INDEPENDENCE — Nathan Anderson wants his new shop, Musical Independence, to be a hub for all things musical in Polk County.
“I want to do whatever it takes to get somebody playing music,” Anderson said. “If they have the money and they know they want to buy a nice guitar, I want to have that. If they don’t have the money and they know they want to play, let’s get them started.”
Anderson charges adults for private lessons, but, thanks in part to a mini grant from Polk County, he is offering free lessons to the community’s youth.
Anderson said he has been “blown away” by how many people in the community have shown enthusiasm for the shop.
“(They) have been bringing guitars for the guitar library,” Anderson said. “I have several instruments out on loan that have been donated from the community. Young students that could never afford to take home a guitar and amp just to figure out if they have the interest are able to have something to practice on.”
A banjo, bass and amplifiers are just some of the items donated, he said.
There’s no paperwork to borrow the instruments, Anderson said.
“It’s all built on community trust,” he said. “I just want to see whoever is borrowing the instrument in here every week or two, asking questions and maybe taking a free lesson from me.”
His musical students should practice daily, “as long as they want, as long as it is not compromising the rest of their life,” he added with a laugh.
“Summer’s coming up, which is why I think it’s a key time to really spread the word that I have an open-door policy,” Anderson said. “Any hours that I’m open, if your kids are curious about learning, roll ‘em through here and they can hang out in here and try stuff out. They can sit on the digital drum set with headphones. I don’t want to force anyone to learn an instrument that they’re not passionate about.”
Sometimes that takes experimentation, he said.
Music was identified as an interest in a 2017 survey of Polk County youth in middle and high schools in Central, Dallas Falls City and Perrydale districts.
That is part of the reason Musical Independence was chosen for the Polk County mini grant, said Abby Warren, Polk County prevention coordinator.
Another reason is access.
“It was so creative, but it also took into account the potential barriers that a kiddo in any region might face,” Warren said. “In the survey, we rank the different barriers that kids address and talk about, and cost is one of those.”
Guitar lessons, which Anderson provides, is highly ranked in the survey, as well.
“So far, I do all the instruction myself and I teach guitar, keyboard, percussion, bass, and beat making and audio recording,” Anderson said. “And I can help with your singing too.”
Musical Independence opened March and Anderson started teaching at music at Community Services Consortium.
“Since I came on the scene in the middle of the year, I was an emergency hire at first, to provide a music curriculum,” Anderson said. “We started off with a music appreciation class. Every morning it was a very casual listen through both participant suggestions and whatever them I would cook up for the day. Usually I would go sort of genre by genre and put it up to vote for the class.
We went through a rough chronological historical canon of blues, jazz, rock, pop, classical, hip hop.”
Anderson, originally from Salem, grew up studying classical piano.
That was “hugely influential,” he said. But he also was an MTV kid.
“I was born in ’75, so MTV came out right around when I was in first grade,” Anderson said. “Talk about being knocked over by a force. In the early ’80s, I really got into hard rock and heavy metal and shred. I started playing electric guitar, that was 1988.”
His favorite band at that time was Van Halen, he said.
“Well, technically, Van Hagar,” he laughed. “I was a big Eddy Van Halen fan. Secretly I thought David Lee Roth’s first solo record with Steve Vai was cooler, but I couldn’t tell my friends. You can out me now.”
In his next musical phase, Anderson “fell in love with acoustic music.”
He moved to Portland and was part of the music scene there for 20 years, he said.
That allowed him the opportunity to tour with different bands throughout the United States, Canada and Europe.
He and his partner Jesica bought a home in Independence last year.
“We didn’t want to settle down in Portland, it’s just not our pace anymore,” Anderson said. “We really enjoy the small-town feel and friendliness and knowing your neighbors.”
He had previous musical experience in Independence, he said.
“I fell in love with Independence when I used to play at Lenora’s Ghost, which was a club on Main Street,” Anderson said. “It was my favorite small club, maybe ever, but certainly in Oregon, to play at.”
Now Anderson said he gets hired for session work and touring because he is multi-instrumental.
He’s played acoustic guitar at local events. He loves being the background music for the community, he said.
Anderson wants everyone to feel welcome in Musical Independence.
“Come in and visit,” Anderson said. “I would love to take an old-school approach to all of this and just have the community wander through all week. I think part of what I’m trying to provide in an over-teched world is an opportunity to come in and have a good conversation and laugh, try out some instruments maybe listen to another player who happens to be in here at the same time. I really would like to be a hub for all things musical in Polk County.”
319 S. Main St., Independence