Their classes meet every week in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, but it all really started on a porch in Nashville.
Performing folk musicians Ginger Dolden and Pete Lanctot had traveled to the Tennessee city from their home in New York to produce their first record. But there was one, small problem. “After the first day of recording, we realized that we didn’t nearly have enough money,” Lanctot says with a laugh. They started going over ways to come up with the cash — perhaps they could become bike messengers, make things to sell on Etsy, or become Uber drivers.
And then the two classically-trained musicians had a breakthrough: “Well, we thought that people like activities and they like beer, so what do we know how to do?” Lanctot recalls. “We could teach violin and give ‘em beer?” With that, Booze Music was created. The duo, who met in music school and are now engaged to be married, decided to teach violin, fiddle and guitar to adults with a side of beer or wine during class. They figured it would be less intimidating for adults who may not have been in a classroom since college or high school, and may have never touched a violin. The idea struck a chord.
“We were blown away,” Dolden says. The first session in 2013 had two classes with just 30 students. Now they’re teaching about 100 people from all walks of life. Among the members are twentysomethings from Brooklyn who walk over to class on their way home from work, artists or photographers looking for inspiration, retired engineers, legal assistants and even a consultant at a big four firm who often comes to class straight from the airport.
Dolden and Lanctot, who both played instruments from a very early age, try to keep things light and fun — showing students the folk side of music, rather than the more intimidating classical version they grew up with. But no matter who they are, everyone performs in the final recital in front of friends and family. Like any kid at a music show, they’re nervous. But at least these students can have a glass or two of liquid courage before standing up under the lights.
“Everyone comes out of it with just the most amazingly happy smiles,” Dolden says, “I don’t think they ever get this kind of experience ever.”