Worth Slideshow

The 10 Best Private Lessons

By Claire Willett

H. L . Mencken famously wrote, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” We’re guessing Mencken just never had the right private lesson. The following experiences give participants unparalleled access to the skills (and tracks, vineyards, courts and closets) of the top professionals in their fields.
1. Wilander on Wheels ┃Tennis

Work on your ground strokes with one of the best tennis players ever.


Wilander on Wheels began two years ago, after seven-time Grand Slam champion and U.S. Open winner Mats Wilander agreed to give a tennis lesson to friends in Vegas and decided that, rather than fly from his home in Idaho, he’d drive down in his Winnebago. Now Wilander and Naval Academy Hall of Famer Cameron Lickle travel to clubs and private courts all over the country, granting tennis lovers the chance to return one of Wilander’s legendary backhands. A typical session lasts an hour and a half and consists of up to eight people, though the client determines duration, location and lesson size. The high-intensity drills focus on running—though Wilander knows that not many weekend warriors can match his physical condition—and emphasize simple, specific ways to improve your game. Lunch or dinner with Wilander and Lickle follows the lesson. “We’re in the business of making people happy,” says Wilander, and it’s hard to imagine a tennis buff who wouldn’t be happy after a lesson from this pro.

Price: starts at $250 per person for a group of eight

Location: anywhere the Winnebago can reach

Duration: minimum 1.5 hours

Contact: wilanderonwheels@gmail.com, 787.438.4263, wilanderonwheels.com

2. Karen MacNeil ┃Wine

Learn about wine from the expert who wrote the book on it.

Karen MacNeil conducts educational wine tours designed for those “who don’t want to stand in tasting rooms and drink common wine.” Rather, The Wine Bible author accompanies oenophiles to some of the world’s best (and often private) estates for tastings with the winemakers. In transit between vineyards, MacNeil, perhaps the country’s foremost wine educator, teaches clients about the business of winemaking—from viticulture to production to pricing, along with the history and culture of wine in the visited region. “Wine is not obvious,” MacNeil says, but after a day with her, “you’ll know why a bottle costs $250 instead of $25.”

Price: starts at $2,500/day for one to six people

Location: MacNeil lives in Napa Valley but will conduct tours in any of the world’s top wine regions

Duration: normally one to two days, but can be extended

Contact: karen@karenmacneil.com, 707.963.1146, karenmacneil.com

3. Rachel Fanconi┃Fashion

Learn how to dress—and shop—for success.

Stylist Rachel Fanconi knows that, for the modern businessperson, shopping for clothes can be a hassle at best, a time-consuming nightmare at worst—and neither option guarantees good results. Fanconi, who’s dressed David Beckham, Helen Mirren and Rachel Weisz, among others, teaches clients not only how to dress, but how to shop. “I want to put a little excitement back into shopping,” she says. Her personal shopping package combines a tutorial on how to dress for your body type, age and industry with a bespoke expedition to some of London’s best department stores, couturiers and boutiques. At the end, you’ll come away with a custom wardrobe and a list of sartorial resources culled from Fanconi’s little black book. “People get stuck in a rut,” Fanconi says. “I get them to break old habits and try something they wouldn’t normally try.”

Price: upon request

Location: Fanconi is based in London but will travel on request

Duration: five hours, not including a consultation prior to the session

Contact: rachel@rachelfanconi.com, rachelfanconi.com

4. J.W. "Corkey" Fornof┃Flying

Fly with the man who showed James Bond how it's done.

In the beginning of Octopussy, James Bond escapes his captors by flying a microjet through an open hangar. The stunt pilot for that and many other seminal aerial scenes in films such as The Phantom, Face/Off and Mission Impossible II is J.W. “Corkey” Fornof, who began his storied career as an air-show pilot. Now the test pilot for the LoPresti Fury, Fornof will soon teach a private seven-to 10-day aerobatics, formation and air combat course called the Fury Experience that he describes as a “full aviation experience like the one a World War II fighter pilot would get.” Unlike a typical aerobatics school, Fornof’s course emphasizes flight mechanics, energy management and onground instruction, so that come time to fly, “all you’re doing is putting the finishing polish on what you’ve already learned.” For private lessons, which Fornof also offers, aircraft and location are arranged at the client’s convenience; they are open to anyone with a private pilot’s license and the desire to improve.

Price: the Fury Experience starts at $30,000/week; all other: $1,500/hour plus travel expenses

Location: the airport of your choice for private lessons; Sebastian, Fla., the Fury Experience

Duration: seven to 10 days for the Fury Experience; minimum 10 hours for private lessons

Contact: corkey@loprestiaviation.com, corkeyfornof.com

5. Jerry Avenaim ┃Photography

Boost your photography skills with instruction from one of the profession's leaders.

In the realm of celebrity portraiture, there are few contemporary photographers on par with Jerry Avenaim. That People cover of a post-Oscars Halle Berry? His. Jeff Bridges looking pensive on the cover of L’Uomo Vogue? Also his. Avenaim, whose first solo assignment was shooting Cindy Crawford for Vogue España in 1985, now offers a private “crash course” to photographers of all experience levels. While the style of photography, the location and the camera are your choice, the academic focus of the lesson is not. “I teach the rules so you can break them properly,” Avenaim says. A typical three-day session includes time in the studio and on location, artificial and natural lighting concepts, workflow, post-processing, printing and retouching, so that clients leave with both a vastly increased skill set and a portfolio of images. Avenaim also provides models, hair and makeup, and can advise on and execute purchases of cameras and equipment.

