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[Teacher first name] teaches the following instruments:

[Instrument Name]


James Shafstall is a guitar player, singer, and songwriter. He grew up in the Northwoods; after a 20-year life journey that took him about as far from home as he could be, both geographically and spiritually, he is happy to be living back in his homeland and playing, teaching, and promoting music for a living. Musically speaking, James has studied blues, folk, country, classical, and jazz. In addition to obsessing over the guitar, he is also a vocalist. His music reflects both his diverse experiences and the spirit of the North.

James Shafstall

Having been bit hard with the music bug as a teenager, James struggled after high school to figure out how his passion for music fit into the idea of “making a living.” He started out as a major in Music Performance major at UW-Superior, studying classical guitar and jazz. After a couple of years, he transferred to the Recording Technology program at UW-Oshkosh. A blend of music and technical skills, it seemed like the perfect fit for someone trying to figure out how to make a practical living with music.

Two years later, he was questioning his path again. Shy as he was, James realized he wasn’t the guy that was going to move to Nashville and make a living as a recording technician in a studio. With that sentiment he left that program, and after multiple more diverse starts-and-stops, James eventually completed an undergraduate degree in Creative Writing at Lakeland University.

After college James worked a career in marketing for 15 years. While working in his corporate marketing job, James went through the master’s program in Mass Communication at Marquette University. He also married Becky, and they had three children, Elsa, Irene, and Sophie.

All in all, the first twenty years of adulthood was a journey that took James across the country and back again, through five colleges, and through multiple jobs from construction to healthcare to offices to the military. Yet all the while he was always obsessing over music every day.

More recently James was the Marketing Director for Big Top Chautauqua. Then, he took over ownership of an insurance agency in his hometown of Washburn. It was all part of the same old narrative: music is a good hobby, but when push comes to shove, you have to be practical to put food on the table. The struggle of an artist is real.

But for an artist, the creative pull can be relentless. As he struggled with his fit as owner of an insurance agency, James’s gained a friend and mentor in the visual artist and owner of Arts by the Byway in Washburn, John Hopkins-Lince. One day John told James, “To try to hold yourself back as an artist, you might as well try to hold back a freight train. It’s just going to run you right over and smash everything in your life with it.” John knew, he had lived that story himself.

And that brings us to the present. Transitioning out of the insurance business, James and his wife Becky opened Lakewinds Music in the same building in their hometown of Washburn. In retrospect, despite – or maybe even because of – the many divergent paths he took, James wouldn’t change anything about his life. Through all his experiences, he not only became a better musician, but also a graphic designer, a finishing carpenter, a website programmer, a database specialist, and a business strategist.

It was this last skill that enabled him to spot a final opportunity to make music the center of his life. None of this present dream could have happened without the craziness that preceded it.

In his stage performances and personal relationships, James wears his experiences on his sleeve, including the subject mental health. He follows a wholistic approach to music education, recognizing that when we play music we bring our whole selves to the stage, and not just our fingers and our instruments. James also feels that from an artistic standpoint it is important we own our whole stories, and not just our Facebook ones. After all, the material of our art requires both the pride and the shame of our life stories.

Looking back, James observes that there are no divergent paths. Each thing that happens to us is part of each of our individual stories, and our stories cannot be wrong. As we find ourselves in unexpected places doing unexpected things, we become all that much more interesting as artists.

Faded Sandpaper

​We'd like to introduce you to one of our teachers, James Shafstall. James would love to meet you as well, so we hope you will come and introduce yourself, and consider joining our program!

Meet James Shafstall

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