Northfield-based Our Music Institute (OMI) is part old school, part new school.
It’s old school because it offers traditional group and one-on-one music lessons for all ages and experience levels. It’s new school for a couple of reasons—it’s, well, new, having just opened in the Chase building at 400 Central Avenue, and it boasts a contemporary curriculum of classes and lessons for DJs, EDM production and studio recording.
“The mission is simple: Our community, our education, our music,” OMI Director Michael Poupko, also a music teacher, notes.
“Music connects people, but in this modern age that oftentimes gets lost.”
Take the internet (please), he reflects. “You can watch an instructional video on YouTube,” Poupko says, “but it’s not the same as personal hands-on instruction. When you interact and play with an actual human, you have a communication.”
The old joke Those who can’t do, teach does not apply here. Poupko, who for eight years was the owner and director of the North Shore Music Institute, has assembled a team of instructors with impressive professional credentials. Poupko has been playing guitar professionally since he was 18. As a member of the orchestra for the interactive theater production Tony & Tina’s Wedding, he met his future wife, who played keyboards. Voice teacher Mike Harvey has sung background on albums by Diana Ross and Bette Midler, per- formed live with Stevie Wonder, and he appeared on Saturday Night Live. Percussionist Larry Beers is a co-founder of Mucca Pazza, the celebrated circus punk marching band.
“Our instructors love playing music, but it is important to them to teach; they want to give back,” Poupko says. “I’ve been teaching for almost 20 years. Music has taken me all over the world. Almost every great experience in my life has been brought to me by music.
“I want to share that.”
In addition to booking live music, OMI offers programs and classes for a wide range of ages. Music Together is a family music class for infants to 5-year-olds with a parent or guardian. Let’s Play, for kindergarteners-third graders, is a general music class. A DJ School class is in the works. Individual lessons for voice, piano, guitar, ukulele, wind instruments, and percussion, as well as audition prep, are offered in 30- 45- and 60-minute sessions. In-home or office lessons are offered to Glencoe, Glenview, Kenilworth, Northbrook, Northfield, Wilmette and Winnetka residents.
One-on-one beats, recording and songwriting classes are also available.
“It’s meeting a need,” Poupko insists. “I want to offer classes I wish I could have had growing up.”
Another need, Poupko notes, has come from retirees.
“They want a creative outlet, and they want to be challenged,” he says. “It’s about rediscovering themselves and getting in touch with their true selves.”
At a time when devices designed for instant connection often make its users feel disconnected, music lessons will never be obsolete.
“I know it sounds cheesy,” a laughing Poupko says, “but the journey is the destination. Most things in this day and age are instantaneous; you can look for something on amazon.com and it arrives before you even order it. Music will never be that way. You have to focus and spend time with it. It teaches you about discipline, working hard and achieving goals. It builds confidence.”