Fairmount School of Music becomes Musicologie
Folk musicians—like me and, for instance, fellow traditional- and roots-music artist Kevin Richards—are, by nature, somewhat more resistant to changing how we do things. That’s why we continue to play old music, rather than, say, electro-punk or funktronicanica.
Richards has been running the Fairmount School of Music, with his wife, Patricia, for 32 years—in the same location (3473 Fairmount Blvd.) and in the same way. But the COVID-19 pandemic has forced them—like almost everyone else—to significantly alter the way they give lessons; now they mostly conduct them online.
And that’s not all. They have recently changed the way they run the business side, too. In September, they entered into a partnership with another small company that handles much of their business. That company, Musicologie, is run by a couple, Joe and Kay Barker, in a Columbus suburb. The Barkers are touring musicians who started offering music lessons online. Their six-year-old business comprises four other community music schools in Greater Columbus. Fairmount, their fifth partnership, is the first outside that area.
During this past year, the student population at Fairmount, now called Musicologie Cleveland Heights, has run between 100 and 150, with about a dozen teachers.
The school, founded in 1988, is a coalition of professional musicians who provide private instruction in strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion, piano, guitars, ukulele, banjo, mandolin and voice. The diverse musical backgrounds of its staff enable it to cover a range of styles and genres, including classical, folk, jazz, blues, flamenco, bluegrass, rock, heavy metal, R&B and gospel. Students receive a customized curriculum that can include music theory, harmony, ear training and composition. Lessons are given all year.
Kevin Richards said that Joseph Barker contacted him in early January, broaching the possibility of buying the Fairmount School of Music, and within a couple of weeks, they met in person.
“I was definitely looking for a young team that had a strong Web presence and embraced technology and Internet tools to broaden education,” Richards said. “Patricia and I are ‘old-school’ and I knew that a young entrepreneur was what I was looking for. Kay and Joseph Barker are musicians, toured for years in bands, and are educators. They understand both worlds—the musician and educator.”
Richards, who is also the founder and artistic director of the Cleveland Heights-based non-profit music-education organization, Roots of American Music, said that Musicologie offers a marketing team, a good track record with a digital system, and a proven business model. “They provide software platforms for our database, online teacher training, apps for students and apps for teachers for scheduling. Everything is digital,” noted Richards. “It is possible to reschedule a missed lesson with a different teacher.”
“Musicologie’s systems will not only improve the student experience for our in-studio lessons, but will support those studying music at home—[with] digital content, videos, and curriculum development focused on online lessons,” Richards said. “It helps to have a larger company behind us, to be able to adapt in this environment.”
Patricia Richards, who now serves as community manager for Musicologie Cleveland Heights, added, “More than anything, our values are aligned. We feel good about the fact that any change that is implemented will only be what is best for our teachers and students in the long run.”
In September, Musicologie Cleveland Heights re-started in-person lessons, COVID-era-style; by mid-month, it was conducting about 15 percent of its lessons that way, with the remaining 85 percent still online. So far, recitals are performed online as well.
Musicologie offers lessons to students of all ages, children to adults. (Keep in mind that at the age of 90, one of the world’s greatest cellists, Pablo Casals, was asked why he was still practicing. He said, “Because I think I am making progress.”)
Musicologie Cleveland Heights has a new phone number: 216-260-6006, website: musicologielessons.com/locations/cleveland-heights/, and e-mail addresses: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
David Budin is a freelance writer for national and local publications, the former editor of Cleveland Magazine and Northern Ohio Live, an author, and a professional musician and comedian. His writing focuses on the arts and, especially, pop-music history. He is a former board member of Roots of American Music, and he has taken a lot of music lessons in his life.