From 'Star Wars' to film scores: Teaching a love of music

Apr 4, 2018

Colin Bradley is flanked by an organ, drums, a piano, guitars—a veritable music shop is stored in the sunroom of his house on Beach Street in Mattapoisett.

“That organ,” he says, pointing behind him, “it was free from the Benson Brook dump. Somebody just left it there. I'd like to thank that person.”

Now, the organ, alongside the rest of Bradley’s instrument collection, is used by dozens of his music students at Sunroom Studios—Bradley’s studio and lesson center, appropriately placed inside the sunroom off of his house.

While studying at Berklee College of Music in Boston, his concentrations were film scoring and music education. Though he left Berklee after six semesters to pursue playing with a band, he's taught consistently since that moment. Aside from running a music lesson program out of his sunroom, Bradley also teaches private lessons at Friends Academy in North Dartmouth.

"I think that teaching kids to have fun is the most important thing," Bradley said. "When new students come in, I always ask them what they want to learn to play. The "Star Wars" theme is a big hit. Once they can play that, they usually want to go on, to learn more."

Bradley can bring a wealth of musical knowledge to his students. He's packed a lot of experience into 20 years of music, starting when he began playing the guitar as a child, at home in New Hampshire.

Not long after picking up a guitar, his grandfather (a former pastor of the Mattapoisett Congregational Church) helped Bradley's interests along, handing him a piano.

Eventually, Bradley became fluent, so to speak, on several different instruments; piano, organ, ukelele, and a personal favorite—the pedal steel guitar.

The latter instrument is ubiquitous in country music, where barely a song plays without its distinctive "twang.”

Bradley also picked up a career as a chef (working for a period of time at How on Earth in Mattapoisett). “You’ve gotta pay the bills somehow,” he joked. But he never stopped playing music. Even after hanging up the spatula (“I only cook at home now, it’s great,”) he still plays routinely, as a member of several bands that span New Hampshire, Boston and Cape Cod. He can be found Monday nights at Cork Wine and Tapas in New Bedford, Wednesdays at The Inn on Shipyard Park in Mattapoisett, and Fridays at the Buzzards Bay Brewery in Westport.

Geography, though, isn’t a limited factor, he added. Bradley only recently returned from touring with 19-year-old New Bedford native and noted guitarist Quinn Sullivan; the tour spanned Europe and the United States.

After so much time spent away from home though, Bradley says there’s only one place he wants to be at night right now: in his own bed. "Anything to sleep in my own bed at night," he said. "Being on the road is tough. It's late nights and early mornings, and a long time spent driving or traveling."

Before he hits the hay each night, Bradley can be found singing musical versions of Shel Silverstein poetry to his daughter, Rosie. He's setting music to Silverstein's classic poetry. "It's perfect, because [Silverstein] was a songwriter before he started writing poetry," Bradley said. (Silverstein, in fact, wrote Johnny Cash's famous song, "A Boy Named Sue.")

He plays a mix of musical styles, including rock, folk music, blues, and a sprinkling of funk and dance music. He likes it all, he said.

"Of course, in my old age," the mid-thirties Bradley joked, "I find myself playing the quieter stuff more often."

Bradley and a small group of his students will play in an "Open Music Lesson and Recital" from 4-5 p.m. on May 5, in the Marion Art Center's theater. Bradley said he'll be working interactively with the audience, and sitting in with his students to play alongside them. "Some of them are veterans who've performed before," he explained. "Some of them need a little support, they're nervous!"

"I like watching my students come up with their own ideas," he added. One of his students, he said, recently wrote a story about a unicorn and a hunter, and shared the story with him. "Now, we're going to set that story to music, and it will be performed during our concert at ArtWeek."

The following night, May 6, Bradley will perform alongside fellow musicians Putnam Murdock and Barry Gross in "Soundscapes," playing a number of Putnam's original compositions.