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Two decades of making music

Music Man Studio celebrates 20 years of business


by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Lori (on the left) and Nathan Givens, owners of Music Man Studio, continue to thrive after 20 years, despite economic ups and downs. It’s been 20 years. And like most people, the Givenses aren’t quite sure where the time has gone when it comes to their business, Music Man Studio.

Located in the heart of Wilsonville’s Town Center Square for the past two decades, Music Man has become a local institution that has helped train the next generation of French Prairie musicians. This year marks the studio’s 20th year in business, and while there won’t be a fancy celebration or wild promotion, that kind of longevity deserves a more detailed look.

“It’s been kind of that weird animal that created itself,” said owner Lori Givens, who took over from founders Ron and Mary DePuy in 2000, when that couple decided to switch focus and channel their efforts toward their Christian faith. “We found a need because, really, to send students to Portland to get good instruments, our students didn’t want to do that. It grew bigger than we thought.”

Today, Lori and her husband, Nathan Givens, are firmly ensconced in the Wilsonville business and cultural landscape. They support local schools, they take part in local events and festivals and they have played their own part in helping Wilsonville schools remain a bastion of musical education excellence in the metro area.

From those early 14-hour days spent poring over every aspect of the studio operation to the present, where both Nathan and Lori now teach just one day a week, the studio has become more than a business. It’s a way of life.

Of course, it’s always been that way.

Lori Givens started working for the DePuys in 1997, when she was less than a year removed from graduating from Indiana University’s music program. Raised with the work ethic required to excel as a classical musician, Givens made a natural teacher. She also found she had an affinity for the business side — something of a rarity among musicians.

“I think I had that passion for business, and I really wanted to mix the two,” she said.

So, at age 26, she felt ready to make an offer to purchase Music Man when the DePuys announced they were preparing to exit the business to pursue music as a spiritual ministry.

With the help of an accountant she used as a musical freelancer, as well as several relatives in the legal field, Givens launched herself headfirst into the business world.

“They had such great advice,” she recounted. “They said, ‘Just don’t do it yourself; make sure you have support.’”

It took her a while to take that to heart.

“I had a lot of support, but day-to-day I did everything myself,” she said. “I would be up until 3 a.m. doing what I had to do, and I wasn’t married or had kids. I’m a workaholic by nature. I know what hard work is, and I never had days off.”

What she needed, though, was a larger stable of skilled instructors. Demand for lessons and instruction was outstripping Givens’ ability to accommodate her clientele. So she ended up making a fateful decision. She hired a violin and viola player she knew from her college days. His name was Nathan.

“I needed to hire a violin instructor,” Lori Givens said. “So Nathan started working for us. We had the same professor in college, and he had been teaching in schools a little bit too.”

It took hardly any time before both realized this was no ordinary work situation.

“It broke all my rules,” Lori Givens said. “I ended up dating someone I worked with, and I always had told myself, ‘No musicians!’ Especially a string player — and more especially a viola player.”

Both have degrees in viola performance and both are competitive.

“You’re just not as pushy as me,” Lori Givens said with a laugh, glancing at her husband. “We’re a very balanced couple.”

They were married barely a year later, in 2001.

Downtime is rare

The couple now have three boys to go along with a full workload, so downtime is something of a rarity. And it’s not as if they are likely to slack off anyway. There are customers and clients to think of, after all.

“We just feel like it’s more important than our own needs to make sure everyone is taken care of in the community — not just within these walls,” Lori Givens said. “And so far it’s worked. Twenty years, I think, is proof.”

That ethic has carried them through two serious recessions, one after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and the other starting in 2008.

“Especially when the economy crashed, it’s not enough to provide a good service,” she said. “People have to want to be there. Society is getting so busy that when they walk through these doors we want them to feel taken care of. I think that’s kind of what gets you through the hard economy, having that attitude; and you can’t get greedy when the economy is good.”

The most recent addition to their business lineup is instrument repair service. Nathan Givens began studying to be a luthier several years ago following a workshop in Arizona. He connected with the instructor of that class and gained valuable experience and insight.

It also proved to be a convenient way to get some repairs done for other people. But now he is able to carry out the work himself and is available to perform routine maintenance and repairs on violins and other stringed instruments.

“We used to take all our instruments down that needed a variety of repairs,” Nathan Givens said.

“But now when he sets up an instrument,” Lori Givens added, “he can make it play a lot better, and it’s really neat to see.”

It also complements their instruction, he added.

“You can find inexpensive instruments, especially online,” he said. “But having one set up correctly and well makes all the difference in having one that’s fun to play or one that doesn’t stay in tune. If it doesn’t sound good, they’re not going to stick with it and play.”

Music Man Studio is located at 8261 SW Wilsonville Road. For more information, call 503-682-9829 or visit musicmanstudio.com.



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