Price: upon request

Location: set by client

Duration: set by client; three days is typical

Contact: studio@avenaim.com, 323.876.3374, avenaim.com

6. World Class Driving's 200MPH Challenge┃Supercar Driving

Take to the racetrack with a Daytona champion.

What separates most supercar drivers from those who’ve passed the World Class Driving 200MPH Challenge? The latter have broken the elite 200 mph barrier. The country’s oldest and most reputable supercar driving school has gained access to a few airstrips across the nation (including the famed Mojave Air and Space Port) and designed a program dedicated to turning speed-chasers into racers—at least for a day. After making the acquaintance of a fleet of Ferrari 599 GTBs, Lamborghini LP-560s and Mercedes-Benz SLR McLarens, you’ll spend the morning learning high-speed cornering, braking and control from professional drivers such as two-time Daytona champion Didier Theys. In the afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to start those engines.

Price: $4,995

Location: Mojave, Calif.

Duration: one nine-hour day

Contact: worldclassdriving.com, 877.597.6403

7. Missy Clark ┃Horseback Riding

Ride with a legendary instructor.

Missy Clark’s typical student is a United States Equestrian Team member or Maclay finalist, but one of the nation’s top hunter, jumper and equitation coaches offers private training to riders of all ability levels. Clark, who rode with Rodney Jenkins while still a college amateur, has since coached luminaries like Sheila Burke, Hilary Dobbs and Julie Welles to wins at the Grand Prix of Ireland and the Hampton Classic. From May through the end-of-year holidays, Clark holds lessons at North Run, the 100-acre farm and equestrian school she and her husband own in Warren, Vt. During the winter, Clark decamps to Wellington, Fla., for the Winter Equestrian Festival. Clients can ride their own horses or be placed with one from Clark’s expertly trained, show-quality stable. Clients can customize their lessons or let Clark assess where they need improvement.

Price: upon request

Location: summer, Warren, Vt.; winter, Wellington, Fla.

Duration: minimum one hour

Contact: northrun.net

8. Jeff Tobias┃Kiteboarding

Master a challenging sport under the tutelage of one of its legends.

Kiteboarding combines elements of wakeboarding, surfing, windsurfing and acrobatics. It’s a difficult—and often dangerous—sport, but with kiteboarding pro Jeff Tobias as your instructor, you’ll be safely soaring above the waves in a matter of hours. “I pride myself on breaking down each student’s learning style and customizing the lesson to best suit that student,” says Tobias, who’s taught Richard Branson and Tom Barrack, among others. In the first part of the lesson, you’ll learn kite theory, etiquette and mechanics; then you’ll hit the water. Once aloft, you’ll be connected to Tobias by a two-way radio helmet coaching system, and just in case you catch a mighty gust, chase boats stand at the ready.

Price: $650 for three three-hour private lessons in Kailua

Location: Kailua, Hawaii, or at your private beach

Duration: typically three three-hour sessions but can be customized

Contact: windwardwatersports.com, 808.261.7873

9. Culinary Master Course with Jean-Georges Vongeritchen┃Cooking

Share a kitchen with one of the world's finest chefs.

You’ve probably eaten any number of dishes from Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s fabled restaurants; now you get to see how they’re created. Vongerichten is giving epicurean guests of the Trump International a private two-hour glimpse into his kitchen, tool kit and techniques as he demonstrates recipes from his eponymous, three-Michelin-starred flagship. Along with three days’ accommodation at the hotel, the package includes dinner at Jean-Georges, daily breakfasts at Nougatine next door and a signed copy of his latest book, Asian Flavors of Jean-Georges.

Price: $9,000 per couple, maximum four people

Location: Trump International Hotel and Tower, New York

Duration: package, three days; two-hour cooking demonstration

Contact: 212.299.1000 or 888.448.7867 (at least 30 days advance notice is required), trumpintl.com

10. CKS Kickstart Motorcycle Rider Training Series ┃Motorcycling

Race motorcycles with Ducati's top instructor.

Achieving motorcycle Zen can take years of practice or one day of private tutelage from Christine Firehock. The VIP trainer for Ducati North America, Firehock is a fifth-generation motorcyclist and the owner of the motorcycle-training company American Motorcycle Driving School, which just celebrated its quarter-centennial. Most motorcycle pros specialize, but Firehock trains on all types and brands of bikes, making her the ideal coach for anyone from neophytes and re-entry riders to experienced enthusiasts hoping to take on the Alps or the racetrack. The structure, location and length of the lesson is up to the client; Firehock can provide bikes (top-of-the-line models from Honda and Ducati) if you’d like. “Riding a new bike is like starting a new relationship,” Firehock says. “I just fast-forward that relationship.”

Price: $1,200/day or $90/hour, plus expenses

Location: anywhere

Duration: normally one day, but can be extended

Contact: cfirehock@ckskickstart.com, 914.489.6980, ckskickstart.com