's a layer I wouldn't have if I didn't go to college. I can go into the reserves when I need to.
"But I wanted to rock out and write and compose."
In 1987 he headed out with a band to tour. His musical model then - and now - is to be an instrumental band. Since then, he's made his living with music, which includes performing, touring, recording as well as teaching workshops about guitar.