Rooted Music, a music store located in Hamilton, houses a unique school, the Bitterroot School of Music. Together they form an incredible duo.
One is a store specializing in quality instruments of all types including banjos, mandolins and ukuleles, violins and violas, guitars, basses, percussion, band and orchestra, as well as instruments for toddlers and young players. The store also carries books and accessories and the staff is, without exaggeration, very knowledgeable, not only about the business end of things from supplies to instrument repairs, but about the music end of things as well, what comes out of all those instruments.
“We stand by our many years in business and experience in all types of instrument and electronic repair,” said owner/operator and performing artist, Jenn Adams. “We pride ourselves on giving the best and friendliest service possible. That means even if we don’t have what you need and the competition does, we’ll gladly send you there.”
Although quite the entrepreneur, and eager to make her business a success, it is not sales that is driving Adams. It’s the music. She loves music. And it is really her love of music that drives her interest in sales. If you want to play, you’ve got to eat.
“Yes, we specialize in unique instruments, quality accessories and have expert onsite repair, but we also help develop and support musicians, attract and educate audiences, and create a connected community of music lovers,” said Adams.
This urge to marry her business interests with the love of music in general and her desire to establish a broader connection with the community defines Adams. In recognizing and developing this community component of the business, the needs of the community also became very evident. Not everyone can afford to buy a guitar, or piano, or even a harmonica; or they may have an instrument but can’t afford any lessons. This led to the creation of the Bitterroot School of Music, a non-profit organization that offers lessons and instruments for those who have the desire but can’t afford it.
The store partners with the Bitterroot School of Music to bring its customers some of the best music education available in the Bitterroot Valley, offering classes for everyone from beginners to seasoned professionals. Classes range from styles ensembles to music for toddlers and all points in between. Instructors are gleaned from the finest in the region and are passionate about quality music education for everyone. There are currently eleven instructors engaged at the school and several private, soundproof studios. Lessons are available in guitar, ukulele, piano, mandolin, banjo, fiddle and percussion, and voice.
“We believe in the power of community,” said Adams. Regardless of artistic ability or economic circumstance, they are striving to create an environment that honors achievement, creativity and personal growth through music involvement and mentoring.
“Our motto is ‘Music for Everyone’,” said Adams. They are currently serving about 150 students per week. “That’s about 7,500 opportunities a year to change a life,” she said. And she means it.
Adams was born in Kansas and came to Montana to study anthropology at the University of Montana and earned her degree in 1980 while, on the side, playing guitar in the Jazz Workshop. After that, she and her promoter/partner Marcia Rubie hit the road, living out of a van and began a musical tour across the country. They ended up residing in Nashville, renovating homes for a time, while Adams cut several records at Nashville studios.
In 2006, she decided to focus on her musical education a bit more and attended the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts for four years. She said Berklee is considered a jazz school but is much more diverse, offering classes in music theory, business and songwriting, among other things.
“Boston was amazing,” said Adams, but she missed Montana and after school was over she headed right back. She started teaching guitar at Electronic Sound & Percussion in Missoula and the Music Box in Hamilton. Eventually she and Rubie took over management of the Music Box and were allowed to open up their school using studio space provided by the business. When they became the owners, they changed the name of the store to Rooted Music.
If you talk to Adams about music theory she may quickly join you on the highest, most academic levels. But she is always ready to join you on whatever rung of the ladder you are on and help you move on up from there. She seems to love learning and teaching as much as she loves music.
The Bitterroot School of Music is set up in a way that almost anyone can benefit from it. A seasoned musician can sign up and get advanced instruction. But Adams seems to find some special enjoyment in teaching kids, especially kids with special needs. Adams, who is dyslexic, has a particular appreciation of the difficulties that a young person can face in learning. She said at Berklee she had the “amazing opportunity” to work with autistic and musically talented kids.
A lot of home schoolers take classes at the Bitterroot School of Music, and the school works with youth homes, the Job Corps and in the public schools. She said the store rents instruments, but they are ready to lend any student an instrument at low or no cost depending on the situation. The school also provides scholarships for lessons. ‘Music for everyone’ is not just the school motto, it is a real commitment.
Another round of classes is set to start in late February or March. Classes consist of four, four and half hour sessions, held on the weekends. Group sessions are $15 each. A continuing guitar class is held at which anyone can drop in at $15 per class.
“If you are interested but have no instrument and no money, come on in,” said Adams.
If you just want to play with some other musicians, jams are free.
The school held one of its two annual fundraisers at the Spice of Life this past November to raise money for additional studios. They are not cheap.
“These may look like ordinary walls, but they are not,” said Adams, as she conducted a tour of the existing studios. Each one is isolated and sound-proofed. They got help from the state acoustic engineer in their design. Each studio has double walls to create an air gap. An acoustic membrane and acoustic insulation were also installed. Now they are looking to construct a studio that can accommodate percussion instruments.
“The thing about drums,” said Adams, “is that the floors have to be insulated as well. That makes it little more challenging and more expensive to build.”
Adams said the business, like the school, depends on community support.
“Right now, the store is fighting Amazon,” said Adams. “Without local customer support, we would be out of business.” She said the bread and butter of the business was in repairs.
“We are the only music store between Salmon and Missoula, but we work hard to keep our pricing competitive. We are full service here and there is nothing related to music that we don’t address,” said Adams.
The store and the school are located on 100 Skeels Street, Suite A, along the Eastside Highway coming into Hamilton, and is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Call 363-5491 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. For information about the Bitterroot School of Music visit: www.bitterrootschoolofmusic.org.