Many of the kids he teaches might be too young to appreciate his connection to fame.
For the past 21 years, Mike Arturi has been keeping the beat to songs their parents or even grandparents likely heard on the radio in the 1960s: “Do You Believe in Magic,” “Summer in the City” and “Daydream.”
As the drummer for the band the Lovin’ Spoonful since 1996, as well as a drummer for various other groups, Arturi has traveled the world as a professional musician.
Now he’s trying to teach others in the town of Red Wing how they can make a living in music, too, acknowledging that the industry has changed since he started performing as a teenager decades ago.
Arturi, 64, who moved to Red Wing with his Minnesota-native wife in 2010, started the nonprofit Universal Music Center in 2012. The school, which has three instructors besides Arturi, offers lessons on everything from rock band instruments such as drums and guitar to violin.
Students who come for lessons range in age from 3½ to 83, Arturi said. They perform concerts every 12 to 14 weeks.
Student Isaac Gadient, 19, has been taking drum and guitar lessons for several years with Arturi and a couple of others at the school.
“Every time I’ve had a lesson it’s not just music-related, it’s life-related. It’s learning about the industry, learning about time management, learning about marketing, everything,” Gadient said. “I’ve gotten a ton from them. A lot of good knowledge.”
Goodhue County Sheriff Scott McNurlin has been taking drum lessons from Arturi for about a year, brushing up on his skills so he can play at church.
“This is a really unique resource for us because a guy like Mike lives in our area,” McNurlin said. “He’s a tremendous instructor.”
Arturi also puts on songwriting and drumming workshops at the Goodhue County Adult Detention Center and the Tower View Alternative High School.
McNurlin said the sessions at the jail have been transformative for some inmates.
At one session, McNurlin said, he played guitar as Arturi played drums to songs that inmates had written.
“I watch these guys open up,” McNurlin said. “It’s a different side of them that I don’t see as a law enforcement professional. It was very rewarding. It helps them kind of connect with each other, too.”
Arturi helps develop self-confidence in young people, particularly at-risk youth, said Chris Burawa, director of the Anderson Center, where the music school is housed. “It just takes that little spark to make a huge difference in their lives,” Burawa said.
The work in Red Wing is a change of pace for Arturi, who toured with a Dick Clark rock ’n’ roll revival show, played drums for Chuck Berry and played with the band Badfinger.
Though he still tours with the Lovin’ Spoonful, Arturi is now finding meaning in helping others who are starting out in the industry that he loves.
“When I started, there was an abundance of places to play ... clubs, weddings ... all different kinds of things you could do to make a living as a musician and not have to become famous or move to the coasts,” Arturi said. “But most of that has dried up at this point.”
Now he advises aspiring musicians to think about songwriting, self-publishing, working in a music store and teaching as well as performing — jobs that can provide a steady paycheck and health insurance, he said.
“I’m proud to be a part of the Red Wing arts community,” Arturi said. “I’m really proud to have accomplished that.”
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