Freeway Music—Columbia’s locally owned, premier music school—is celebrating 10 years of bringing music lessons, programs and events to students across the Midlands region.
Provided photo. Click to enlarge.
Since opening its doors in 2011, Freeway Music has taught nearly 10,000 students through nearly half a million lessons, has donated more than $70,000 to local nonprofits, has given countless volunteer hours to the community and has collaborated with many partners to bring music to the region.
From day one, Freeway Music has challenged its music schools and teachers to be innovative and responsive to the needs of their students. As a result of COVID-19, Freeway Music adapted its traditional in-person lessons and now offers the options for virtual lessons, showcases and recitals. Additionally, Freeway Music offers music lessons in participating Midlands area schools and through a long-standing partnership with The Columbia Children’s Theatre.
“Freeway Music goes beyond your traditional music school,” Freeway Music co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Dan Russo said. “We are a hub for building deep relationships between teachers, students and the community — while staying focused on being innovative and adapting to the world around us. We use the power of music to develop and grow our students and ourselves.”
Now with six locations throughout the greater Columbia metropolitan area and optional virtual lessons, what began as chance encounter by local musicians Russo and Tony Lee has flourished into the fastest growing music instruction school in South Carolina. Freeway Music offers private music lessons for all skill levels, styles and ages on a wide range of instruments, including piano, voice, ukulele, drums, bass, strings, woodwinds, horns, mandolin, banjo and more.
“Adapting to virtual lessons and other programming has opened many doors for our students and teachers,” said co-founder Lee. “It’s allowed us to expand our way of teaching, as well as introduce new technology that gives us the capacity to teach anywhere in the world.”
Homegrown talent rooted in the Midlands
Freeway Music has been the catalyst for many of the region’s top music talent — many of which have gone on to pursue their musical careers on a national stage, from Neoni — the modern alternative pop rock and electronic band with over one million monthly listeners on Spotify — to Jonathan Wyndham, a top contender on The Voice in 2014, now turned independent singer, songwriter and producer with a number of singles on Spotify. Additionally, more than a dozen former students have graduated to becoming Freeway Music instructors — sharing their passion and love for music with others.
“We could not be more proud to be Freeway Music alumni,” say Sydney Powell and Caitlin Powell of Neoni. “And to think it all began ten years ago in a lesson room, to music becoming our entire career—it’s truly amazing.”
Giving back through music
“Supporting our community is part of who we are — it’s embedded in the fabric of our DNA,” says Russo. “We’ve seen music transcend barriers, transform lives and unify people of all walks of life. An example of this in commitment was shown in 2016 when our instructors rallied together and played to raise money for a former cancer patient, who then recovered and became a Freeway student.”
Over the past 10 years, Freeway Music has been making a positive mark on the community in countless way, including:
- Donating nearly $60,000 to local charities through its co-partnership of the Freeway Music Festival, which unites the music community and celebrates local and regional talent.
- Providing music scholarships to support youth who may not otherwise be able to afford music lessons.
- Participating in fundraising and performances for many local nonprofits, including The Conner Foundation, Palmetto Children’s Hospital, Harvest Hope Food Bank, The Women’s Shelter, Pets Inc., Pawmetto Lifeline, Trustus Theatre, Girls Rock Columbia, the Hootie & the Blowfish Foundation, and the South Carolina Philharmonic, among others.
- Supporting local schools with free lesson and performances, including Bethel-Hanberry Elementary, St. John Newman, Heathwood Hall, the University of South Carolina, Columbia College, Blythewood High School, Irmo High School, St. Andrews Middle School and many more.
- Volunteering and supporting local events, including the Festival of Trees, Rooftop Rhythms, St. Pat’s in Five Points Parade, Palmetto Christmas, the MG&C Long Run, the Heart and Sole Run, Get in the Pink Race, Vista Lights, First Thursdays on Main and more.
Showcasing talent on the Big Stage
Each season, Freeway Music presents music showcases that are free and open to the public at various large venues in the region. These showcases are crucial to students’ musical development and allows an opportunity for them to show off their skills in “real life” settings for an experience similar to professional music performances. Support local students and enjoy live music by attending a Freeway Music showcase this fall.
- Downtown: Sunday, Sept. 26, 2-5 p.m., Tin Roof, 1022 Senate St., Columbia
- Lexington: Sunday, Oct. 31, 2-4 p.m., Ice House Amphitheater, 107 W. Main St., Lexington
- Northeast: Sunday, Nov. 21, 1-6 p.m., The Senate, 1022 Senate St, Columbia
- Irmo: TBD. Check the Freeway Music calendar for updates on this showcase.
For the latest on upcoming event dates and venues, visit https://freewaymusic.net/events/.
To learn more about Freeway Music and register for classes with year-round enrollment at https://freewaymusic.net/.
Founded in 2011, Freeway Music is the Columbia region’s premier music school with five locations in downtown Columbia, Lexington, Irmo, the Northeast, and within Sims Music. Freeway Music offers private lessons for all skill levels, styles, and ages on a wide range of instruments, including piano, voice, ukulele, drums, bass, strings, woodwinds, horns, mandolin, banjo, and more. Freeway Music’s mission is to equip students in music and life to make a positive impact in their community. Freeway Music is the exclusive music school partner of Sims Music, a locally owned and nationally recognized music store. For more information visit freewaymusic.net or call 844.537.7661.