Don’t Stop the Music
Music teacher Phil Milligan hasn’t let the pandemic slow his tempo on offering lessons to students.
The COVID-19 pandemic may have put a stop to many happy things in life, but Phil Milligan hasn’t missed a beat. The drum/guitar/bass/ukulele teacher has been instructing students in the Wilmington area for the last 10 years. In early 2020 he went out on his own with Milligan’s Music Lessons, but music has been a part of his heart and soul for most of his 32 years.
“Music in some fashion or another, from sales, teaching, playing, performing, enjoying and finding a passion for all of that is still very much alive for me now, as much as when I started at 3 years old,” Milligan says.
He grew up in a family that always had instruments in the home. His first instrument of choice was the drums, which he continued to master as squad leader in his high school marching band. Now he just wants to share his passion for drums (and music in general) with others, whether that he means he travels to his students’ homes, students come to his in-house studio for private lessons or he teaches virtually.
“I’m just trying to provide whatever works best for each individual because I know not everybody is comfortable going into other people’s houses,” Milligan says. I’ve even offered to bring drums to folks’ homes so they can try them for the first time because I know that is an investment.”
He says he’d eventually like to open a brick-and-mortar music school, but the timing to open a business probably isn’t the best, based on the fallout from the pandemic. For now, he’s staying busy with a steady lineup of lesson for students that range from age 4 to 86.
“Some are above and beyond passionate about music, and some are just wanting to try something new,” he says. “A big thing for me is trying to instill passion or a fun factor. I’m not only keeping things informative, but also making sure it’s fun and that it’s something you enjoy doing — I don’t even like to use the word practice for students because that’s a bad word.”
Practice and homework, he adds, aren’t part of his music language with students since they’re forced to experience school in such an unusual way nowadays. Instead, he finds creative ways to customize each student’s learning method, from handwritten instructional notes to recorded videos and more.
“It’s really crucial to consistently keep their interest, especially in a time when most middle school kids and high school band programs have had to postpone or put them on hold,” he says, “because it’s a time that truly makes it impossible to facilitate a Zoom band class. Could you imagine being a band director, trying to sit on the computer and watch 12 clarinet players play?”
Over the years, Milligan says he’s played just about every genre you can think of, from reggae to core metal to hip hop and jazz, with a central focus on some form of rock. Today, he’s focused on helping his students find their passion in music.
“I want to create a personalized experience for them,” he says. “I don’t force any one method of teaching or style of music. Do you want to learn to read sheet music? Cool. Do you want to just jam? Cool. Do you want to just look at videos and you have no interest in papers? Absolutely. I do try to instill a little music theory with my kids just because I think it’s good for them, but if you’re 38 and want to learn how to play ‘Tennessee Whiskey’ on my acoustic guitar, that’s fine, too.”
Milligan believes making a connection will drive his students to a deep passion for music.
“If you can connect with them, they start to see the reason for learning a little deeper, not just being shown that or told that,” he says. “They start to see that from themselves and even take some self-initiative. And that’s one of my favorite phases of working with someone: When they start to push the bill even for themselves and not just with what I give them.”
For more information or to schedule a lesson, call Milligan at (910) 352-0831 or visit
facebook.com/MilligansMusicLessons/. Stay tuned for a website launch soon!