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Successful People from Our Neighborhood - Bill Zufelt, Director and Founder of Sherway Music Academy
Today, September 3rd, as all the kids head back to school, please, welcome one of the greatest influencers of Long Branch Community, Director and Founder of Sherway Academy of Music - Bill Zufelt


What is your background, Bill?

I was born in Midland Ontario. We lived about 10 miles east of Midland ,in a small hamlet called Sturgeon Bay on 5 acres adjacent to the Sturgeon River. My summers were filled with swimming and building dams in the river. I had the great fortune to experience grades 1-6 in a one room school house (only 25 students grades 1-8 )until we moved to Toronto in 1964 the year the Beatles invaded America by storm. The girls liked me because I had a beatle style haircut!
My roots (as far as German side, Zufelt) are going back to Germany, Saxony in the mid 1650’s . My ancestors originally settled in upper New York and later came to Upper Canada and settled near Kingston and Morrisburg area and this was where the name flourished. My other side is a good mix of Irish and English. Second generation is coming from England and Ireland, my mother’s side and my father’s mother’s side. But we are Canadian as far as the age of Canada goes.  On my Mom’s side my most famous relative is my great great stepfather “Arthur Ellis” of the Canadian Crime Fiction Literary Awards.

How long have you been living in the Long Branch area?

I moved here in 1978, grew up in mid-Etobicoke, near Martin Grove and Eglinton. But strangely enough, my music teacher was from the Long Branch area and my Dad would drive me here for my music classes. And even though my classes were held at the private house, my teacher, Holy, was also a member of this church and she got married here.  So everything comes in big circles.
So, how old is this church?
The Saint Paul’s United church was finished in 1954. But it was in the late 60-s that I was taking my music lessons.  At that time, just so you know, the music director was Barry Goss and one of his students was Liona Boyd. Liona Boyd is one of Canada’s most famous musicians in classic guitar. And she talks about this in her book. She is married, touring the world, but everything is connected, and we are Facebook friends now.

So, was the music all you were doing all your life?

No, it wasn't. But music was always a by-product.  But my father was a trumpet player, was always into music. At that time organs were a big thing and he brought one home, we used to live in the country at that time near Midland and Orillia. You could not take organ lessons, so I started taking piano lessons, and I got good enough to play “God, Save the Queen” for school and I did it every morning.  Then I moved into a city and got more involved in playing, did some teaching, was involved a lot in the industry. And by involvement in the industry I mean selling and demonstrating, this was all the time through the high school and college.

What was your dream as a child?

I always wanted to be a medical doctor. As a kid I used to make the drawings of the anatomy, bones, blood, vessels, muscles and heart, until I saw it all in reality and then it was the end of it!

What was your first job?

As a kid, I was about 7 or 8, I grew a whole bunch of beans in a garden and decided I was going to go and sell them. This was still back in the country. I put them in little baskets and asked my Mom what I should charge. And she said, well a nickel. So, I sold all my baskets and I came home with 50 cents. My Mom said: “50 cents? But you only had 2 boxes…” I said: “Yes, I got for quarter for each”. I thought a nickel was a quarter. So, here is the thing, when you believe in the value of something – you just carry it through! Little inspiration story for everyone, if something is worth $50 and you truly believe it is worth far more than $50  and you ask for more, chances are  - you will get it. I was always telling this story to my Steinway & Sons sales people. “Never Never ever apologize for the price of quality.”

What were you selling?

I eventually got into the institutional side of music, was working with Yamaha and Steinway and Sons, selling to universities, schools Concert Hall and conservatories. This was a very interesting venture as I got to meet many interesting people, everyone from the three tenors. Stephan Moccio (Bill is showing the picture)
you might recognize him; he was one of the judges in Canada’s Got Talent. How I got to know him – I sold him his studio piano and he composed a piece of music for Celine Dion “A New Day Has Come” just after the birth of her fist child. I actually got to hear the music before it was recorded and played on the radio. I met other musicians, The Three Tenors , David Helfgott, Paul Sorvino and other movie stars,  celebrities. Rex Murphy from CBC came one day, real character! Then Bob Ray!  They all play piano, very well in fact.


And what was your worst job?

When I was in senior high school,  I worked in a Pail Factory stamping put pail lids on a huge metal press. Super boring, hot and noisy (had to wear ear plugs), but it was a union job so the pay was good. That summer I saved up enough money to buy a better acoustic piano (most guys would have put it towards a car). And that in the end was music to my ears.
How did you get started with Sherway Music Academy?

(Bill shows another picture)



This is at Sherway Gardens. Before I got married, we used to take part in Disney Shows – I used to do a pre-show and entertain the kids, play piano for them. This is how I got started in the whole “giving back” and “getting kids involved”.  Then I got married and left this for a while. But, as I said, everything comes in big circles, so here I am again, teaching the kids and enjoying their results. I always say: “This is my graduating class!”


How old is the school?

