It took him a few decades and a handful of forays into other careers, but Gary Grisafi has finally opened a music store in Bensalem, the Grisafi Music Institute.
He first picked up the guitar at 13 as a kid living in Oxford Circle, and with the support of his family attended the Philadelphia College of Performing Arts.
Grisafi worked as a construction safety specialist and is Republican leader of the 53rd Ward, but his guitar remained a close companion.
A Castor Gardens resident, Grisafi has played at “almost every” Atlantic City casino since 1986, toured with the USO from 1985 to 1988, played on the Rachael Ray Show, and has played with a variety of local bands.
“Being involved in politics and being an entertainer and teacher are similar in a way,” Grisafi said. “You have to communicate, interact and listen to many different personalities, many different age groups and backgrounds. Being open minded and compassionate is essential in both music and politics.”
Grisafi has been teaching music for more than 25 years, as well, at local music schools. He said that he decided to open GMI after realizing that there weren’t as many music schools available to area residents who wanted to flex their creative muscle.
“I wanted to have my own school and I had an opportunity this summer since two local music stores closed up and the music program is being cut from the schools in Philadelphia and local school districts,” Grisafi said. “Through the years, I worked with many experienced professional musicians and I’m now able to employ some of them at the Grisafi Music Institute as teachers.”
Positioned on the second floor of a shopping center near the I-95 Woodhaven exit, the GMI facility was built virtually from the ground up by Grisafi, who had the school remodeled with seven sound-proof classrooms and a renovated lobby area.
Grisafi said that the teaching staff at GMI has more than 200 years of combined teaching experience, and that the school is open to students of all ages.
“If you are an adult with little time to practice, we plan a strategy for efficiency so progress can be made,” Grisafi said. “Teenagers getting ready for college and want to pass a music entrance exam and audition are also welcome.”
GMI caters to students looking to play rock, jazz, blues, classical, country, funk, folk and opera. While Grisafi’s primary instrument is the guitar, the other teachers he employs are skilled with a variety of instruments, including percussion, bass guitar and the piano.
According to Grisafi, the teachers at GMI are “working to give back to their community,” and that pricing for lessons is likely affordable for most area families.
While most music lessons require a monetary payment, Grisafi had some pro bono advice for those looking to become musicians.
“My advice for young players is to practice every day, listen to many styles of music, learn how to read music, jam with other musicians as much as possible, have fun, experiment and start a band,” Grisafi said. “Listen to as many players as you can from a variety of styles. A musician will learn more and advance quicker when cross-pollination occurs among many styles of music. When this happens, the player will learn what motivates them and they’ll be driven to learn more.” ••
For information, visit garyguitar.com or call 215-820-8553. GMI is located at 1542 Bristol Pike in Bensalem.