Steve Gratias, trumpet instructor, holds a Bachelors' Degree in Psychology and a Master's Degree in Education in Remedial Teaching. He is retired from his position as educational counselor at the State Correctional Institution at Graterford, Pa. Steve has been playing the trumpet since the age of nine and has played in bands, orchestras, brass ensembles and pit orchestras for musicals and rock bands. In his youth he also studied piano and organ. He has sung in choirs at church, school, and in the community for most of his life, having once juggled five different choirs' schedules simultaneously! He has directed his church choir and directed the Pennridge Cluster Choir for six years.
In addition to teaching at Fretz Music Center, Steve works part-time as his church's Director of Christian Activities. He sings in his church choir, with the Camerata Singers of Allentown, and occasionally accompanies the worship service at his church on trumpet. Steve is busy playing trumpet for weddings, and sings vocal solos as well. Steve serves on the Vision Committee for Pennridge Healthy Communities/Healthy Youth, and is a co-teacher for their "Guiding Good Choices" parenting program. Steve also maintains a 400+ folk instrument collection, which he shows at educational events, museums and festivals
Doug has been teaching saxophone and piano at Fretz Music Center for over twenty years. He attended Temple University, graduating Magna Cum Laude with a B.S. in Music Education. He served as musical director at North Penn High School for one year and as choral director the following year for two musical productions, "Cinderella" and "Mame". Doug has played keyboards with local recording artists Mary Hawkins and FMC's own Mark Walsh, and with musical groups Vital Link and Philadelphia Funk Authority. He has performed with these bands in New York City, Philadelphia and Atlantic City, and at venues such as Bethlehem Musikfest and the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.
Doug presently plays keyboards and saxophone and sings with the rock group Treason, which performs at local clubs and events. Most Sunday mornings he plays keyboards for contemporary worship services at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Souderton.
Gene Lazowicki has been teaching drums and percussion at Fretz Music Center for the past 24 years. He has also taught in various school settings, teaching instrumental music and drums/percussion. Gene has performed throughout southeastern PA with various orchestras, concert bands, jazz combos and big bands. While in junior high school Gene began taking private lessons with Alan Kinsey, and continued through high school and college, acquiring a well-rounded education. At a young age he studied snare drum, tympani, mallet percussion (xylophone, vibraphone) and drumset (jazz, rock, latin). This period of time was when Gene was inspired to become a professional musician and teacher.
Gene graduated from Temple University with a Bachelor's Degree in Music Education/Jazz. At Temple he studied with Glenn Steele, who further developed Gene's knowledge of classical percussion. He was also influenced by his studies in jazz improvisation/vibraphone with Curt Harmon. Another important influence was jazz arranging teacher Dennis DiBlasio's approach to improvisation, theory and arranging. Gene developed much of his teaching skill following the teaching methods of music learning theorist Dr. Edwin Gordon. Along with his formal education, he further developed his jazz drumset and ensemble playing skills from the "on-the-job training" he received with jazz pianist and FMC founder Rollie Fretz, and later in a trio with Rollie and Henry Zajac on sax/clarinet. Gene says he will always be grateful for the teaching and performing opportunities as well as the mentorship he received from Rollie Fretz.
Darren Lucis is one of the woodwind instructors here at Fretz Music Center. He started with the clarinet, taking private and school lessons for several years. After "many squeaks and broken reeds", Darren met Mrs. Beth Veilsmier. Beth was a “classical clarinetist” from the Philadelphia College of the Performing Arts. Darren attributes his appreciation for the devotion of a professional musician to his years of training with her.
After years of technical studies, Darren thought the saxophone might be " fun". His first saxophone experience was high school jazz band, and playing the sax soon became his passion. He has studied with jazz great Larry McKenna (Temple University) among others. Darren credits Larry with teaching him how to have fun with the instrument, and opening up a whole new world of music. His first professional experience came in 1987 when he began a 10-year stint with a Top 40/cover band called The Exceptions, a 10-piece party band which played "almost every nightclub in Philadelphia and southern NJ". It was in this band Darren met and became friends with Jeff Chubb, a great trumpet player. Jeff taught at Fretz Music Center, and informed Darren that they were looking for a sax/clarinet/flute teacher, so in 1995 he joined the Fretz team. Now in his 13th year, he says it still feels "like the first".
