Our CodeWizardsHQ instructor, James Capps, loves music and it shows. He owns 7 guitars and puts his musical talents to use in learning and writing code.
From Guitar Shop Owner to Coder
With 20 years of experience as a guitarist, James Capps was poised to become the owner of the guitar shop he had been managing for several years. From a practical view, accepting the business proposal made sense, but on a deeper level, he was facing a dilemma.
“I got to thinking about whether that was what I really wanted to do and realized it was not,” says James. With that realization, James had something else to think about – Now what?
His older brother, a software developer, offered to weigh in on the topic. The best programmers he knew were musicians, so maybe James should “give coding a shot.” Since technology was one of James’ hobbies, he decided to do just that.
James found that his music background actually helped him learn to code. “I definitely feel that there are similarities. Even with music, I would approach it in a very logical, step-by-step sequence.”
Although James doesn’t think that every musician will be good at programming, or every programmer good at music, he finds there are parallels and overlaps.
“Just as there is structure in programming, like if-then statements, there is structure in music, like 4-4 loops.” James, who also plays piano, drums, ukulele, and base, says that’s how he approached most instruments when learning to play them.
“I think it’s important for kids to learn to code for a couple reasons,” he says. “Like music, working with code stimulates your brain and helps develop your logical thinking skills. From a broader perspective, the world needs people who can code. Technology is a bigger part of our lives every single day, so we need people who know how to do this.”
Encouraging Kids to Keep Coding
James stays engaged with his students by interacting with them on the platform and forum, and has also mentored the first class of CodeWizardsHQ interns.
“I loved working on the internship project,” James says. “It was really cool to watch students make that dive and see them use Git and Slack and things like that, and see them graduate from us holding their hand to really building a project and delivering it to somebody.”
“The thing I enjoy most about teaching is watching people grow and change their perception of what programming is. When they start, they think, ‘Man this is too hard,’ but then they realize, it’s just practice. Like anything else in life, it just takes time and practice to get better at it. I really like watching the kids who just steadily get better and better each day.”
James says the most challenging aspect of teaching is helping students overcome blocks.
“Sometimes in programming, there’s something that’s blocking you from understanding how to achieve a result or fix a problem. I’ve seen it with myself, and I’ve seen it with kids. As a teacher, you try explaining it several different ways, but it’s still not clicking. There’s just something there that’s blocking them from getting it. If I had the ability to see the twist that’s blocking the understanding, and explain it in a way that would turn the light bulb on, that would be my superpower.”
“My best piece of advice is to just keep coding. It’s hard to see yourself getting better because you’re dealing with yourself every day. But if you just make it a habit and do it every day, there’s no way you won’t get better. Remember that, really, all it takes is doing it.”
Practical Uses for Programming
Outside of class, James likes to put his programming knowledge to practical use.
“My dad is a diabetic, so I built him a blood-sugar tracker so he could keep track of his readings throughout the day. That’s probably one of the favorite things I created,” James says.
When not teaching, James enjoys walking his 13-year old basset hound Earl, playing video games and listening to his vinyl record collection. He likes the fact that you can actually hold and collect records. “Vinyl has the most superior sound quality,” he says. With every subsequent offering, CDs, MP3s, and streaming options, there’s been more convenience, but also a degradation in sound quality. “It just seems weird to me that we got that right the first time,” he says.
What James especially likes about teaching at CodeWizardsHQ is the opportunity to share his experiences and know he’s teaching students skills they can use now and in the future. “Work doesn’t feel like work anymore,” he says. “I’ve found something that I enjoy, and I’m glad to be doing it!”