Guitar teacher, artist 'building community

November 15, 2004|by DON AINES

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - The history of music dates back many millennia and when it comes to teaching the guitar or bass, Brad Wolfe says, "I'm from the old school."

That does not mean his students begin with a hollow log and a stick, but his approach does involve understanding the language and science of music, not just learning a few well-known riffs.

"It's one thing to learn a Metallica lick. It's another to really learn a musical instrument," said Wolfe, who opened Shea Wolfe Studios at 213 W. Burke St. in August with artist and wife, Teddy Shea.


"It all starts with the reading" of music, Wolfe said.

Wolfe said he has about 50 students ranging in age from 4 to 68, some of whom came to him as complete novices, while others come looking to refine their techniques.

"I really enjoy the kids who come here before they have an agenda," he said of students who have not developed a preference for any musical genre. Those students will find their own direction in time, Wolfe said, but it gives him the opportunity to expose them to a diversity of styles, including the region's indigenous music, bluegrass.

"Low pressure" is how Wolfe describes his teaching style, but becoming a musician is hard work. Unlike infomercials that promise to teach guitar for the price of a video and a few hours' time, Wolfe said, "this is not something you can accomplish in six months."

"Self-discipline. I believe that can turn into self-determination," said Wolfe, who taught at several other area venues before the studio opened. Those who devote themselves to learning reap rewards in other areas of life, even if they never become professional musicians, he said.

"It's soul-enriching and will be part of their whole development in this world," said Wolfe, who has a degree in music from Shepherd University.

The motto of Shea Wolfe Studios is "Building Community Through Music & Art," and the other half of that formula is Shea, who has a master's degree in fine arts from Boston University. The front room of their studio is adorned with the masks she has created in various media, including papier-mach, wood, composites and fabrics.

"I'm a free-lance kind of a person," said Shea, an actress, musician, writer and artist who offers acting classes through the studio. Her vivid, colorful masks and paintings are created in a studio at the couple's Gerrardstown, W.Va., home.

They met in New Orleans a dozen years ago. Shea, a Baltimore native, was playing piano and singing; Wolfe was playing in house bands along Bourbon Street. Shea had lived in this area and once Wolfe saw it, he said they pulled up stakes and moved back.

Shea's career included roles in the "Stage Door Canteen," a musical based on the World War II club where servicemen could mix with Tinseltown elite; and a touring company of "Chicago." More recently, she has been involved with the Apollo Civic Theatre, writing and directing "Gershwin" and playing Reno Sweeney in "Anything Goes."

Night owls may spot her in "I Was a Teenage Terrorist," a low-budget mid-1980s film in which she played the heavy. Shea said the film developed a bit of a cult following in Japan and Italy, although a friend recently spotted it on television in Nebraska.

Shea Wolfe Studios will have a holiday open house from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 10. For more information, call 304-260-0896.

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