PARK RIDGE, N.J. — Gus Baxter of Mahwah has been teaching guitar at Woodside Music Studio in Park Ridge since 1971.
At this point, the shop has become the “Cheers” of the Pascack Valley: you go in and everybody knows your name.
“We’re now into teaching the third generation of the same families,” Baxter said. “It’s pretty freaky.”
When he gave his first lesson at Woodside 46 years ago, he was a college student.
It’s the only job he ever had.
In the mid-1980s, Baxter took the place over when its founder — his brother-in-law — decided to become a Greek Orthodox priest.
Today the downtown studio features 16 musicians teaching an array of instruments from brass to drums, flute to piano, reeds to voice.
But it’s never lost its intimate feel.
“This is a quaint kind of place you don’t find anymore,” Baxter said.
“We do everything the old way, not so much computerized.”
Part of Woodside’s success is Baxter’s gentle, encouraging instructional style. After all these years, he’s developed a philosophy of teaching.
He sees his role as finding out, then bringing out, that special something each student possesses.
For him, patience is key.
A student who may not be doing well today may suddenly started doing brilliantly eight months hence.
Baxter waits for that moment to arrive.
Usually, he said, it does.
“Teaching is a journey,” Baxter explained. “The students are on a journey. The teacher is on a journey. You have to let it happen.
“Today people want instant gratification, but life is a journey,” he added. “You’ve got to take it slow and let students mature at their own rate.”
At this point Baxter’s brother-in-law has retired from the priesthood and lives in Florida.
Meanwhile, at Woodside Music Studio, the beat goes on.