August 20, 2009

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Playing it forward
New school hopes to turn Guitar Heroes into real musicians
By Katie Beth Ryan music@hippopress.com

Craig Fahey has come a long way from Mr. Blanchette’s band class at McKelvie Middle School. He has studied with world-class pianists and percussionists, toured with his own jazz ensemble, and made a name for himself as a music instructor between the Seacoast and Nashua.

Now, after three decades of bouncing around the Granite State, Fahey, 37, is married with a 3-year-old son and has put down roots in Bedford, where later this month he will open the Masters Music Academy, home to guitar, bass, drums, piano, sax and voice and “hopefully violin” lessons. The new music school, located within walking distance of both McKelvie and Bedford High School at 10 Chestnut Drive, will host an open house on Saturday, Aug. 22.

Fahey, who also operates studios in Concord and Dover, moved back to Bedford five years ago, where he first conceived of teaming with other musicians to start a music academy.

“It’s always been on my own, a sole proprietorship, and I’m now expanding,” he said. “I was trying to figure out a way to grow from where I was, which [was] just by myself giving lessons.”

These days, Fahey is a highly sought-after pianist, drummer and music instructor. But he might never have made music his life’s work had it not been for his older brother, a negligent drummer in the school band.

“He never would practice,” Fahey said. “He had a drum underneath his bed, and every time he would leave the house, I would take it out and start playing it.”

After convincing Norm Blanchette to give him lessons, in exchange for his joining the McKelvie school band, Fahey briefly studied in the music program at the now-defunct Notre Dame College in Manchester and at Keene State. But it was the tutelage of Gary Chaffee, the head of percussion department at Berklee College of Music, and world-class pianist Charlie Banacos that propelled Blanchette forward.

“That was a big move for me. That was huge,” Fahey said. “There is no way I could be doing this if I didn’t have that background.”

With years of experience under his belt, Fahey hopes to be to his students what Banacos, Blanchette and Chaffee were to him. He’s already been hard at work giving lessons in the Manchester and Dover areas, but planning his own school has been five years in the making.

“It was just finding the right spot,” he said.

“In the beginning I thought about Amherst, because Amherst doesn’t have anything in terms of a performing arts type of thing. But I live in Bedford, I have a clientele here, and it made sense to start here.”

With his solid student base in Bedford, Fahey hopes to continue to form successful ensembles among his students. He said that the success of programs like Guitar Hero and Rock Band has made group ensemble performance more appealing to children and teens than just going solo.

“The traditional thing is so tough today, especially with young people,” he said.

“With the computer games and the Internet, you’ve got to give them something new to perform or follow through with. That’s why I try to work in the basics of music reading and music theory, and how that applies to today’s popular music. It really gets them excited about music and going to the piano or going to the guitar to play.”

For the time being, Fahey is relying upon his current clientele and musician friends to fill the ranks of faculty and students at Masters. But he anticipates the school, through reputation, will become something larger.

“I think music is something special that should be shared, passed on and enjoyed. If I can accomplish that with my students, growth will happen naturally,” Fahey said.

Masters Music Academy will hold an open house for prospective students on Saturday, Aug. 22. The school is located at 10 Chestnut Drive in Bedford. For more information, call 661-3386.