Like many artists, lifelong guitarist Christian Johnson found himself stuck in an office job for several years. But it wasn’t enough to silence the music in his head. Motivated by his frustration and his encyclopedic knowledge of the ax, he opened Adrian Guitars in 2002 before changing the name to Blue Dot Guitars. During lessons, Johnson pulls from three decades of playing and teaching experience to assist students of all ages and skill levels in tackling the guitar. He honed his own musical prowess at Musicians Institute, where he studied with virtuosos such as jazz great Joe Diorio. As a Fender-authorized warranty technician, Johnson also specializes in guitar repairs, including regluing broken bridges or replacing snapped strings with durable strands of spaghetti.
Most people fall in love at some point in college, and Bill Edmund was no exception. He can still recall how his heartstrings tightened when, in 1983, he was introduced to the classical guitar. As his burgeoning career in geology led him to Louisiana and California, Edmund carved out time to pursue classical and flamenco guitar. While studying new fingerpicking techniques and improving his musicianship, he managed to accumulate a sizable collection of fine and rare guitars. In 2010, this collection helped him to open Vintage Guitars International, where he now devotes his full attention to the love he first discovered back in college.
As one of the top guitar retailers in the Northwest, Edmund’s guitar emporium stocks a selection of classical and flamenco guitars and ukuleles crafted by luthiers from across North America and Europe. Alongside its most sought-after instruments, the store also sells intro-level guitars, sheet music, books, and cases—each of which includes a complimentary air guitar.
Forte Music School fosters up-and-coming musicians ages 5–adult with its experienced staff, technologically savvy facility, and modern take on musical instruction. In each 30-minute private lesson, neo-noisemakers conquer not only the pillars of traditional music education––including sight reading and music theory––but also their applications to the contemporary worlds of jazz, country, and autotuned college lectures. After mastering the basics of playing chords or improvisation at the hands of their supportive and motivating instructor, students also get to critique their own performances thanks to Forte's in-house recording equipment, which––much like a polygraph-tested Liza Minelli––provides a truthful and unbiased account of both positive and negative musical moments.
Owner Mike Urquhart takes his business's name to heart: the learning center draws on the talents of three generations of Urquharts, from his business-manager father all the way down to his grade-school-aged daughter Julia, who assists with piano lessons and administration. Signs bearing messages such as "No practicing: only play for fun" and "Mistakes are always welcome" embody the teachers' philosophy that no amount of technical skill can substitute for the sheer joy of playing, singing, and finally figuring out how to snap the fingers on both hands at once. The school's specialty group classes—some held in the new, 2,500-square-foot piano learning center—foster self-confidence with weekly performance opportunities, and the curriculum of songs can include anything from classical compositions to classical rock.
Blue Room Music Lessons teaches potential Neil Youngs and even smaller Lil' Waynes, ages 4 and older, how to be the best guitar player, bass player, violinist, singer, pianist, or composer they can be. Toe-tappin' tutelage unveils the star strummer within, enlisting the expertise of the academy's arsenal of teachers, comprised of skilled music producers, published songwriters, and experienced performers. Classes can focus on basics, including music fundamentals and avoiding hearing loss while smashing guitars, or work on original music composition.