Since opening seven years ago, Village Music Wellington has made headway bringing a musical pattern of learning and performance to a unique café that stimulates those seeking music education and those seeking to show off their expertise in front of a live audience.
By combining a lesson studio and a performance-based café, seasoned bands and solo acts play live, and students acquire performance skills where their talent can get exposure and their confidence boosted by the passion instilled by owners Steve and Donna Willey.
The couple met on a tour bus in Heidelberg, Germany, more than two decades ago. She was completing an MBA, living in Germany and working as a tour guide; he was stationed there in the U.S. Army. They both had a passion for music, but the timing was not right. Steve was sent back to Texas in a year’s time, while Donna was still in graduate school.
It wasn’t until much later when they met and fell in love twice over, marrying, each with two children. They blended their worlds, working in concert with a compelling vision of creating a community around music.
“We always bonded over music,” Donna recalled. “When we separated in Germany, Steve had written me a song called ‘Donna, Sweet Donna.’ He had one of his fellow soldiers, who was an artist, paint a watercolor and calligraphy of the lyrics into the sky. He put it in one of those tubes and mailed it to me, but I had moved. I never got it. When we re-connected, he asked me about the song, and if I liked it. I told him I never received it. He played the song for me right then and has since recorded it. It was pretty amazing. We have always had that musical bond.”
West of Boston, Steve had a music store also called Village Music. Donna went on to a professional career in academics, advising and providing college admissions counseling. Both New Englanders, they loved the weather in Florida, where they had family. Together, they relocated and opened a new store in Florida, calling it Village Music Wellington.
“We picked Wellington because we loved the town,” Donna said. “We loved the atmosphere, the dynamics of the town, the whole equestrian community. We had kids who were 11 and 13 at the time, so the A-rated school system was a big part of it.”
For their first five years in Wellington, the music store was in Wellington Green Square near the Fresh Market. At the time, it included a store selling musical equipment and a music school offering lessons. Quickly, the space became too tight, bursting at the seams.
When their lease was up, the couple decided they needed more square footage and relocated to a much larger facility near Barnes & Noble and behind Walgreens in front of the mall. That is when they added the café and performance space.
The nuts and bolts of an expansive music store quickly set up a dynamic art venue of music where Wednesday through Saturday, live music is played in the café with Chef Chris Paul bringing a sophisticated palate of tastes to a comfortable setting of patrons beginning at 6 p.m.
“We feel ourselves to be much more than a music store,” Donna said. “We offer a holistic musical experience. So, yes, we have a music store with great gear and an amazing music school with high-level instructors who teach 300-plus students. But our unique venue is an aim at keeping the art of live music breathing, while promoting local artists.”
Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. is open mic night. On Thursday, the flavor of jazz brings an eclectic group of locals on stage at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m., the cafe lights up with South Florida musicians — but be sure to reserve a table.
The magic of music brings a laid-back sophistication of sounds and possibilities to the music store, where local students and musicians blend into the café audience, performing and listening to fresh sounds that create a feeling of community. “Our core mission is to share and communicate what we believe to be the power of music,” Donna said.
During the week, the studio brings students in for lessons, while the café offers parents a refuge to waiting in the car, and instead offers a light menu of coffee, wine, beer and gourmet treats.
“The lesson department is at the core of what we do,” Donna explained. “We are training and growing young musicians. To keep this whole field alive and developing, week by week, seeing the students mastering their instruments and performing is what we do.”
In 2014, the Willeys were recognized at the National Association of Music Merchants convention as Best New Music Dealer in the U.S. This has helped solidify their actions at generating a music scene in Wellington.
On busy nights at the café, Donna can be seen greeting guests, giving them a warm welcome, while Steve oversees the music production, making sure the soundboard is at peak service for the band.
It’s a friendly and professional pairing of harmony and synchronization where the night builds around a vision of people together making music. The couple offers a place where musicians can perform live in Wellington, become educated and join a fraternity of musicians where the Willeys’ vision continues to resonate and grow within the complex.
On the first Tuesday of each month there is a writer’s open mic at 7 p.m. where wordsmiths can recite poems, short stories, lyrics, literature and entertain the use of expression and messaging. On the first Thursday of each month at 6:30 p.m. there is an open business networking event followed by jazz. On alternate Thursdays, there is an informational series where topics related to music are explored. Meanwhile, Steve performs throughout the month live on stage.
The location boasts 4,000 square feet with a lesson studio that wraps around the music store and café. Purchasing an instrument is intimate, where Steve takes the time to learn and assess what size, style and model the student or professional needs and seeks, including the accessories that keep it clean and in good working order. The repair shop located onsite gives musicians a dependable and convenient location to get their instruments repaired.
The rental program allows patrons to try an instrument before purchasing, limiting the expense to not only parents, but an adult learning for the first time. Once the student knows what instrument to develop on, the rent-to-own option makes sense.
The cafe can be rented for private parties and is holding its first wedding at the venue next year. The couple marrying met at Village Music and decided it would be the perfect place to celebrate their pairing.
The store is located at 10410 W. Forest Hill Blvd. in Wellington. For more information, call (561) 798-5334 or visit www.villagemusicwellington.com.