After Tammy Felker’s mother passed away, among the most difficult items to part with was her mother’s library of sheet music.
She recalled how her mother Dee Felker played piano and organ for a Congregational Church in Colorado before retiring in Arizona and how every Christmas, she sang “Silent Night” in German.
It took 16 years for Tammy Felker, a 20-year Ahwatukee resident, to part with that vast array of sheet music spanning classical and some popular tunes of the 40s through 90s.
She found a fitting way to honor her mother while passing along those treasured music books and sheet music.
She donated them to Music Maker Workshops’ Little Free Music Library that is marking a six-month anniversary.
“Having lost both parents, the thing that helped me when getting rid of their possessions is passing what you can to someone who can use it and love it,” she said. “Music Maker helped to heal my heart.”
The Music Maker Workshops’ Little Free Music Library is modeled on the Little Free Library, a popular nation-wide book-sharing movement to promote a neighborhood exchange.
Yet, rather than books, Music Maker Workshops’ gaily-painted red and white library is stocked with sheet music and music volumes.
The library’s inception was the brainchild of Music Maker studio manager Jessica Magee and co-directors Kim Steedman and Shelley Yakubow.
They said they were inspired after seeing how much music was being spontaneously donated to the school.
“Organically, we had a flood of donations and so we decided to start this,” Magee explained.
“I love the idea of marrying the Little Free Library with this free music library. We want it to be accessible to everyone,” she said. “It’s been really awesome to see people coming by and enjoying the different types of music.
A grand opening for the Music Makers Little Free Music Library was held in November, featuring a ribbon cutting by the Ahwatukee Chamber of Commerce.
On hand were Tommy Zuleger, who built the wooden library; Maddie Archer, a Music Maker piano instructor and artist who painted it; Music Maker’s co-directors Steedman and Yakubow; a DJ and an assortment of music students.
Steedman and Yakubow are the daughters of Workshops founder Beverly Bigam, who opened the music studio in 1997 on the southeast corner of 32nd Street and E. Chandler Boulevard.
“The most heartwarming part of starting this library are the stories that have accompanied some of the donations,” said Steedman, adding:
“The music is sentimental to her and she was glad to know it would be passed on and appreciated by other musicians. She said it would be a part of her mother that would live on.”
Another generous donation came from Michelle Hoffman, owner of Your CBD Store located at 4802 E. Ray Road.
“She donated an entire folder filled to the brim with her favorite albums she listened to growing up,” said Magee.
Yakubow noted that in the six months since the Little Free Music was launched, musicians from throughout the Valley have responded to the news.
“Since its start, Music Maker Workshops has seen musicians, young and old come from all over the valley to visit the library and peruse the current selection of music books, or donate books that may have been collecting dust in their own homes so they can be enjoyed again,” she said.
In the years since Music Maker Workshops opened their doors in 1997, the studio has enjoyed continued growth. Students of all ages receive instruction in a wide variety of instruments including piano, voice, guitar, percussion, strings, brass, woodwinds ukulele and more.
After Yakubow earned her bachelors of education in 2000, she joined with her mother teaching group piano classes. Three years later, Steedman left her nursing career to work with her mother and sister.
Bigam is now retired from the day-to-day operation but continues teaching a few select adult students each Monday.
The family-owned business inspires a lot of loyalty in their instructors and their students.
Studio Manager Jessica Magee is
celebrating 11 years with Music Maker this month.
“I started right out of college when I stumbled upon a little listing for a studio coordinator,” said Magee, a Mesa native who met her husband Andrew when he came to Music Maker Workshops for viola lessons.
Madison “Maddie” Archer has taught piano at Music Maker Workshop the last three years and also holds the post of resident artist. It was that talent she put to work on the Little Free Music Library.
“I really enjoyed bringing to life the simple iconography of musical notes on a large scale so that all who drive by can see the music library,” she said. “The bright acrylic paints really make it pop, and it allowed me to express both creative outlets at once.”
Jessica Magee located wood artisan Zulegar of Hardwoodz Handcrafted Furniture to craft the library.
“We like to donate some of our work to schools and other organizations that we feel provide a great opportunity and/or environment for young people,” said Zulegar, whose custom furniture/carpentry shop is also family-owned and operated.
“My wife and I have four kids between us and when Jess said she was thinking about having the library built for the school, we were happy to not only build one, but donate it to help support the young people that attend the school.”
“Music Makers is hopeful that providing residents with access to free music will inspire musicians, both young and old, to play tunes they may have never even heard of, and to spread the joy in the community,” said Steedman.
Music Maker Workshops, with 35 instructors and more than 500 students, is currently accepting registrations for their five popular summer music camps.
“Summer is traditionally a busy time for us, and last year was one of our busiest because students weren’t traveling and they had the opportunity to log-in from home,” said Magee.
“We’re looking forward to bigger camps this year with the mix of in-person and/or online classes.”
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