Island Music Guild History
The Guild teachers initially started as a group of private music instructors based out of a tiny music store called Deering Music. The store was owned by Barbara Deering, who is a bit of a local musician and acting icon. The store was located in Lynnwood Center, Bainbridge Island.
Led by local musicians Allen Simcoe, Charlotte Grahm, Korem Bishoff, Stuart Williams, and Steve Newton, the group finally formed a 501C3 non-profit organization called the Island Music Teachers Guild. This first group of musicians had a real heart for music and arts for the local youth. The teachers guild created all sorts of memorable summer camps which demonstrated the diverse nature of its members. Rock and Roll, Classical, Blue Grass, and Jazz music were all taught to the various types of instruments and levels.
2002 to 2004
Deering music store relocated to Winslow Way in 2002. Barbara Deering also rented a historical building at 255 Erickson Ave for music instructors. The space was larger and more conducive to teaching private lessons. This building would later become a dental office. At this point, there was a falling out between Mrs. Deering and the teachers of the music store; the teachers left the store venue. The homeless Guild, although still active in the local music scene through various jam sessions and music events, needed a permanent home. They even reached out to the public through a newspaper ad from which retired boat builder Mark Julian stepped in to help by offering up his building on Rolling Bay. A ten-year lease was signed and the Guild once again had a home.
The Guild moved into its current location at Rolling Bay. At first, the building was a commercial warehouse/workshop used to restore boats. It needed a massive overhaul to become a music worthy facility. At this point, it was becoming obvious to the music teachers that they would need some help developing the new space and taking the Guild to the next level. The Guild along with the landlord, Mark Julian, consulted with musicians David Bristow, Allen Strange, and Norm Johnson to help develop and design the space. This new location and a new version of the Island Music Teachers Guild featured a board led by Norm Johnson and executive Director, David Bristow. Mr. Bristow was well known for his connections with Yamaha Music Corp and the development of their keyboards, while Norm was well known in the local folk circles for booking bands.
Business thrived for the organization as new teachers joined and more and more students visited the building for lessons. At this point, there were about 90 members and an annual membership cost of $25. Members included students as well as teachers. Virtually all of the music disciplines were represented including recording arts, Kindermusik, and composition. With a new performance space included In the building, there were now concerts and the continued summer camps. This new era for the Guild was not always smooth as the group experienced its share of growing pains. Tension grew among the teachers, the board, and David Bristow as they all tried to figure out their new identity and vision for the future of the organization. There was building pressure to turn the Guild into a music school which would be managed by Mr. Bristow. A large group of music teachers wanted to maintain their individual studios and retain their own unique teaching identity. Eventually, the building was renamed “Island Music Center” in anticipation of the new Music School.
Tensions finally came to a head as the Island Music Center experienced financial troubles along with a widening gulf between the board and the private instructors. When the Guild first signed the lease with Mark Julian, they were renting only half of the Rolling Bay building. Now, the group had taken over the entire facility, its rent, and the salary of David Bristow. The U.S. financial climate was also quite challenging at this point as virtually all of the arts grants that the Guild had come to rely on had dried up. The result was that David Bristow resigned and the board eventually dissolved itself giving the building back to the private music teachers.
* A note of interest is that at this point the Guild moved out of the performance hall side of the Rolling Bay building and took residence in the office spaces on the south side of the building. This vacancy left the hall open to be used by several community art groups including “Space Craft” and “Weave.” The decision to move was authored by Keely Sawyer, a piano teacher, who was president of the board for a short time right after David Bristow resigned.
2014 – present.
Deciding to return to their roots, the Guild re-formed as a group of individual teachers working collectively under one roof. This new “non -profit” would become a CO-OP model with teachers all being part owners. Several Guild members were instrumental in creating the new CO-OP including Stuart Williams, who became the first CO-OP Board President. Although officially called the Rolling Bay Music Cooperative, this latest formation of music teachers is still referred to as the Island Music Guild. Eventually, the building was sold to a group of arts-minded community members who named the building “Rolling Bay Community Hall”, providing a home for WEAVE, the offices of the Bainbridge Chorale and the Island Music Guild.