Goodbye to music biz

Joy Sawyer made a life decision on her last birthday.

Realizing "I'm not Benjamin Button" and the clock would not be turning back, the founder of Coquitlam Music agreed it was time to say goodbye to her business after 43 years and finally enjoy her golden years.

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It was a tough choice - and one that her kids had been pressing her to make for years. "My age is catching up to me," the 73-year-old grandmother of 10 and great-grandmother of three said from her Port Coquitlam shop last week. "I'm not going to live forever."

The drive to PoCo from her Maple Ridge home and back after a 12-hour shift also took its toll, she said.

Still, Sawyer had been preparing for the change for a while. A few years ago, she downsized her business to ready for retirement; her lease is also up this fall.

Sawyer bought the business in 1971 from Brentwood Music, which was closing up. She had been its accordion teacher for eight years and purchased the company's PoCo studio, incorporating it the next year as Coquitlam Music. "I wanted to have my own music business and my own studios. My love was music and I wanted to continue that," she said.

Sawyer started with 50 students and quickly learned the ropes to manage a store.

Today, she has 270 students - ranging in age from five to 80 - from the Tri-Cities, Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge, Burnaby and Langley that receive weekly private lessons; many have gone on to study music at post-secondary schools and some have carried on with professional music careers.

Sawyer's teachers have all been offered studio space at Crossroads Guitar & Drums in Port Moody and Salina Cheng Music Academy in Coquitlam, after classes wrap up on July 31.

And Crossroads and Salina Cheng, as well as G&G Music in Maple Ridge, said they will also help to clear out her instruments and inventory when Coquitlam Music vacates on Aug. 31.

Earlier this month, Sawyer gave notice to her students, parents and customers; she was surprised by their reaction. "A lot of people are shocked that I'm actually going to go," she said, adding, "but you go when you've got your reputation intact."

Her husband, Bohdan Siedlecki, points to the framed honours on the store wall: An induction certificate from the International Biographical Centre in Cambridge, England, as a Leading Educator of the World and a recognition from the city of PoCo during last year's centennial celebrations.

As well, photos of students from last year's recital at the Kinsmen Hall are also posted.

Kinsmen Hall holds a special place in her heart as it was the site of her wedding to Siedlecki 19 years ago. Coquitlam Music teachers formed the band while guitar and piano teacher Michael Cham was the emcee. Siedlecki, who Sawyer hired as a violin, piano and vocal teacher 26 years ago, "is the best thing I got out of my business," she said.

As for her next move, Sawyer said she'll keep the company but she and Siedlecki will teach from their home. She'll also have a bit more time for her family and to garden. "I have been a teacher all my life, since my early 20s," she said. "I can't imagine not teaching music."

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