Darren was a member of the group called Bandstand from 1997-2006, performing primarily in the southern New Jersey area. Bandstand has been performing in Atlantic City casinos since they opened in the mid 1970s. The band has opened for or performed with Frank Sinatra, Tom Jones, Frank Sinatra Jr., Tony Bennett, Cher and many others. Darren presently plays mostly private functions with various acts.
Darren looks forward each week to seeing the students and friends he had made at Fretz Music Center. He considers it a privilege to teach you or your child, and a joy to pass on his knowledge and experience.
Charlie started singing on coast-to-coast radio at age 4 on the "Hayloft Hoedown" (WFIL Philadelphia) with his parents Elmer & Julie Newman and the Sleepy Hollow Gang. Elmer and Julie encouraged Charlie's musical career, and he played a series of instruments throughout his youth including drums, banjo, Hawaiian guitar and pedal steel guitar, as well as acoustic and electric 6-string guitar. He honed his skills not only with Mom and Dad but also in local rock 'n' roll bands The Playboys and The Bandits. Charlie has performed many times on stage, radio and television along side such stars as Gene Autry, Eddie Arnold, Roy Rogers, Tex Ritter, Merle Travis, "Little" Jimmy Dickens, Jesse Rogers and Sally Starr.
At age 15, Charlie took advantage of an opportunity and went to Nashville with "Colonel" Tom Parker (former manager of Elvis Presley), along with another young artist named Tommy Sands ("Teenage Idol"). At 18 Charlie joined The Rooftoppers and toured the East Coast playing all the major clubs. While still in his early 20s, he returned to Nashville and joined Little Richie and the Upsetters, a soul and R&B act, touring with Jerry Lee Lewis. While touring the South, he was reacquainted with an old friend, famous cajun fiddler and songwriter Doug Kershaw. Doug had a positive influence on Charlie's own songwriting and performing, introducing him to many big stars such as Roy Orbison, Mickey Gilley, Mickey Newbury, Charlie McCoy, Boots Randolph and the great Chet Atkins.
In 1964 Charlie returned to Pennsylvania after his father suffered a heart attack. After Dad was back on his feet Charlie hit the road again, this time with The Cavaliers, based in Des Moines, Iowa. Later that year, Charlie put down some roots and became a partner in Red Scobee Music in Des Moines, later serving as president of the corporation. There Charlie acquired his technical skills in musical instrument repair, as well as his people skills in customer service. After his partner became ill and unable to work, Charlie dissolved the business, moved back East and formed a band with his brother Danny, named Elmer's Kids after their father. They were featured performers on several recordings of their own and in concerts with Roy Buchanan, Judy Green and many others.
In 1995 Charlie decided to return to teaching guitar and banjo and repairing instruments, and joined the staff at Fretz Music Center. Charlie is currently recording songs for a soon to be released CD, and continues to perform regularly with his brother Danny as part of the "Bill Clinton Show".
Although new to Fretz Music Center, Matt has been teaching privately for over 10 years at several recognized music institutions including Lansdale Catholic High School, School of Rock and at other area music stores. In addition to hands-on lesson instruction, Matt has vast experience with studio work and live sound.
Co-Founding the hard rock act "Maddam Ink" in 2004, Matt has traveled throughout the United States playing in some of the finest venues including the Tweeter Center, Penn's Peak and top rock clubs. In addition, Matt has had the pleasure of sharing the bill with such great bands as Thin Lizzy, Fuel, Eve 6, Cold, Crossfade, Alien Ant Farm, Pop Evil, Chiodos and several others.
