By Joyce Coronel
For many South Tempe and West Chandler residents, the New Year is an opportunity for personal change and growth. Perhaps it’s a new fitness routines or healthier eating habits, but for some, a longtime local business offers the chance to strike a new chord in 2016.
The Music Store on Baseline Road just east of the Loop 101 has shared the gift of music with hundreds of children and adults through the years. Jon Paul Escobedo, who co-owns the store along with Merri Lewter, said he’s been connected with the business for 29 years, first as a guitar, drum and bass teacher. As he sat and strummed a classical guitar, he spoke about what his life work has meant.
“I have the best job ever. I am the luckiest guy in the world,” Escobedo said. “We love music and we love helping people find answers so they can most successfully enjoy music.”
The Music Store sells and rents musical instruments and also offers an array of sheet music. There’s a studio on the premises, too, where a variety of musical instruments are taught.
“Whether it’s helping customers find a book or the right instrument and the right teacher, I’m constantly being reminded by others how music has affected their lives,” Escobedo said.
Research shows that children who study music tend to have larger vocabularies and more advanced reading skills than their peers who do not study music.
“I think music, like general knowledge, is mentally stimulating and inspirational,” Escobedo said.
Cory Fornier, who has been associated with The Music Store since 1996, said much the same. Music, he said, helps kids grow socially and become more well-rounded individuals.
“Music is one of the first things where some of these young students bond with adults — an adult who is a teacher but almost like a peer because you share that passion for music,” Fornier said.
He began teaching guitar when he was a senior in high school. Later, he worked at The Music Store as a guitar salesman, teaching guitar in the afternoons. Fornier keeps the lessons light-hearted and fun and has developed quite a following through the years.
Kids are able to have fun and be a little silly and yet learn something at the same time. “I try to make it a very non-threatening endeavor,” Fornier said. “A lot of students have I think, really grown socially, I’ve seen that again and again over the years.
Fornier, who teaches electric, acoustic and bass guitar as well as the mandolin and ukulele is one of several teachers connected with The Music Store. Other instructors offer lessons in piano, flute, saxophone, violin, viola, cello, drums and brass.
“We offer 500 lessons a week,” Escobedo said. “Families wanting their children to be educated will never ever go out of fashion.” Escobedo and Fornier are also both active in their churches. Escobedo said he tells his church band his philosophy and that it applies to The Music Store as well: “We are here to make great music, we are here to change people’s lives we are here to have fun.”
Fornier’s influence stretches further than the studio. He’s been involved at Corona del Sol High School for quite a while. Each May, he plays guitar for the end-of-the-year pops concert the school offers.
“It’s the only concert that’s based on rock music and has a full, live rock band,” Fornier said. “I play primarily guitar.”
He lauded The Music Store’s musical instrument rental program as a way to help kids discover the joy of music without parents having to break the bank.
“Being a child is all about trying lots of different things,” Fornier said. “Musical instruments can be a fairly significant investment, so it’s important to try it before you commit.”
Although he used to primarily offer lessons in the afterschool hours, these days, he’s developed a following among the homeschool and retiree crowds.
“I work about from about 11 in the morning until 7 or 8 at night on average,” Fornier said. He’s also managed to pass on his love of music to daughter, Lilly, 8.
“She just completed a group ukulele class. We recently bought her own ukulele and now that her class is over we’re starting to play together.”