Dream comes true with opening of music store.
WORCESTER -- When Matthew Robbins was eight years old, he recalls his mother taking him for his first music lesson.
"The teacher stared at me ... holding my guitar. He had no patience with me. After five minutes, he called my mother to come pick me up saying, 'This kid can't play guitar. He just can't do it.' So I've spent my life determined to prove him wrong.''
By the time he was in seventh grade, the Uxbridge resident was teaching other kids to play the instrument. By age 19, he began teaching professionally. At the time, Mr. Robbins was in the middle of his freshman year at Westfield State studying music education.
"I remember being there, spending money on school, so I could get a job like the one I already had. That's when I decided to become a teacher,'' he said.
Twenty years later, Mr. Robbins fulfilled a long-held goal to open his own music store. Last week, E.L. Music opened its doors at 332 West Boylston St. The shop, owned by Mr. Robbins and his father, Dwain, initially has a staff of eight, offering lessons in piano, guitar, bass guitar and ukulele. Eventually, he would like to add instruction for voice, banjo, violin and mandolin.
The business is also a full retail store, selling guitars and percussion, accessories and lesson books. E.L. Music also supplies rental of a full range of instruments for area school systems and does repairs. Mr. Robbins describes the establishment as different from typical music stores.
"I always had a vision of a more inviting, comfortable place based around students rather than retail,'' Mr. Robbins said. "I'm a teacher with a business, rather than a business with a teacher. It's hard to make a living as a musician, and here is a place where teachers can do that and continue to spread music, which I think is a dying art form among kids in this digital age.''
He noted that upon entering the store, the typical reaction among patrons is surprise. The furniture at E.L. Music is custom-made, as are the encasements holding the inventory of guitars.
A full fireplace and the absence of fluorescent lighting are other features.
"There's free Wi-Fi and it almost looks like a small coffee shop,'' Mr. Robbins said.
E.L. Music is open Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The "E.L.'' in the name is a tribute to Mr. Robbins' two sons, Ethan and Lucas. He emphasized that music lessons are available to children and adults of all ages. The only prerequisite is a desire to learn.
"I taught a guy to play ukulele who was 80 years old and had three fingers. There was another man in his 50s who had Parkinson's disease and no one would teach him. After 5 weeks, I had him playing...My students are children with Asperger's, autism...Whoever wants to learn, I want to help them,'' he said.
Mr. Robbins himself was taught by an array of instructors including local legend Joe D'Angelo, who he described as "Yoda.'' Although he has performed live with various bands over the years and continues to hang out and occasionally play with "famous musician friends'' including Vertical Horizon, Mr. Robbins emphasized that teaching is his first love.
"My mission is to have kids more interested in musical instruments than laptops. I want to show that there's more to life than YouTube,'' he said.
And as for that first music teacher? "I swore to myself I'd be the exact opposite of that guy,'' Mr. Robbins said, encouraging people to stop by and check the place out.
"We have something new every day and we are open to suggestions. It's important for people to know that when they come in here, it's a place that listens.''
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|Publication:||Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)|
|Date:||Sep 7, 2014|
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