When is comes to teaching, Matt has vast experience in multiple styles of music and with players of all ages. Motivation being the name of the game, Matt focuses on functional playing from the start while including the theory that is crucial to any players progress. Whether it's skills needed for a formal band setting or just playing around the campfire, Matt's students can count on a fun learning experience designed specifically for each individual.
Matt holds a BA in Jazz Performance from Temple University, teaches guitar, bass and mandolin in all styles including rock, folk, jazz and metal with specialties in modern rock and lead improvisation.
Matt is currently involved in several studio sessions and sound track projects, as well as continuously enjoying the simple joys of acoustic performance.
Bassist/Guitarist Bill Sharrow began performing in clubs in 1965 at age 13 with the band The Originals. In his 40+ year professional career Bill has played just about every style of music including Blues, Country, Gospel, Rock, R&B, Funk and Jazz. Influenced by the Beatles and other bands of the time, Bill began studying guitar and bass privately with Ralph Chreiman and later studied Harmony and Theory at the New School of Music. In 1969 Bill began teaching private lessons at Collingdale Music Center and then at Fretz Music Center in 1973. Bill worked with The Curtis Brothers and others until 1976, playing the Philly, Jersey and Shore Points circuit. Bill has since played with numerous bands including Newbourne, Mixx, Reaction, The Basin Street Boys, Vital Link and The Johnston Bros. Band, and with such local notables as Mike Dugan, Craig Thatcher, Mary Hawkins and Mark Walsh, to name a few. Bill's current projects include Rollin' the Dice Duo with Mike Guldin and duo work with Gene Gallagan and Joe Triglia, the Dave Consono Rock and Roll Trio and the Flamin' Caucasians.
Bill is also at home in the studio, having played on several albums, radio and TV spots and demos including Mary Hawkins "Black & Blue" and The Johnston Bros. "Life and Passion" and "Psalm 150". Recently Bill has moved to the other side of the "glass", working as mixing engineer on Rollin' and Tumblin's "Roadhouse Rhythm" and as producer and engineer on The Johnston Bros. "You Asked For It" and "Psalm 150". In 1988 Bill and his wife Marcy purchased Fretz Music Center from Roland Fretz. The store, now in its 60th year, continues to be the area's musical "center", serving the needs of aspiring and professional musicians alike.
Mark has been a guitar and bass instructor at Fretz Music Center for twenty-five years. Mark began teaching while only eighteen years old during his first year of study as a Jazz Guitar major at Bucks County Community College, later continuing his studies at Temple University.
Mark's debut solo CD "From The Top" received national airplay and was featured at Tower Records listening posts nationwide. As a composer, Mark received a special award from ASCAP.
As a session player, Mark has recorded with artists who have multiple Grammy nominations and Gold and Platinum album sales. Recently Mark worked with legendary R&B producer Kashif, whose producing credits include Whitney Houston, George Benson and Kenny G. Mark is a producer in his own right, having produced Mary Hawkins' CD "Black and Blue", which received recognition by blues legend B.B. King.
Mark's performing credits as band leader include many high-profile concerts at Camden's Tweeter Center, The Keswick Theatre and Philadelphia's Penn's Landing. Mark has shared the stage with Boney James, Al Jarreau, Dave Koz, James Ingram, Brian Culbertson, Jonathan Butler and other Jazz greats. He has also been a guest artist with Peter Nero and the Philly Pops Orchestra.
Mark is currently a recording and touring member of Sister Sledge, whose hit single "We Are Family" remains a pop standard. Also he will be performing with the band Chic, whose hits include "LeFreak", "Good Times" and "Everybody Dance".
As a teacher, some of Mark's objectives are for students to be well rounded in different styles of music, to be strong readers and to have an understanding of music theory. Mark has helped many students pass their auditions for school Jazz bands as well as college entrance auditions and theory exams for Jazz Guitar and Piano. This reputation is why he is recommended by many local Jazz Band Instructors. No matter what style of music you want to play: Rock, Blues, Jazz or Funk, Mark can show you how to meet your goals.