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Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 19, 2018

North Liberty teacher says music is about ‘the fun of playing’

By Katie Mills Giorgio, The Gazette | Nov 02, 2017

NORTH LIBERTY — Marek Szmyrgala is the type of piano teacher who likes to jam along — playing guitar — while his students take lessons.

It’s just one example of what makes piano lessons a bit more fun, he said.

His company, Music 4 Life, in North Liberty, has fun at the core of their curriculum, Szmyrgala said.

“It’s not just about the lessons, but it’s also about the fun of playing,” he said. “The way a lot of people teach is stiff. I know because of all my years of studying composition. I like to think about meeting students 10 years later and asking them if they still play.”

Szmyrgala grew up in Poland, where he started conservatory schooling at the age of six in classical music. He later studied composition in England before moving to the United States.

He has played in various orchestras and considered becoming a professional wind surfer before spending time working as a business coach in the Boston area. It was then that he conceived of the idea to open his own music studio.

Music 4 Life opened in 2010 in North Liberty and has grown from one to five to now 11 instructors teaching lessons throughout the week — in piano, drums, saxophone, guitar, ukulele, trumpet, bass and voice.

“We love Beethoven and the classic, but here it doesn’t matter what music we play,” said Szmyrgala, noting that they instruct in classical, jazz, blues, pop and even country music. “Every student has a choice in the music that they play.”

While they do offer adult instruction at Music 4 Life and host an open mic night for adults every other month, Szmyrgala said that the majority of their students are children, starting as young as three years old. “If the kids are ready to play, we are ready for them.”

Because the studio has grown over the years, about a year ago it relocated to its current site on the corner of West Zeller Street and Highway 965.

“We have a good relationship with the schools here,” Szmyrgala said.

The space has room for recitals, which the studio hosts a couple times a year, and several soundproof lesson studios — each including an exterior window, which Szmyrgala believes is an important element. A basement space has been renovated to include two recording studios.

“We also use this as a drum room and it’s a nice place for students to practice with their bands,” he noted.

Szmyrgala said he handles everything from Quickbook and cleaning to fixing a leak in the basement. But he most enjoys working with students.

“I just love teaching. Running a business can be a pain, but teaching is a lot of fun,” he said. “Recitals are just awesome.”

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