*This story first appeared in The Budget’s December 16, 2017, Local Edition.
By Stacey Carmany
A business venture in Downtown New Philadelphia is celebrating the joy of musicianship while offering music students of all ages and skill levels opportunities to learn and grow.
Located inside a renovated facility across from the Tuscarawas County Courthouse in New Philadelphia, Off the Wall Music offers a variety of products and services specifically geared toward musicians.
The store’s primary focus, however, is on providing low-cost music lessons for individuals in the local community, area churches and college students participating in the residential discipleship program facilitated by its parent organization, Off the Wall Ministry. The store serves as a training center for those participating in the program’s music track, and all profits generated by the store are used to fund the ministry.
“It’s a really great program because it lets kids who have an interest in ministry get some really practical internship experience, and they get a chance to serve in local churches and lead worship and all that stuff,” explained Andrew Harper, store manager for Off the Wall Music. “Anything that’s left over after our business expenses is going to fund the ministry directly. They can use it for scholarships for their students. They can use it for operating ex- penses or whatever they need.”
Harper noted that Off the Wall Music serves primarily as a teaching studio, although equipment and accessories are also available for purchase. Lessons are offered to students of all skill levels at a cost of $14 per half-hour lesson, prepaid monthly, and subjects include acoustic and electric guitar, bass guitar, piano, drums, stringed instruments and music theory.
Providing the lessons are a group of 8 to 10 instructors who previously offered their services locally through the Hummingbird Music Studio in Sugarcreek.
Harper explained that he and Jeff Kaufman, his partner in the new endeavor, had previously managed Hummingbird for owner Rick Troyer but parted ways with the business in September after buying out a portion of Troyer’s operation. Hummingbird will remain open for business and continue to offer the same level of service, although its focus has now shifted more toward vintage guitars and bluegrass instruments.
“We didn’t want to leave Rick in a bad place, so we were like, ‘What can we buy from you so when we leave you can keep going or do whatever you want to do?’” Harper explained. “That worked really well for him, too. He’s kind of transitioned his business over. He’s really excited about bluegrass instruments and vintage gear, so we left all that stuff to him, and he’s doing that, and then we bought out the retail.”
Harper noted that the separation was very congenial, with no bad feelings on either side; and although Off the Wall Music is not associated with Hummingbird in any way, he noted the two operations do refer customers to one another. “We send everybody who’s interested in like mandolin, banjo, dobro, steel guitar, we send all of those lessons out his way, and then he sends students that he can’t fit in,” Harper explained. “He refers customers to us, and we send students his way.”
In addition to Humminbird’s retail operation, Off the Wall has purchased the pro audio portion of the business and offers equipment installations for both small and large sound systems as well as lighting and projectors.
Harper noted that the business has done quite a few installations for churches and was actually designed specifically with churches in mind. “We’re kind of tuned into what churches need. It just puts us in a pretty unique position to help churches, do training, train worship bands and kind of just be a central place networking churches,” he said. “A lot of churches will have plenty of musicians and no resources, or they’ ll have plenty of denominational money and no one who knows what they’re doing, so kind of our reason for the music studio is we’ll use that as an outreach.”
Harper noted that the plan is to use the stage for studio recitals and host some live music after hours during the week. “I thought it would be cool to get some local artists to come in and do acoustic sets or worship night or something like that,” he shared. “It kind of fits our vision of wanting to be a part of the community and being excited about being here downtown.”
Off the Wall Music is located at 138 East High Avenue in New Philadelphia. Store hours are Mon- day through Friday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more info about classes, call 330-365-9726.