On Chestertown’s High Street, Music Life is ready for musicians – come one, come all. Open for more than two years on the town’s historic main line, the music store is more than a store. Owner Bill Drazga, 60, opened the Music Life: Eastern Shore School of Music to be a place where all musicians can find both instrument and instruction.
When asked why he chose to open the store, Drazga had two main reasons. First, he was “unemployable,” and second because he had “worked in music in some way [his] entire life” and knew his passion for it wasn’t going to change any time soon. In addition to music, Drazga has another passion, Hawaii. He plans to retire there, though evidently he can’t wait – leis and tiki masks are already scattered about the store.
Turning from the decorations to the array of instruments, a very diverse customer base is reflected in the variety of products. Instruments range from boom-whackers for the younger crowd to burnished violas for the slightly more serious musician. In fact, the range of products is uncommon for a music shop located in such a small town. Looking for a ukulele painted like a pineapple or covered in traditional sugar skulls? Got it. Interested in local artist renderings of some seriously smooth jazz? Covered. Sheet music for every song ever written? Maybe not, but Drazga promises no more than a 24-48 hour wait time for any special order.
While the instruments are important, Drazga is more focused on the music school side of the business. “The instruments are here to help facilitate learning.” His student demographic is vast, spanning from the three-to-six age group coined the “Wee Little Mozart”– all the way to 90 years and up. “Mother’s should always sing to their kids before they are born. Fathers, too,” he said.
He notices that older students tend to appreciate music lessons more than younger ones. Going out of your way to learn something new about music as an adult makes it more of a scheduling priority.
To the younger crowd, specifically to every kid whose parents are forcing them to go to music lessons, Drazga said, “They should be glad they have me as a teacher. I understand their situation.” He is referring to his first instrument, the accordion, which his parents put in his hands at the early age of four.
Throughout, Drazga (apologetically) had to help his many customers. They always come first and are the reason he opened the shop in the first place. He lives to introduce music into the lives of others. He said it is “a spiritual and therapeutic necessity of life.” Music, he said, “is part of the process of becoming a complete person.”
Even outside of music lessons, Music Life interacts with the community at Chestertown’s weekly Saturday Farmers’ Market. Items like acoustic guitar themed silken vests and local band CDs are for sale by independent vendors, while troubadours occasionally play to the meandering crowd, which hints at the impact Music Life has made on the community. At Chestertown’s First Friday event for September, Drazga played for the crowd, along with two friends from WCTR Radio and the town’s Ukulele Club.
While Music Life has touched the lives of many in Chestertown, Drazga has noticed a hesitance in the college students to explore their musical side, noting that creativity in general can sometimes fall to the wayside. “I’d really like to be more a part of the community and with the College.” WC students, Bill Drazga has very reasonable request, “Give music a chance, especially when [you’re] in school. It is never too late to pick up an instrument – it is never too late to try something new.”
As seen on the front page of Washington College’s The Elm: