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Village Music Wellington to celebrate 10th anniversary


Donna and Steve Willey are celebrating the tenth anniversary of Village Music Wellington with a festival on Feb. 4.

Photo by Palms West Journal.


A Wellington hotspot for live performances and instrument lessons is celebrating a decade in business with a day of live music.


Village Music Wellington’s 10th anniversary festival is from noon to 10 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4, in the parking lot of the shop at 10410 Forest Hill Blvd., next to the Mall at Wellington Green.


For owners Donna and Steve Willey, the anniversary marks a milestone they are grateful to reach while doing work they love.


“We continue to grow, and that is thanks to the support from our community,” Donna Willey says. “We sell out events almost every weekend, and demand is growing for classes.”


In addition to food, drinks, vendors, free music lessons, a silent auction and raffles, the festival will be headlined by Bakithi Kumalo, the five-time Grammy-winning bass player for Paul Simon, and his Graceland Experience Band. Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 the day of the event, with proceeds going to A Spring of Hope, a cause dear to Donna Willey and Kumalo.


“This has been a long time coming,” Donna says of Kumalo’s performance. “It’s monumental to have him here.”


She and Kumalo met through their support of A Spring of Hope, a nonprofit that helps provide sustainable water and sanitation facilities, school gardens, student health and wellness programs, and more in South Africa. A space in the organization’s Permaculture Center is prime for a music program, which Donna hopes to help fund with ticket sales from the festival, in addition to helping pay for a new well.


“I’m so grateful Bakithi was able to squeeze us in,” she says. “He just wants to give back and to help.”


This is Village Music’s fifth year in its current location, which is double the size of its first home in Wellington Green Square. The increase in size brought an increase in services: a greater variety of music classes, a cafe and bar, and a space for live music.


The need for more room was evident before Village Music’s lease was up at its last location, Donna says.


“I had a really good gut feeling that this was going to be a great decision,” she says of the move five years ago.


The live performance scene has exploded for Village Music in its current space.


“The way this has grown pretty much shocked us all,” Donna says. “We didn’t think that we’d get local and national and international acts lining up to play here.”


But that’s exactly what happened, she says: The emails come in daily from performers who want to schedule time on Village Music’s small stage inside the cafe.


Donna attributes the venue’s popularity to its intimate setting and excellent acoustics.


“People come here to hear top-notch live music,” she says.


Village Music also has become known for its monthly wine pairings, Monday trivia events and open mic nights. A jazz night held the second Thursday of each month has taken off with a house trio and visiting musicians, Donna says.


“I’m amazed to see how many jazz fans are out there,” she says. “And you never know who might stop in to play with the band. It’s a lot of fun.”


Village Music Wellington, which celebrates its tenth anniversary this year, sells a variety of musical instruments, including guitars, keyboards and a big seller, ukuleles.

Photo by Palms West Journal.


The instructional side of Village Music has about 250 students and 17 teachers, she says. As the needs of the community have evolved, so has Village Music: The business now includes a more holistic performing arts program including musical theater, along with audition-preparedness lessons in a black box theater.


“We have an amazing teaching staff,” Donna says. “Almost all have advanced degrees, are professional performers or recording artists. You don’t find teachers like that just anywhere.”


Students run the gamut from young children to retirees.


One of the more popular programs is an adult rock band camp, where adults with intermediate skills form a band, create a set list and train for six to eight weeks. “It’s so popular,” Donna says, adding that current and former camp bands will perform at the festival.


Elkie Wienczkowski of Wellington first brought her son, 11, to Village Music for lessons and now brings her daughter, 13, to study singing. Wienczkowski was drawn by the range of lessons offered.


Her son studied guitar last summer, taking four months of lessons with the goal to learn “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” by Green Day.


“Overall, I’ve found the instructors to be very generous with their encouragement and their time,” Wienczkowski says. “It’s been great.”


Alvaro Castillo’s family is part of a trend of parents taking classes alongside their children. Castillo, of Wellington, is taking drum lessons. His 10-year-old daughter, Camila, is studying piano, and 8-year-old Alvaro Jr. is learning to play the ukulele.


“It’s exciting,” Castillo says. “It’s been really fun. We were looking for something to do together, and we thought, ‘Why not start a band?’”


They’ve been at it for a little more than a year, and Castillo says he’s grateful for the instructors’ flexibility to accommodate his children’s other extracurricular activities.


Village Music’s 10-year milestone is all the more impressive after COVID-19 brought live performances and in-person classes to a halt for two months.


“When we reopened, it was a very slow process,” Donna says, noting that 40% of the students moved to remote courses. “Slowly but surely, we’re back almost to where we were.”


It’s taken a lot of hard work, but Donna said the response from the community has been supportive, with people eager to hear live music again.


She says she’s surprised by how quickly people returned to live shows, “but since we’ve been back, we just see more and more growth.”


The festival Feb. 4 is a chance “to show people what we can do, what we’re all about,” Donna says. “This is going to be a good chance for them to do that.”


For more information, go to www.villagemusicwellington.com, or call 561-798-5334.

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