By Suzanna Parpos
For 17 years, it sat in silence. But if that guitar could talk, it’d tell you it was watched over with care. It’d tell you how I’d never let the dust settle on it; I’d clean it and gently place it in its spot. If that guitar could talk, it’d tell you about the places it lived and how in those moves it watched me go from a young working professional to a newlywed to a single mother.
It’s not that I didn’t want to play it; I tried. But my hands were just meant for storytelling in the newspaper and for kneading and baking cookies from scratch for the one whose hands were meant to play that guitar. 17 years after that $100 purchase at Guitar Center, those strings found their perfect pair.
Maybe that’s why I cared so well for it and could never part with it; I must’ve known the child I was praying to one day have, would pick it up and play. I love listening to the sounds of those strings in motion. And when the guitar is in rest-mode, it’s hard not to admire its timeless beauty – its curves, its craftmanship…its ability to rhythmically tell infinite stories.
And, here is a story of thanks that I've been wanting to write for some time…
Let me tell you about Renee Helmke Bordner the Studio Director of Note-worthy Experiences.
Information about the in-home and online classes that this Sudbury-based private music studio offers can be found on their website (link shared in Comments), as well as, by contacting the Studio for further information.
What I want to share in this review is what you will not know from the former or latter sources; however, the Studio is what it is because of the character of the woman who runs the Studio.
I never wanted to be ‘that’ parent that pushes her interests or love of things (i.e. music, guitar, football, writing or whatever) onto my child. Just because I’m fueled by music, it doesn’t mean my child will be.
When my son came to me and said he wanted to learn to play the guitar, I was, well, more than excited. I thought of my traveling guitar and I swear, the guitar itself stopped crying that day when it overheard my son say he wanted to learn how to play it. But in the excitement, I caught myself from getting carried away in the dreaming of the sound of a live acoustic guitar playing in my home.
Why did I stop myself from dreaming and hoping? Because some of my life circumstances have, quite frankly, limited options and opportunities for my child to participate in extracurricular activities – be it music or sports…
And then I spoke to Renee. I told her I have a son that would like to learn guitar…
And like some fairy godmother, Renee was able to take the puzzle pieces that have been so difficult for others, like youth sports programs, etc. to put together…She found a way to put the pieces together so a boy could have the opportunity to learn something he wanted to learn – found a time for us to have our weekly lesson and matched us with teachers that were the right fit for my family’s needs and the teaching style that works best for my child.
I imagine this was not an easy task for Renee. Actually, I know it couldn’t have been as my circumstances are so specific; however, she seamlessly made what has predominantly been an impossibility for us, a possibility. She did so with an abundance of patience, understanding and a brightly-lit spirit of compassion.
And just like that, my favorite evening of the week to make dinner was the night of my son’s lesson – he’d sit in the living room having his lesson with his guitar teacher – I’d be in the kitchen cooking and listening to the sounds of that acoustic guitar strumming…a happy boy certainly makes for a happy mother.
Pretty much, for this one mother and her son, grace unfolds in their days through music. We could not have found a music studio with a Director that betters understands that, than at Renee’s studio.
It isn’t just that Renee has a love of music – her love for it is so clear. But it is that love coupled with her genuine understanding for the art of teaching that separates her Studio from the others. I have worked in education for 20 years and can say with certainty – Renee and her instructors know teaching – they know music – they know children and how to meet them at their level.
When COVID struck and lockdowns began, we (naturally) took a break from in-person lessons. But a global pandemic cannot forever prevent a love from burning and this summer, we have come back strong with lessons resuming in backyard summer sessions. And, I am deeply grateful for this – for the sights and sound of my child falling in love all over again, with this beautiful guitar.
If it is not clear from the aforementioned, I highly recommend Note-worthy Experiences Music Studio.
Thank you, Renee, for so much more than is written here. Thank you to the incredible teachers we’ve been blessed to learn from and work with. You truly embody all that the philosophy of your studio is and you have all enriched the life of this mother and her son.
With deep gratitude and much love,
By Christopher Oh
Chris Oh, a former guitar instructor for Note-worthy Experiences and a Berklee College of Music alum, discusses his musical journey that eventually led him to Berklee.
Music was always something that came in and out of my life in my earlier days. Growing up in an Asian household, it was either the piano or violin. I’m sure a lot can relate. I played the piano extensively for a greater part of my childhood, on and off, and even tried my hand at other various instruments. As primarily a guitar player today, I even played guitar on and off during elementary school and rejected the idea of ever playing guitar again. And so it seemed, music might have been considered just a hobby to me.
During middle school, I picked up the clarinet and continued to play through high school, performing in various ensembles in my school music program. Around this same time, I picked up the guitar for one final last time and never looked back. Maybe it was the fact I was an adolescent teen, going through the stages of puberty and rebellion. Maybe it was because I started listening to rock music and fantasizing about the idea of becoming a lead guitar player in a band like all my heroes. At 13, there were many reasons why I made guitar more than just a hobby, but I remember two very pivotal moments. One was the game Guitar Hero III, and the other was seeing a guitar player in my church praise team, at the time. But it was mostly Guitar Hero, haha.
I will forever consider myself a rock kid at heart, because I started out playing rock music and really submerged myself in that world all throughout middle school and high school. As a curious person and a guitar nerd, I started to poke around outside of the rock guitar genre and started to discover other styles of music and ways the guitar was being played. And really, the genre of music that truly expanded my world of guitar playing, was jazz music. The first time I heard the name “Berklee” was not too long before I entered high school. It was from a guitar instructor I had briefly, who was teaching me my first jazz vocabulary and helping me with my first audition for my high school jazz ensemble. He was a graduate of the school, and that was really the first time I ever considered the thought that music was something I could do as a career, that I could actually go to an institution that is 100% dedicated to teaching music. And as the idea of becoming a professional musician/guitar player became more solidified in my head, I became tunnel vision all through high school of getting into a music school.
Because Berklee was founded as a jazz school, I forcefully stressed on expanding my jazz vocabulary and playing jazz repertoire, during my time in high school. I say that because playing jazz wasn’t really fun for me, and I didn’t really quite develop an ear and appreciation for the music for a while. But as I read more into Berklee, I realized it was more than just a jazz school, it was a school for contemporary music. It was only founded as a jazz school because jazz music was contemporary music of that time. Now I was completely sold on the idea of going only to Berklee.
Going back to the idea of making music, and to my parents, going to school to study and play guitar as a way to make money, was a completely crazy idea for both my parents and myself. Traditionally, pursuing a music career was absolutely nonsense for someone growing up in a household to immigrant parents who came to America for a better life for their children. There isn’t a singular moment that really convinced my parents in the end, it took a lot of dedication, practice, showing my parents my involvement with music throughout high school. In retrospect, I believe receiving a partial scholarship to attend Berklee was the final push, the validation, my parents needed to see a possible future for me in doing music. And as I look back in those moments, I feel incredibly fortunate and grateful for my parents, and their continuous support. They are very progressive in a way that most traditional immigrant parents aren’t.
Today, I really like to work on my own music productions and just messing around making cool sounds. It’s a completely different world for me than the world I knew before college. For a large part of my music life, I was all about the guitar and completely obsessed. But after studying and majoring in electronic production and sound design, I became completely aware of all the things outside of my guitar world. It really was in college where I experienced musical and personal growth, being introduced to so many different styles of music and meeting different people from around the world. I understood the value of being versatile as a musician and as a person. It’s a skill set that I value very much to this day. But… I am still completely obsessed with the guitar and continue to play like my life depended on it.