Corner Brook, N.L.
When Karen Michael took over Gary Bennett Music in 2015, she knew there would be a learning curve.
The Corner Brook woman received her education in music, not in business. Running a music store on her own was not something she signed up for. It was a role that was forced upon her due to tragedy.
When Karen and her husband Robert, a longtime employee at Gary Bennett Music, bought the business in 2013, he handled the retail side and she managed the music school.
But when Robert passed away in 2015, Karen was left with the hard decision whether to continue operating on her own.
At the time she wasn’t sure if she wanted to take it on, but she pressed on.
She feels she wouldn’t be able to do it without tremendous support from the people around her.
“I’ve had to learn very quickly and I’ve learned very quickly not to do it on my own,” she told the West Coast Wire. “I have a great team of people behind me that helps me out with a lot of stuff and I’m now starting to understand the ins and outs of running a business a little better now.”
It’s been challenging - and rewarding.
“When you sell an instrument to a child, and they’re excited and they can’t wait to learn, it’s a very rewarding business that we’re in,” said Michael. “It’s fun.”
Behind the business
Karen’s interest in music started when she took up piano lessons as a five-year-old.
She continued with those lessons into high school but in Grade 7 she found her passion was for the clarinet.
“I fell in love with the instrument and studied that in school, plus privately,” she said.
It was upon taking up the clarinet that she decided she wanted to pursue a degree in music. At that juncture she had not decided whether she wanted to take up performing or teaching.
She calls Dr. Karem Simon, one of her music teachers in high school, one of her biggest inspirations and she followed him when he left for the University of Prince Edward Island to continue as his student.
She studied under him for four years and completed a music education degree.
However, her indecisiveness over performing or teaching persisted.
She changed her mind on teaching at that point in time and proceeded to do a masters in performance at the University of Western Ontario, before changing her mind again and returning home to do a bachelor of music education.
With her three degrees, she became a teacher.
From 2000 to 2007, she worked as a substitute music teacher in Corner Brook.
She was then approached to head the Yamaha Music School, as part of Gary Bennett Music, where she continues to teach to this day.
The music school
Karen finds much fulfilment through teaching music. She currently has 10 teachers who educate about 300 students of all ages, from two years old to 80.
They offer lessons for all instruments except, currently, the accordion.
One thing Karen finds rewarding is seeing the progression her students make.
“It’s fabulous,” she said.
She even still has some students who have been taking classes since the day she started.
The year-end recital is another great showcase for how much they advance each year.
It always makes her feel like she’s doing something worthwhile.
“I believe everybody should be able to experience some kind of music at some point in their life,” said Karen. “Our philosophy here is to teach music and to build a lifelong love of music.”
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