Almost overgrown by stacks of children’s books and puzzles, the set of stairs leading to basement of the Book Table is easy to miss. Those who venture down find something different than the jubilant feel of the book store. A set of leather couches sit surrounded by hundreds of guitars. Led Zepplin provides the background music, while students shuffle in and out of practice rooms, lugging instruments behind them.
DeAnn Johnson has been preaching the power of music for more than 30 years. Having dabbled in everything from drama to choir to band, she knows her way around a music store. Currently, she’s a guitar and piano teacher at the Book Table’s School of Music.
“I teach to the student, not to the subject,” she said. “I teach 32 different ways. You teach not because you love kids, but because you love the learning process. You love the idea of working with a concept and then them finally getting it. For some students it may take 10 or 12 lessons, for others it may take six months.”
Students at the School of Music vary almost as much as the guitars that hang on the walls. Johnson teaches students as young as five and as old as 60, from special needs backgrounds and from foreign countries.
“I have a student who’s five from India. He can barely reach around but his parents want him to learn music,” she said. “It’s universal, that’s what’s so awesome. You have a variety here.”
The Music School first opened it’s doors in July 2009. After gutting the basement of the bookstore, an area previously used for storage, music store manager Jason Kemton worked with his contractors and his boss to line the perimeter of the basement with 13 practice rooms, including a guitar and sound check room.
Kempton, a guitar education major at USU, said they designed the room to be a central location for families with more than one student. That way, parents could relax and read a magazine while their child is in a lesson.
The choice to put a music conservatory below was a natural one, said music manager Lauren Shanley. Even before the School of Music was open, the Book Table had one of the largest collections of sheet music in the valley.
“This is the place that people come to for their music supplies,” Shanley said. ” I have people coming from Preston, Idaho, from Tremonton, from Bear Lake and from Brigham city. This is where they come for all of their music rentals, their books, their repairs, everything. It was a natural addition onto to the music department.”
Shanley, who also works as part of the adjunct vocal faculty for USU’s music department, taught music in three different states before ending up at the Book Table. The hardest part of being a music teacher is establishing yourself, she said. Because local music teachers, including university students, can contract through the Book Table, the store has the unique ability to connect students with a teacher that fits their needs.
“From a student perspective, it’s really nice because we offer a teacher for just about everything. It gives a good introduction for new teachers to have an already established area they can come to, rather than having to go out and fish for students,” she said. “To have a music school already established where the students come to you is wonderful.”
“I think it makes the students feel more important,” said Johnson. “I taught in my home for years and it was great, but it was too easy for the parents to call and say ‘aeeeh … soccer, I don’t feel like coming’. Here, they feel more important.”
Music is not about talent, background or culture, Johnson said. It’s about passion.
“If I had a dollar for every parent who came in and said their kid was a prodigy, you know how rich I’d be?” she said. “You cannot put a price on music education. They consistently come out with research that says ‘oh this works!’ but the best place to learn discipline is at a music lesson.”