Music education specialist Andrew Rumsey is perhaps the best-kept secret at the Downtown Spokane Library. He offers free music lessons to anyone who wants them, and the library even provides the instruments.
Rumsey said he offers private lessons on several instruments, including drums, piano, guitar, bass and ukulele. He also puts on group lessons and workshops on everything from music theory to live sound.
“I try to incorporate general music theory into whatever instrument I’m teaching,” he said.
The lessons program didn’t exist before Rumsey was hired two years ago.
“When I got hired, we didn’t have most of the instruments we have now,” he said. “I didn’t go with any bottom-of-the-barrel gear. It’s hard to fall in love with an instrument if it doesn’t sound good.”
Rumsey teaches Wednesdays through Saturdays, up to six lessons per day. People are limited to one lesson per week.
“It can be hard to get in that often when we fill up,” he said.
But some people do put forth the effort and are regular students. Rumsey said he’s been teaching two brothers for a while who are promising musicians but can’t afford private lessons. He said he successfully applied for a grant to pay for professional lessons for the two for a year so they can continue to advance their skills.
“I can get people started, but I’m not a piano player,” he said.
Rumsey may be immersed in music now, but it didn’t start out that way.
“My parents didn’t do music, really,” he said.
He dabbled in music a bit but didn’t get serious about it until he watched the movie “That Thing You Do,” which he said “lit his fire.” He bought himself a drum set his freshman year in high school and taught himself how to play. He took band classes and worked to teach himself other instruments. He also began singing and by the time he graduated from high school he’d written over 100 songs.
“I would get home from school and play for four hours a day,” he said.
He has a degree in audio engineering from Spokane Community College, which is where he really started to learn about music theory, Rumsey said. Along the way he’s performed with multiple bands, including Derby and Man of Action.
“Now I just play solo mostly,” he said.
He uses all the skills he’s picked up over the years to teach his students.
“It’s been 16 years of playing, writing, performing and singing,” he said. “I feel confident in my ability to reach people no matter where they’re at. I’ve taught people from all over the world. You can’t approach every one of those people the same way. My goal is to connect with every single person who walks in the door.”
Though he plays many instruments, Rumsey said he doesn’t have a favorite. His true love is singing.
“I sing all day,” he said. “My roommate knows, I’m up in the morning doing weird opera sounds.”
People can bring their own instruments to the lessons Rumsey teaches, but it isn’t necessary.
“We have instruments here in house that they can use,” he said. “We also have instruments you can check out like a book.”
Right now the Downtown Library is the only one to offer music lessons. The library will shut down for two years beginning in March for an extensive remodel, but Rumsey said he’s working on a plan to keep the lessons going at a different location during that time.
“We can make it work while we’re shut down,” he said.
Rumsey said he thinks the free lessons will only continue to grow in popularity.
“I feel like recently we’ve gone through this artistic renaissance in Spokane,” he said. “I don’t see that stopping anytime soon.”
He said he’s excited to be able to introduce people to music.
“I really love it,” he said. “I nerd out in here all the time.”
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