An Ahwatukee family business celebrates 25 years teaching music to adults and children, and it all began with Beverly Bigam’s appreciation of the art.
Music Maker Workshop launched in 1997 when Bigam started her business teaching music via keyboard to senior citizens throughout Maricopa County.
She’d previously taught online, focusing on the increasingly ubiquitous keyboards.
Now 77, she and her husband of 52 years, Larry Bigam, are retired in Sun Lakes, though she continues to teach some of her previous adult students online.
She opened her brick and mortar store in 2002 with an eye to offering music lessons to children as well as adults.
“I’d been going to senior centers and teaching, so this was a progression. I found a place and opened up, and I did it with fear and trembling,” she admitted. “I had 40 students and I wondered how many students would I need to pay the rent.”
“I didn’t consider myself a business woman,” insisted Bigam. “God was with me all the way. It’s like a walking miracle business.”
She persevered, and her Music Makers Workshop business burgeoned.
She was joined by her two daughters, Shelley Yakubow and Kim Steedman, now MMW’s co-directors. They are assisted by Jessica Magee, who has served as studio manager for 13 years and holds a bachelor’s in music from Northern Arizona University.
Today, Music Maker Workshops has a 5,000-square-foot facility with 35 faculty members and approximately 800 students ranging in age from preschool students through seniors.
They have occupied their 3233 E. Chandler Blvd studio since 2002, renovating and expanding their facility so that it now boasts 19 classrooms.
Under the co-directorship of Bigam’s daughters, Music Makers has continued to amass accolades and has been voted Best Music Studio by Ahwatukee Foothill News readers for eight consecutive years.
Shelley Yakubow joined her mother at Music Makers in 2000 after graduating with a elementary education degree from the University of Alberta (Canada).
“Collaboratively, we work hard and implement ideas. It hasn’t always been easy. We’ve made mistakes, but we try to get feedback and improve, said Yakubow. “And it doesn’t feel like a job; it’s a therapeutic place to be with all the music surrounding you. It’s such a blessing.”
Steedman left nursing in 2003 to join the family business. Initially it was part-time as she raised her three children, now ages 18-21, in Ahwatukee.
“Even though it is quite a change from nursing, and I really loved nursing, being part of a musical family business is special, unique and full of life,” said Steedman. “We all come together with our shared experiences and I get to work every day with those closest to me.
A teacher of Music for Little Mozarts at MMW, Steedman said being honored as Ahwatukee’s best studio for eight years validates the family business.
“It feels like the community recognizes we are a safe, fun, exciting and positive place,” she smiled. “And it feels good providing such a good service to our community.”
MMW’s instructors are experts in their fields, and the variety of classes are myriad including piano, voice, guitar, bass, drums, ukulele, strings, brass, woodwinds, as well as DJing, songwriting, theory, composition, audition prep and recording.
Ahwatukee parents Terri and David Nigro, are among those appreciative of the diverse musical opportunities for their three children: Luke, 12; Nora, 10 and Drew, 8.
“Our introduction to Music Maker Workshops was in 2016 when we started Kindermusik classes with our youngest child Drew, who was two at the time. The classes were fun and engaging for toddlers – Drew loved it right away,” said Terri Nigro.
“Soon after that, Luke began taking piano lessons at age 6. He loved the teachers and seeing his progress each week.”
Seasonal camps at Music Makers Workshops have proved popular with the Nigris’ children.
“All three of our children have also attended summer camp sessions where they are able to try out three different instruments each session. After each session, they have asked to learn a new instrument,” Terri said.
“Currently, Luke plays drums, bass guitar, piano, and clarinet; Nora has played piano and is currently taking voice lessons; and Drew plays piano, but wants to start drum lessons soon,” said Terri Nigro.
“Everyone at Music Makers Workshop is always welcoming, and the teachers make lessons fun and find ways to individualize lessons in order to help students stay excited and progress.
For example, Drew’s teacher, Ms. Maddie, recognized his trouble focusing while learning from his piano book, so she introduced a song from his favorite video game, “Zelda.” Practicing was fun when it was his favorite song.
Terri explained how both Nora and Luke have also benefited from their Music Makers Workshop lessons.
“Nora has gained confidence and developed her stage presence through her voice lessons, she enjoys performing and is currently a member of several community and school choirs Luke has been inspired by his teachers who play and teach multiple instruments, and he set a goal for himself to learn multiple instruments by the time he was 12, which he’s done,” she said.
Terri, who has lived with her family in Ahwatukee for 15 years, said the music lessons “have helped to build confidence and discipline in each of our children.”
Moreover, she noted, “Listening to and playing music is also a wonderful outlet for stress, and it helps our children relax after busy days at school.”
Music Makers Workshop is an accredited vendor for Empowerment Scholarship Account as many teachers hold bachelor degrees, 10 hold masters degrees in music and five faculty on staff hold doctoral degrees in music.
“I don’t care what kind of business you run, it’s all about your staff and your teachers,” said Bigam.
Music Makers Workshop offers tours of their facility with preset appointments.
“Kids, teens and adults are welcome to explore their musical creativity at Music Makers year-round, seven days a week,” added studio manager Jessica Magee.
The Workshop is enrolling students and parents or students can text 480-706-1224 for a tour. Information: mmwaz.com.
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