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ONE CALL FOR ALL: Island Music Guild Enriches Arts Scene

      - Joel Sackett photo
— image credit: Joel Sackett photo

As Bob Dylan so famously graveled, “The times, they are a-changin’.”

And it seems nowhere on the island’s music scene are the times more a-changin’ than at the Island Music Guild.

While the Island Music Guild has been offering quality music lessons on Bainbridge for 15 years, the renovation of a performance space six months ago has board members in the process of “untangling” the two programs, which share a 10,000-square-foot facility in Rolling Bay.

“We’re really working on making Guild Hall an exciting place, kind of separating the Guild Hall from the teaching side of the building,” said Board President Keely Sawyer, who also teaches Suzuki piano.

Amid extensive remodeling, the Guild Hall was born to “provide a community resource for performing arts,” said Cortney Wollaston, a parent who serves on the board.

But those at IMG are emphasizing the distinctions between the teaching and performing spaces of the building.

“Historically, the Island Music Guild has been all about excellence in music education,” said volunteer Jim Anderson.

“By separating out the two distinct paths and missions of these two distinct, not only physical spaces, but business models, if you will, it allows the IMG, the music teacher’s cooperative, to reenergize and refocus around this really important mission of teaching music to kids, adults, whomever,” he said.

Guild Hall will become its own entity as of Sept. 1 and will become a subtenant of the guild.

Sawyer said the changes have forced the IMG answer the question, “Why are we here?”

“We’re here to teach music lessons, and why is that important? We really believe that music lessons make a difference in kids’ lives and a difference in the community,” she said.

More than 225 students pass through IMG’s doors on a weekly basis, Sawyer said, and 24 teachers, from woodwind to bass to piano and guitar experts, offer lessons to youth and adults alike.

The cost of music classes is determined by the music teachers, who then use spaces at IMG to conduct their lessons.

But the IMG isn’t just a rental facility for teachers.

“They’re vetted in,” Sawyer said. “We make sure that we’re all on the same page in supporting our mission.”

Besides providing a venue for lessons, the IMG offers music camps, recording studios, a music library and other community resources to promote the love and the learning of music.

“Music lessons matter,” Anderson said. “We’ve found this in our culture through all manner of research that says, particularly, kids perform better in school when they are stimulated through music education.”

And the IMG sees itself as serving an important niche at a time when music programs are disappearing from the public school landscape.

“Overall, we’re here as a community resource,” Sawyer said.

“It’s just discouraging. With all the budget cuts, it’s really kind of the first thing to go, the art and music programs, and so we are here to kind of try and fill in those gaps and we really can, through awesome teachers,” she said.

Wollaston was quick to note, too, that it is those “awesome teachers” who make IMG what it is.

“It’s not just about, ‘We’re the only place to teach music,’” she said.

“There’s really a caliber of teachers here that are amazing and that’s really the focus. We’re trying to really let the community know this is probably the best teaching experience my kids can find on the island.”

And as a nonprofit, the IMG receives funds from One Call for All, which Sawyer said have helped the guild stay in business.

“It’s been fantastic. I think it’s been really vital to keeping the doors open, actually, in the past few years,” Sawyer said. “Without it we might not have been able to be here.”

As the Island Music Guild continues to offer quality music lessons to the community, board members are excited about the new path the IMG is embarking on.

“We have the potential to be a really thriving organization, rather than just kind of chugging along,” Sawyer said.

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