Macon – In August 2013, Greenwood School of Music first opened its doors to the public as Bibb County’s first non-profit, comprehensive music school for all ages and levels of ability. Located off Forsyth Road in North Macon, the school sits back off of a large, rolling, green lawn, sheltered by stout old hardwoods and graceful evergreens where children play hide-and-seek while waiting for their lessons.
When they opened their music school four years ago, founders Michael and Gloria Gardiner hoped to create a place where young and old could experience the benefits of music education. “Music helps people to grow spiritually, or physically, and helps them to relax,” Gloria said then.
One part of the Gardiners’ vision was to offer a music program that would help meet the needs of children who would be unable to receive lessons otherwise, including impoverished and special needs children. To this day, Greenwood School of Music continues to provide music therapy, for which they accept medical insurance payments. The school also offers special reduced rates for music lessons for children in the foster care system.
Over the years, the school has offered instruction to students learning piano, violin, guitar, and music therapy. Rasheda Jones is the certified music therapist at the Greenwood School of Music, and she is also the guitar instructor. For her youngest students, who are still exploring their musical interests, Rasheda teaches a variety of instruments, combining bite-sized lessons on guitar, piano, and bongo drums.
In March 2017, twenty-one music students from the Greenwood School of Music participated in the National Federation Music Club Junior Festival at Mercer University, playing one required piece and one choice piece by memory before a panel of judges. Each of the participants received scores of excellent or superior, with wonderful feedback from the judges.
Despite their successful music program for children, adolescents, and teenage students, the music school has not had many adult students take part – until recently.
This summer, the Greenwood School of Music began a new program, which was immensely popular and brought many adult students to the school. Violin instructor Jason Economides taught a 4-week ukulele workshop in June. The hour-long group lessons took place on Tuesday and Thursday nights at the music school and ended with a celebratory performance featuring Hawaiian music and island-inspired snacks for the students and their guests.
“My favorite part of it is seeing people’s faces when they accomplish something,” says Jason, who describes the ukulele class as “an adult summer camp.”
Rosemary Knight, of Warner Robins, called the class her “summer adventure.” “The class is challenging,” Rosemary continued, “because of the combination of reading the music and finding the notes…getting all the parts together so that it’s something someone would want to hear.”
“But I’m enjoying it,” Rosemary exclaimed, laughing.
Jason, who is also a music professor at Wesleyan College, provided ukuleles, fingering charts, and sheet music for the course. “The idea for a ukulele workshop at Greenwood School of Music grew out of a very popular part of our instrumental music ensemble class at Wesleyan,” he explained. The adult session included a lot of laughter, as the group fumbled their way together through the lessons.
Ukulele students like Joy Butler, of Macon, enjoyed the first ukulele session so much, they asked the school to offer a second one so that they could continue to develop their skills and expand their repertoire of ukulele songs. “My son gave me my ukulele several years ago as a Christmas present, and I haven’t played it until now,” explained Joy. “He’s very excited that I’m playing, and it’s been a great experience for me.”
Debbie Duckworth is the secretary for the Greenwood School of Music, and she was one of the champions of the idea to do the ukulele course. “It was a refreshing idea,” she says. “The ukulele is an instrument that will never go out of style, and it’s really portable and affordable.”
The June ukulele session was so well received that the Greenwood School of Music asked Jason to lead a second, intermediate class through four weeks of July. Many of the participants in the first class returned for the second session, and several new students came to revive their ukulele skills.
“I don’t know where this could take us – as Greenwood School of Music – but I want us to be able to visit group homes, where we could bring joy to so many,” says Debbie. “I’m really excited about the future of this group here.”
The summer ukulele sessions were so popular that the music school is now in the process of forming a civic ukulele choir, which will meet once a month from September through April. Anyone who knows how to play the ukulele, whether through the Greenwood School of Music summer session or from outside experience, is welcome to join the choir with minimal costs associated for sheet music and instruction.
Meanwhile, piano teachers Elizabeth Morgan and Michael Gardiner, violin teachers Patricia Baser and Jason Economides, and guitar and music therapy teacher Rasheda Jones will begin their new year of lessons on August 14, 2017. Lessons are taught from Monday through Saturday at the Greenwood School of Music. Students of all ages are welcome, from the youngest school-aged children through adults.
For more information about the Greenwood School of Music and their music classes, check out their Facebook page, Greenwood School of Music Inc, or call (478)390-2361. Greenwood School of Music is located at 5996 Forsyth Road in Macon, Georgia 31210.