Thurston County couple offers banjo, guitar, harp, violin lessons

The Goodwins represent five generations of musicians


On the corner of Cook Road and Vail Road in Yelm, just outside Stewart’s Arena & Stables, sits a large sign that reads “Horse Feathers Music.”

The sign, decorated with horses, dolls, miniature instruments and lights promotes lessons in banjo, guitar, harp and violin. By calling the phone number written on the sign in wooden numbers, people will reach the home of Robert “Bob” and Roxana “Roxie” Goodwin.

Bob, who built the Horse Feathers Music sign, teaches the banjo and the guitar, while his wife, Roxie, teaches the harp and the violin. Lessons are open to people of all ages and experience levels.

The couple began teaching lessons out of their home after someone approached Roxie following a church performance and requested that she teach them how to play the harp.

“We always look forward to having students come to their lessons,” Roxie said. “We get entertained. You have to have a lot of patience as a teacher because students just don’t pick it up right away.”

Bob taught music classes at the college level for many years, including at Tacoma Community College. Roxie played the harp in front of large audiences, and she wrote a book teaching beginners how to play the harp called “Fun with the Folk Harp.” Each musician took lessons in their respective instruments as youths, and they now represent multiple generations of playing and teaching music, including their children.

While Roxie has spent her life in Washington, Bob spent time in the Southern states, including Kentucky, where he fell in love with “hillbilly music.” He took banjo and piano lessons in college, while Roxie learned the harp from her mother. They met at Grays Harbor College in Aberdeen and bonded over their mutual love of music. Now, they have four children to whom they have passed along their musical wisdom as all four children play instruments.

Bob and Roxie, who have lived in Yelm for about 20 years, each have one student that they teach for 30 minutes to an hour per session. The number of sessions depends on how much the student wants to learn and how quickly they pick up the instrument.

“If you can get somebody to play one song, you’ve made a big accomplishment because so many people never get to the point where they can clear through one piece of music. I don’t care if it’s ‘Jingle Bells,’ ” Bob said.

Bob compares learning music to mathematics; the further a student gets, the more advanced it becomes. He said that he isn’t strict with his students and emphasizes taking breaks if the student gets tired or confused. The one aspect he is strict with, however, is rhythm.

“If you ain’t got rhythm, you ain’t got nothing,” he said.

Bob calls Roxie “a miracle” because, five years ago, she was hospitalized with congestive heart failure and was given 20 days to live. In fact, doctors had asked Roxie if she would prefer to die in her home or at the hospital, Bob said. But thanks to the care from doctors, as well as their son, Roxie’s heart has “basically healed,” Bob said, citing her recent electrocardiogram’s findings.

Now, Roxie enjoys playing the harp every day as it helps relax her mind and often puts her in what she calls a musician’s trance.

“There’s a lot of concentration if you’re really a good musician. You kind of zone out everything around you and just play the music,” she said.

Two of Bob’s students, Curt Cleaveland and Marco Deavila, said that the couple are very knowledgeable in music and are pleasant to be around.

“It’s a very low-key, no-pressure environment when I’m learning from Bob,” said Deavila, who has played the banjo for five years. “And Roxie makes playing the harp look very simple, but it’s a very hard instrument that takes a lot of practice.”

“This is a very well-trained, highly-educated musical endeavor. These folks know music inside and out,” Cleaveland added.

Bob and Roxie hope that more curious, prospective musicians find Bob’s sign and reach out to them for lessons. They said they hope that their impact goes beyond just passing on the knowledge of playing an instrument or learning how to read music.

“Any time you give a person a skill, that enriches their life and probably [those of] other people, too. And when you get to know the student, it enriches your life, too,” Roxie said.

To learn more about lessons, call 360-458-3993.