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About UsRead this article about Summerville Music Center as published in the Post and Courier 9/4/08.
Music a joyful way of life for store owner and teacherBy Bill Henley
The Post and Courier
Thursday, September 4, 2008
The Post and Courier
Mike Lenthe, music teacher and owner of Summerville Music Center on Dorchester Road, goes over keyboard lessons with Flowertown Elementary fifth-grader Bryce Freshwater.
Whether it was a pathway toward college or landing him his own business, Mike Lenthe's passion for music has had a serendipitous way of giving him new opportunities.
Since he was old enough to bang on anything available, music has been a way of life for Lenthe, the 40-year-old owner of Summerville Music Center.
His store serves about 180 music students per month with Lenthe teaching about a third of them on drums, guitar or keyboard.
"If you want to learn, I can teach you," he said. "That's the only prerequisite I ask for. The kid who comes in because Mom and Dad want him to learn something but they'd rather be playing baseball or karate, they're the ones I can't teach. They don't want to be here. They're going to fight with me and argue with me and complain this is too hard.
"I like doing it because it's a joy to me. It's better than painting houses or tiling floors or any other job I've done in the past. Seeing the students come back. Seeing them stick with it and have fun with it.
"My wife says the store runs on love and wisdom."
Lenthe's first formal music training was with the piano at age 5, but it wasn't the most ideal situation.
"My first teacher was a retired Juilliard professor and just taught over my head. She was a good teacher but didn't care enough to make it fun for me, so that it wasn't until years later that I realized what she was talking about," he said. "She was used to teaching Juilliard students. There's a 5-year-old coming in there, and she could only go so far with that."
Eventually in school, he played clarinet and then saxophone ("That was cooler, so I switched.") until he got a chance to play in the drum corps as a sophomore in high school.
It was with a new band director that he began to find ways to let music take him places, particularly college. Lenthe said he hadn't planned on going until the director made him realize what more he could do with further study.
"It was a different attitude than the previous band director," he said. "He let me come down during my study hall and he would be teaching a seventh-grade music class or a junior high band class and he'd let me run a class and teach a topic."
He attended Bowling Green State University to study music education and the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale to learn recording and the music business.
Throughout the process, the idea of teaching music as a vocation was less a conscious decision as much as it was a natural fit.
"Actually, I didn't realize how long I'd been teaching until talking with high school classmates years later and them telling me how much I taught them in school," he said.
"Talking with a girl who sat second chair in saxophone, she told me, 'I would have quit if not for you helping me out because I didn't know what was going on. You were showing me more than the teacher was.' I had a couple of drum students in my senior year, but it was nothing. I was sharing a passion with somebody else. If I got paid, it wasn't very much."
He began teaching through the Summerville Music Center in 1998 and about six years ago, he had the opportunity to buy out the owner. It was a frightening leap into business, but he took the plunge.
"I have people come in and say, 'You know what my wife would say if I bought another guitar?' And I say, 'You know what my wife would say if I bought another guitar store?' "
Reach Bill Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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622 Old Trolley Rd., Unit #136
Summerville SC, 29485
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