Aram Bedrosian, Burlington Music Dojo’s sensei of


Aram Bedrosian, co-owner of the Burlington Music Dojo, at his business. Photo by Kayla Duvel/Community News Service

Kayla Duvel is a reporter with Community News Service, part of the University of Vermont’s Reporting & Documentary Storytelling program.

BURLINGTON — Aram Bedrosian sat with his bass in his left hand and a Speeder and Earl’s coffee in his right, watching close as student Stone Fisher played an E-minor pentatonic scale.

“The fastest way to get fast is to go slow,” Bedrosian reassured the 15-year-old Fisher. “It’s a paradox.”

It’s also an apt way to chart Bedrosian’s own journey — in music and in life. The Burlington Music Dojo, which Bedrosian co-owns, turns 10 this year. 

Tucked away in Burlington’s arts district on Pine Street, the Dojo gives independent music teachers a space to gather and teach lessons to students both in person and online. 

Bedrosian teaches 20 students there on a regular basis, along with a handful who come and go through the year. Some are local, but others travel hours to get feedback from the 46-year-old known internationally as a bass legend. 

Inside his favorite studio room in the Dojo, the walls are lined with photos of iconic bass players like Les Claypool and Bootsy Collins — and some of his students rate him just as highly. 

“He stands with those gods of bass, easily, and he is the most humble person I’ve ever met,” said student Craig Jones who has been taking lessons with Bedrosian since 2019. “I saw something safe in Aram. He knew exactly what I needed as an adult learner.”

Building the Dojo, his reputation and his philosophy as a teacher took time. He first picked up a bass when he was 13. He’d tried the saxophone already — it wasn’t for him — and decided one day he wanted to play bass guitar.

His parents bought him a used bass. It was a right-handed one — he’s left-handed — but he made do.

When Bedrosian was in high school, he began playing the bass hours a day with a band. 

“We’re talking about Burlington in the 1990s, and the scene was just so much talent here,” he said. “There were so many incredible artists, and of course, Phish was blowing up at the time, and there were so many eyes on Burlington.” 

“There were record executives sniffing around here,” he said. “It was just an amazing time to be 16 in a band gigging at Club Toast and Club Metronome. It was just magical.”

Bedrosian graduated from the University of Vermont in 2002 with a degree in philosophy but spent a lot of time in the music department, taking classes and learning theory. 

Along the way, he started playing gigs and became well known in the area for his musical ingenuity. 

“At that point, I found my identity as a human,” he said. “I ended up in the Gordon Stone Band, which was a really big deal at the time, and that got me playing all over the Northeast.”

“Gordon was on a couple Phish albums and had a very far-reaching following, so for me coming from high school, that was a big deal,” he said. It was an opportunity to learn from working musicians and build bonds with professional players across the region.

After touring hard from 2003 to 2005, Bedrosian decided to set his roots in Burlington and teach lessons while he took care of his parents. His relationship with each of them would come to inform his teaching.

His father, Grischa Bedrosian, 70 years old and well retired when the bass player was born, had come from a small village in Armenia. He immigrated to the U.S. after surviving three years in Nazi prison camps.

His father was “from a different place and a different time,” as he put it, and more distant than some parents can be. But Bedrosian learned a lot from his father. He was wise and stubborn and this, Bedrosian suggested, was the reason he lived to 106, through the torture of World War II and moving across the world, leaving everything behind. 

Aram talks about that determination when he talks about going into the studio to write music or help a student learn a tough piece. 

“There’s always a way,” Bedrosian said.

He carries his mother with him, too. Louise Griffin Bedrosian, a Vermont native, was a reading specialist in Burlington when the bassist was a boy, and he remembers his mother’s patience and kindness when teaching. 

From 2005 to 2013, Bedrosian taught bass and guitar lessons full time, moving between rented spaces in stores and art studios. He wanted a space just for teaching, though, and one where a community of teachers could form.

He found and bought the alleyway spot where the Dojo still stands, and there it has grown ever since.

Right now, a dozen different teachers work at the Dojo with expertises from bassoon to ukulele. Each teacher has their own schedule and rates and works with students to find a time to practice.

“I think he kind of creates this atmosphere that’s just really fun to be a part of,” said drum teacher Andrew Palumbo, who has been working at the Dojo since 2018. “He always leads with empathy and positivity, which is something that I’m always trying to do with my students. I think people want to be around somebody like that.”

Justice Gilbert, who has been teaching piano and voice lessons at the Dojo for less than a year and a half, has found much of the same.

“Immediately, you can feel how positive his energy is,” Gilbert said. “I think that’s part of what he infuses into the Dojo, this overall love for music. His top priority is that he really wants everything to work out for the students.”

For Bedrosian, the goal was never to make it big. It was to help others get from music what it had given him. 

“The association I made with the music was so positive that it defined my life,” he said. “It’s not our job to define anybody’s life, but it’s our job to make sure that it’s a positive experience as much as possible for people.”

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