The same spot, on the same street, since 2004. That’s how long Charles McCampbell has taught music on Main Street in Duncanville. He began with a clear goal: “Pursue perfection through private lessons.” Empowering students—even the disadvantaged—helps them stay off the streets, wandering without purpose. It builds confidence, perhaps the key to success. Yes, there are essential techniques for breathing, correct posture, pitch, projection, and pronunciation that identify professionals. (He has a liking for alliteration, too.) But Mr. McCampbell believes that even if all those are in place, and even if a student has notable talent, without confidence often not much happens.
Born in Michigan, Charles McCampbell moved to New York City as a teenager. When she was just 39, he lost his mother to breast cancer while in Michigan which later motivated him to become a certified holistic nutritionist and fitness trainer. Another “p” might be added for him—purpose. He knew what was important and sought excellence from the beginning. He studied theology from a correspondence school in Fort Wayne. At the time, he was studying at JazzMobile, which gave him opportunities to in Manhattan and travelling widely.
This is how to tell a true teacher: Rather than talk about themselves, they talk first about their students. With pride, usually. Charles McCampbell has had several vocal students on The Voice. The famous Tejano singer Selena left a brother, A. B. Quintanilla, who formed a popular group called Kumbia Kings. In fact, they played in Dallas last July. Mr. McCampbell taught Ramon, their lead singer. Diego Salazar started drums with him when he was only five years old. Diego is an all-state level drummer who performed with the jazz ensemble. He could have gone on, of course, but we diverted back to him as a teacher—oh, and he has special needs students, too.
Charles McCampbell has three brothers. They all sing, and sing well. Some years ago, Norm Sonju, award-winning co-founder of the championship-winning Dallas Mavericks, approached the brothers and asked them to sing “God Bless America” at a game. And so they did. A capella. These brothers formed Mac Band as vocalists adding drums, bass, guitar, and keyboards. Here is their #1 chart-topping “Roses Are Red.” (No, dear friends of a certain age, this is not a Bobby Vinton cover.)
When the band was touring, Charles McCampbell began praying about where to go next and what to do next. He considered Atlanta, Dallas, and Nashville. The answer was Dallas. He was performing with another group from New York when the change was needed. The group performed at Kiest Park where they met Dr. Anthony Evans Sr. at the function where he was speaking. Travelling was a strain, but Dallas was central and in the Bible Belt since they were doing Christian music. Members of the band came, too. Finally, Mr. McCampbell’s brothers moved to the area as well.
And Duncanville? He was driving down Main Street 18 years ago and saw a rental space—completely empty, no working a/c, bad carpet—but it spoke to him. The landlord gave him a simple direction for the problems: “You fix.” Walls went up, a/c issues resolved, better flooring, and it was ready for students. Now Mr. McCampbell is at Fielder Church in Arlington, part of a multi-campus organization with beautiful buildings and many forms of outreach. His brother Derrick plays at a Methodist church in McKinney.
A bonus! Linda Johnson teaches piano at Music Lovers. Following 23 years of teaching in and around Dallas, she retired and continued piano instruction. Her areas of expertise include AP music theory and piano pedagogy. Her students (yes, another real teacher) have won Music Memory competitions at WRR and played at the Majestic Theater. She and Mr. McCampbell wrote the school song for Wilmer-Hutchins. Plus, there is a young student—now just in the 7th grade—who auditioned for the Dallas opera and has appeared in The Magic Flute and Carmen.
Linda Johnson began her music training at age 7 with piano lessons. Without an instrument for a time, her mother made her a keyboard out of cardboard, and she practiced on that. She added that her goals for students are high: “Wherever you set the bar, that’s where they will go.” Linda Johnson is also a real mother and mentioned her son Isaiah; he has a master’s-level performance degree in violin and teaches in Garland. He gives private lessons at Music Lovers. That’s a double bonus, really.
These are the instruments you can learn @MusicLovers on Main Street in Duncanville: bass guitar, guitar, drums, congas, and piano. You can learn theory and composition from Linda Johnson, too. And voice—the most basic of all instruments. We all have a voice and can learn to use it better. Reasonably priced and lovingly taught.
But this isn’t an introduction without meaning. Music heals, something that we all need. With his background in health, Mr. McCampbell is obviously involved in healing the body. He can also heal the heart.
A favorite movie, The Visitor (2007), includes several plot lines, all relevant these days. Richard Jenkins stars as Walter Vale, a man who in his own voice tells us he has no purpose; everything he is doing is a sham. A professor, he berates a student. As a piano student, he berates his teacher. When he goes into Manhattan to attend a conference, he discovers two illegal immigrants living in his apartment, scammed by a swindler. After initially throwing the two out, Walter lets them stay. A friendship develops. Tarek, the man, plays a djembi. He teaches Walter—but it’s more than teaching, really; it’s healing. Walter was studying piano because he missed his late wife, a concert pianist. He had no talent and no real interest. Drumming transforms him. When he and Tarek play in a drum circle in Central Park, there is electricity. There is life.
Think about this gift of music for yourself or for a child. It’s never too early, but it’s also never too late. Mr. McCampbell and his team can help.