BY TAMMY SCARDINO BLACKFOOT
Music is magical in local vocalist Paul Harms’ estimation. The opera tenor is now an instructor at Music & Families at 593 W. Bridge St. in Blackfoot, where the mission is to strengthen families through the science of sound.
“I want my students to be further along than I was at their age. I want them to be better off than I was,” said Harms, who holds a degrees in vocal performance and choral conducting from California State University at Fullerton. “In general, I feel as though I am providing the fertilizer to make the world a better place through the work I do.”
Instructors at Music & Families offer private lessons for those interested in learning how to play guitar, the piano, a violin, the cello and viola, as well as the mandolin. They are currently working with 30-50 students of all ages.
“I started playing the viola at the age of 45,” says Claude Nielsen, one of the business owners. “I was repairing instruments from home up until my daughters encouraged me to open a storefront. I love to build and repair violins.”
The business is primarily run by Nielsen and his daughter, Larene Frei, and her husband, Barry Frei.
“I play five instruments,” Frei says. “Plus, I have always had the entrepreneurial spirit in me. As a kid, I remember selling greeting cards and manning lemonade stands.”
Collectively, Nielsen family members have been musically inclined for more than 100 years.
“I played the violin when I was younger,” Nielsen explains. “However, it was my daughter who inspired me to pick up a viola later on in life.”
He adds: “My wife plays the piano and my other daughters chime in. I feel as though we became closer when we started to incorporate music into our family life.”
The three business owners have harmoniously worked together for a total of five years now. Most of the instructors’ students derive from the Blackfoot area, but any Eastern Idahoan is welcome to sign up.
“The voice is so personal,” Harms says. “I want people to know that anyone can have a good singing voice. There’s no such thing as someone who can’t sing, it’s just a matter of not having had any experience doing it the right way.”
Harms takes on younger clients, but recommends vocal training begin in the early teens, after a young man’s voice has matured.
“I encourage anyone interested in fine-tuning their vocal chords to learn how to play the piano, prior to taking voice lessons,” Harms says. “The most rewarding part of my journey has been in the classroom directing the kids. I like to be more than a teacher to them, I want them to think of me as a mentor that’s there to help guide them in the right direction.”
In the past, the professional has performed in over 25 productions with the Los Angeles Opera. He was also the principle tenor for the Gilbert & Sullivan specialist company, “Opera a la Carte,” with more than 3,000 appearances in the Western United States, as well as parts of the Midwest.
Harms currently teaches voice lessons in Inkom, Pocatello and now Blackfoot.
“I am willing to take on group lessons as well,” said Harms, who was recently hired on. “I already have three people lined up.”
Sheet music, instruments and accessories are also available for purchase at the store. Special orders, in the form of sheet music and instruments, are also welcomed.
“Of course, I do the repair work,” Nielsen said. “We have several practice rooms and a recital hall here as well.”
For more information dial (208) 782-9768 or visit www.musicfamilies.com.