We started in 2002. We are going into our 12th season. We started with the piano and then we had other teachers apply in various disciplines. We had developed our Pop Chops Program, because just prior to the school starting, I worked with John Devenish, now he is a commentator at Jazz FM. But at that time we worked together and he had a group of kids called “416”. Four kids were singing and doing choreography. I though, it was a great combination to show dance, voice and some stage, so this is how Pop Chop started up. We got a lot of interest in various publications. YTV came to do it with Carlos and Sugar.
Now they call it show-queries, but we were pioneers in this, we started it.  It was “pop”, for pop-music and “chops” for skills. Then Simon came along and we started School of Rock and Rock’s Cool Canada.

We are forerunners in this as well. When I was still in the industry, I learned a little trick, if you introduce something new and you have a little twist to it, you always have a good chance to get good media coverage.  When we had the piano for the three tenors, we decided to get the signatures on the piano and we got publicity. My experience is that you always learn, if you stop – you start falling behind. I am learning from my students, my children, oh the stories they will tell you!!!


How many children do you have?

I have two wonderful daughters and now I have two granddaughters – they both arrived in spring within a month!

What is your favorite music?

I have a great range of music; my favorite would be Baroque, which is Bach. This is the kind of music I can turn on in the car and just get thrilled, because I find it very high energy, it re-vitalizing me. I also like jazz, fusion, R & B, Latin Music, film music. I love film music, always wanted to write music for films. I did write some music for HydroONE commercials in my early University days at McMaster. Later as  a composer; I received a Gold Record from the Canadian Recording Industry Association for my composition “Comin’ Home “ Polydor label record. You get a Gold Record when your music is played and recorded and sold, and for Canada this is 50 thousand or more.


What is your hobby?

I’m not sure if it is a hobby or an obscure talent, but I love to accompany Silent Films (Charlie Chaplin Mary Pickford and alike ) on piano and theater organ. In addition always had a keen interest in architecture.  In fact, I was going to go to architectural school, I applied, I had my portfolio and when I got there I made a mistake of talking about music. The examination said: “Well, based on our conversation, music might be more appealing for you”. I always had interest in building things. My Dad used to build boats and this takes an incredible amount of patience, as there is no a square part in a boat, everything is curved and everything has to be fitted. He also did the painting series, I have quite a collection of his works. My Dad was quite an inspiration for me and unfortunately you never realize it at the time. And my mother too, she was telegrapher during the war time and later, she loved to read and up to her last day was razor sharp. Both of them were very inspiring.

What is your favorite sport?

Hockey use to play on oil lamp light ponds when I was in the country then later I played for the Toronto Nationals Junior ‘B’ league .. but not on the ice I played up in the area loft cheering them on the Hammond Organ!

What would be your biggest achievement?

My biggest achievement is still fulfilling itself. When it comes to concert time I always say to kids: “I’ve got the best job in the world, because I get to see my students perform and they do well and I get to see them smile and their parents smile. That you can’t put a price on!


What is the hardest part of your job?

Getting everything organized, the logistics of running the business, scheduling. I find if they are into one thing – they are into many things, so fitting the time for each student and a teacher. It is a lot of juggling. Also, keeping the teachers motivated is an important part. The school will not be a school without teachers.  But it is always rewarding to see them come in, and all the kids. Many kids are with the school for many years; this is an extended family for me.

What else are you trying to achieve?

I’ve taken interest in sustainable building – the building that requires very little energy to heat. There is one being built right now on Ramsgate. And the other thing I would like to do is make some film, probably a documentary, then write a novel, I already have a story in my head.

Pat a panda? You know, hundred things you have to do in your life?

Pat a panda? You mean the bucket list? No, I don’t have a bucket list, I don’t believe in it. If you get up in the morning and you have a project or mission to do, this is good. A healthy  curiosity and interest in all things is what life is all about.

Do you like to travel?

Yes, when I was a kid I always wanted to go to Africa. That changed now of course, not because of the political situation, but because my interests changed. Now I would like to go to the homeland of the great composers, trace their steps; see the buildings, churches they worked in, like Bach.

Do you have a funny story?

Tiffany’s wedding was coming up and I was going to my doctor for my annual checkup. He asked me how I was doing. And I said I was getting a little anxious about this and that. Well, my doctor is very straight forward, he said: “Ok, what is the problem?” I said: “My daughter is getting married, so I have this anxiety”. And he said: “Bill, this is not anxiety – this is stupidity! Look, I got two daughters married. All you have to do is shut up and sign the cheque”

What is home for you?

Right now, Christine my wife and I coming down stairs every morning and seeing my granddaughter Thea face light up. She gives me a big smile. It is my family, my in-laws, we get along very well, we talk about everything, cry together, laugh together, celebrate together.

What is success for you?

My ultimate theory on success is 3 H’s: Harmony, Health and Happiness, and they all have to play in balance with each other, from your political thoughts, your religion, your family, and when they are all working together you have the sense of contentment and happiness.


Thank you, Bill, for sharing this great story with us and wish you to achieve everything you are dreaming about and way more!

All video and photographs - compliments of Sherway Music Academy and personally Bill Zufelt.

Story - Compliments of Marina Gavrylyuk
Real Estate Agent with Sutton Group Summit Realty

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