Ironically, guitar instructor Noel Wentworth didn’t learn how to play the instrument from his guitar-teaching dad, Dale.
“Sometimes, being taught by your parents isn’t the best idea,” said Noel, 44, with a laugh. “My mom tried to teach me piano, too, and that didn’t go so well either.”
Instead, Wentworth came into his own at age 14 when he started to take guitar lessons with Scott Thielmann, another instructor at family-owned Wentworth Music.
To see if it’s a generational thing, Wentworth has attempted to teach his kids, Lucas, 11, and Holly, 9, the guitar.
“It hasn’t gone so well, either,” he said. “We’ll leave it until they approach me wanting to learn. But on the other hand, they are learning piano from my wife (Lora, also an instructor at Wentworth Music) and they are really taking to it.”
There are lots of other generational dynamics going on at Wentworth Music.
Besides the eponymous name of the business, it’s a multi-generational enterprise started by Noel’s grandfather, the late Walt, in 1966 where the Capri Centre Mall is now. Actually, Walt’s store started as Capri House of Lights, selling lighting. Noel’s dad, Dale, began offering guitar lessons in the back of the store and brought some guitars in to sell.
For a while, the location sold both lighting and musical instruments, but finally decided to concentrate on music and thus the name change to Wentworth House of Music.
The store moved several times until it settled 13 years ago in its current location at 1634 Highway 97 with a shortened name, Went-worth Music.
But the journey wasn’t all expansions and good times. The family almost lost everything in the 1980s recession and had to downsize before it could bounce back.
Noel and his wife, Lora, joined the business as music instructors to further diversify the business from selling and renting musical instruments.
At the beginning, the couple had 88 students, with Noel teaching guitar and base and Lora giving piano and saxophone lessons.
With 750-square-feet of studio space, the couple built the student base up to 275 and added instructors to teach more instruments and singing.
After three new studios were added a decade ago, the number of students ballooned to 900, who keep 24 instructors busy.
Noel’s younger brothers, Neil and Nori, are also work in the business as does Neil’s wife, Joanna. Father Dale continues to work at the store as well.
“Basically, we’re just finding ways to share music and make the community a better place,” said Noel. “It’s never too early and it’s never too late to learn how to play a musical instrument.”
Ideally, age four is a good time to start the piano, age nine for the guitar and as soon as a kid is able to sit up and hold a beat, they can give drums a try.
Most customers come to Wentworth because they are musical, or, in the case of reluctant kids, their parents want them to learn. However, Wentworth also does outreach with its musical petting zoo annually at the Kelowna Block Party and Downtown Kelowna Light Up, where kids and adults can try musical instruments.
“Mostly it’s just fun and awareness, but it’s also planting the seed that you can take lessons and rent or buy a musical instrument at Wentworth,” said Noel.
Wentworth Music also puts on Canada’s largest student rock concerts twice a year.
The company rents the 850-seat Kelowna Community Theatre and puts on a show with 150 students and all of the proceeds going the the Kelowna General Hospital pediatrics ward.
“It’s every musicians dream to be on stage before a sold-out crowd,” said Noel.
The next concert is Feb. 25 and will pay tribute to one-hit wonders like Dexy’s Midnight Runner’s Come on Eileen and Wild Cherry's Play that Funky Music White Boy.
At the end of June, there will be a concert of songs made famous by Canadian rockers.