About Us

Tommy Armstrong-Leavitt
Music Educator

Tommy received his first guitar at age thirteen. Drums were actually what he wanted- but the guitar is what he got! This guitar was the biggest hunk of junk ever crafted. After learning a handful of chords from a family friend, he began trying to figure out riffs from all his favorite bands. It was the seventies so Tommy cranked out tune after tune from Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Sabbath, Cheap Trick, and KISS!

Fine tuning his guitar playing throughout high school in the eighties was not easy. As the seventies melted into the eighties guitar had morphed into something fantastic including the introduction of the shred guitar. This meant the average guitarist had to become better than average. Tommy’s numerous garage bands were featured at the traditional high school keg party. Tommy formed his first serious band with childhood friend and drummer Jason Mackenroth (Mother Superior, Henry Rollins, Blue Man Group). In 1984 Sacramento based metal band Heathen hit the scene hard, tirelessly playing gigs and recording demos which were featured on local radio.

Tommy left Heathen in 1985 to attend GIT (Guitar Institute of Technology) in Hollywood. This allowed Tommy to study guitar with Paul Gilbert (Racer X, Mr. Big), Frank Gambale (Chick Corea) and Jennifer Batten (Michael Jackson, Jeff Beck) just to name a few. GIT laid the foundation for Tommy to expand his style, range, and his technique. Graduating with honors in 1986, Tommy found himself back in Northern California and ready for the next gig. Wynch was an established band with a different sound. The band’s pop oriented hard rock songs earned them the attention of producer/singer/song writer Jessie Bradman (Night Ranger). Wynch recorded their 2nd EP Shut Up and Pay Attention on RMR Records. This EP featured Tommy doing back to back guitar solos with one of his idols Jeff Watson of Night Ranger on the track "Oak Park Shuffle."

In 1987, Tommy joined the coaching staff of “Stairway to Stardom”, an award winning summer music program in which students are placed in bands and coached through the essential steps of writing, performing, and recording.

Tommy was half of the treacherous guitar harmony team in Wynch, which signed a deal in 1991 with Artful Balance/Warner. The band headed to Hollywood to record their debut major label album Sucker Punch with producer Davey Johnston (Elton John), one of Tommy’s heroes. The album was unfortunately shelved in 1992.

The band went through a few member changes and returned to Hollywood in 1993. They secured a production deal with Hollywood Sound. Working with producer Martin Smellsly (Danzig/Black Crows) the band recorded a brilliant full length album with drummer Michael Frowein (Lynchmob) and bassist Dan McNay (Frank Hannon Band). This album did not get picked up even though the work was the band’s most amazing effort to date.

Tommy was recruited in 1993 by veteran GIT faculty member Vic Trigger to teach and develop curriculum for the Guitar Activity Center. The Guitar Activity Center was a live playing workshop in which guitarists could prepare for the Musicians Institute. Tommy’s teaching style and curriculum contributions led to an expansion in the school entitled Rock Shop.

Ready for a major change Tommy took a brief break from the road to focus on publishing his first guitar instructional book Chord Camp 1. Tommy concurrently opened a recording studio and began pro- ducing and engineering. He worked on his book feverishly while he was touring, recording, and teaching an average of 50 students a week. Chord Camp 1 landed Tommy a distribution deal and rapidly the book was being sold in 8 countries. This led to two immediate sequels, Chord Camp 2 and Chord Camp 3, both released in 1994.

Next Tommy created a new music venture- the band hurt. This Northern California based industrial/metal band formed in 1995 and released a demo in 1996. This introduction disc got the attention of producer Devin Townsend (Steve Vai/Strapping Young Lad). Hurt’s debut record Porn Star earned them major credit in Metal Edge and Burnn Magazines. The band exploded on the scene and recorded a second album- Godlike. This self produced album had the band showcasing nonstop until attorney Jeff Saltzman (Green Day) picked the band up on a production deal. Working with producer Mark Needham (Fleetwood Mack/Filter) the band continued to develop and showcase. After 6 months the band turned to another old friend to produce their next effort- Tesla’s Frank Hannon. Frank brought his massive knowledge to the table and recorded a new batch of tunes with hurt.

After bouncing from production deal to production deal, the band released a collection of recordings. Three separate discs made a complete set of hurt recordings entitled Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll. hurt then returned to the studio and wrote and recorded a new eight song album that would never be released. Instead the band split.

Tommy’s success with his private teaching practice and musical mentoring landed him the position of director of music education and “Stairway to Stardom” for Skip’s Music in 1995. Tommy continued these positions through spring of 2004. During this time Tommy doubled the size of the stores education department and tripled the size of the national award winning program “Stairway to Stardom”.

In 2003 Tommy released his 4th Instruction book Finger Fitness 1. The time had come to focus on further development of his skills as an educator. Over the next few years Tommy’s unique and straight forward teaching programs springboarded him into a consultant position. Tommy strives to constantly evolve as a player and educator and now has launched ... SmartGuitar Online.

Tommy is currently performing in Northern California with an eighties cover band called No Bozoz. He is currently writing and recording his first instrumental solo album and finishing his fifth book Finger Fitness 2.
Welcome and have fun with the lessons!!

STLi logoSTLi Web Solutions
Interactive Media Developers

STLi was founded in 1986 as Sky's The Limit, a presentation design and desktop publishing company. As technology changed, the business moved away from print design to interactive CD-ROM, touchscreen kiosk, and Web design. In 2008 they changed their name to better reflect their focus on Web application development. STLi's current team of designers and programmers has been working together since 1999.

Computer-based training has always been a focus for STLi. In 1996 they developed and launched their own Web-based system, Train & Track, based on the core philosophy that "Presentation + Evaluation = Education." They have completed interactive and online training projects for the California DMV, University of Hong Kong, California Department of Justice, US Soccer Federation, Immuno Concepts, Smart Routes to School, Caltrans, San Juan Unified School District, and the California Water Awareness Campaign, among others. The edutainment CD-ROM Save Planet Polluto, developed for the Sacramento Air Quality Management District, won the U.S. EPA's national award for "Outreach Project of the Year" in 2002.

For several staff members at STLi, SmartGuitar Online represents the marriage of over 20 years experience developing interactive media with a life-long love of playing guitar. Billy Wedlock, the company's director, has been playing rock and blues guitar since he was a teenager. Billy and Tonmmy Armstrong met in '93 when Billy was looking for a local teacher to help him expand his guitar playing technique. Tommy not only showed him how to improve his playing but showed him how teaching could be taken to the next level. Tommy Wedlock, lead database developer, has been playing bass guitar forever. In the '70s Tommy and Billy played in various bands (Thirst, Twelfth Night, Ragamuffin) in pubs and clubs around Glasgow and other cities in Scotland. The Maryland Club, Bundoran Club, Locarno, Lindella Club, Picasso Club, and Burn's Howf were among their favorite gigs. Some of their rock heroes included Jimi Hendrix, Jimi Hendrix, and Jimi Hendrix, and of course, local guitar legend Tommy Armstrong! Now they jam regularly to SmartGuitarOnline Practice tracks. No kidding!