More than just music

Steve Abbott, left, takes a guitar lesson from Rick Cox. Abbott has been taking guitar lessons at the Washington Academy of Music for more than a year.  - Photo by Rachel Brant
Steve Abbott, left, takes a guitar lesson from Rick Cox. Abbott has been taking guitar lessons at the Washington Academy of Music for more than a year.
— image credit: Photo by Rachel Brant

Silverdale’s largest music academy is now home to beautiful artwork.

The Washington Academy of Music, formerly Frets and Strings School of Music, recently opened a 1,200-square-foot art gallery.

Director Rick Cox moved the music school to its new location on Bucklin Hill Road in January. Local artist Steve Abbott began taking guitar lessons from Cox and the pair decided to include artwork at the Washington Academy of Music.

“I took lessons from Rick and said, ‘How about putting a couple of my paintings in here,’” Abbott said. “It’s now the largest gallery in Silverdale by far.”

Abbott, Derek Gundy and other local artists have their artwork on display at the music school. Cox himself has bought several pieces of artwork from the gallery.

“We want to be a resource for the art community,” Cox said. “We’ve got the space. We want to be a magnet to the community.”

The new music school is not far from the previous location. Cox acquired a larger space just a few doors down from the old location of Frets and Strings.

“I looked around in a commercial area and found a place where we could make a lot of noise,” Cox said. “The owners of this building have been incredibly supportive of what we’re doing.”

Frets and Strings became the Washing-ton Academy of Music earlier this month. The music students voted and wanted to keep Frets and Strings, but Cox decided a name change was for the best.

“It was overwhelming to keep Frets and Strings, but we’re just so far beyond guitar,” Cox said. “My original vision was a music school.”

Cox, a retired sailor, has been playing the guitar for more than 40 years. He played in the Navy band throughout his military career.

“I knew exactly what I wanted to do since then,” Cox said.

He opened Frets and Strings in 2003, teaching mainly guitar lessons. He has since expanded, hiring 15 music instructors teaching guitar, bass, piano, vocal and virtually all orchestral and band instruments.

“This is what I intended to do originally,” Cox said. “The goal is to be able to provide instruction for all orchestral and band students and to do a quality job.”

The Washington Academy of Music has eight studio spaces for lessons and 300 students ranging from age 3 to 86.

“We have studio spaces for private lessons that are larger than you’ll find at most places,” Cox said. “There are a lot of doors and windows so parents can look in. They like the fact that it’s open.”

The Washington Academy of Music offers a variety of music options including a Fast-Start Program, Suzuki Programs, private lessons, group lessons, ensembles, programs for young children, summer camps and special classes.

“Some places typically have hour sessions, we’re fine with 30 minutes,” Cox said. “We’re really good at cramming a lot in 30 minutes. I think it’s pretty innovative.”

The Washington Academy of Music also offers yoga classes. Yoga exercises are geared specifically toward musicians and the physical demands involved in playing particular instruments.

“Yoga for musicians, belly dancing, next thing we knew we had dance classes,” Cox said. “It’s not your typical music school, our approach to music is different.”

Cox hopes to have several special guest performers come to the Washington Academy of Music. Laurence Juber, a former guitarist with Paul McCartney and Wings, recently played at the school.

Abbott enjoys taking lessons at the Washington Academy of Music because he has the opportunity to experience other things as well.

“You have choices, it’s not just taking a lesson,” Abbott said. “You can do ensemble, vocal, whatever.”

The Kitsap Opera’s Emerging Artists rehearse at the music school several times a week in preparation for upcoming performances. Cox says the Washington Academy of Music will offer meeting and rehearsal space for music and art organizations as much as their schedule will allow.

Abbott and Cox have discussed teaching art classes and hosting monthly art shows at the music school. Although Cox keeps busy with a new school and 300 music students, he hopes aspiring musicians will discover the variety of options the Washington Academy of Music has to offer.

“They take music lessons because they love music and want to play,” Cox said. “Everybody leaves sooner or later, but most students stay here for a while.”

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