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Ossining Couple Makes Music, Teaches it Too

Ossining music school owners Mike and Miriam Risko tell their students that the most successful musicians are not only versatile but also entrepreneurial.

The couple own Mike Risko Music School, with an attached music store, at 144-146 Croton Ave. Mike Risko started the school in smaller quarters in 1995, and since then the school has blossomed into a business, grown to about 600 students and 30 music teachers and moved to its current location.

“We started working on it really hard," Miriam Risko said. "We hired teachers and started all different kinds of programs. Within a couple years, we went from just a few teachers to 30 teachers."

Marketing and public relations are important skills for all professional musicians, she believes. As a singer with a background in marketing, Miriam Risko not only sings in bars and restaurants, but also donates her time to making music for community events with her husband, who plays guitar.

“We love to do it," she said. "We donate our time happily."

The Riskos first met in the 1990s at the Nightingale bar in Manhattan’s East Village. They  traveled within the same circles and decided to make music together on and off the stage.

“Fate brought us together,” Miriam said, and the two got married in 2000. They played together  in a rock cover band called “Lucy’s Frantic” that, at its height, got three gigs a  day.

“We’ve been making a living as musicians for 20 years and we wouldn’t do anything else,” Miriam said.

In 2009, the couple bought the building where their music store is currently located. It used to be home to the Ossining Music Center, a 35-year-old music store where Mike Risko gave his first guitar lessons.

The Riskos gutted the interior of the building and remodeled it to make their new music school. The school now has a child-friendly café lounge area with a stage where students perform once a month, along with a row of private rooms for music lessons.

Next to the music school is the Risko music store that sells instruments and sheet music and also offers instrument rentals and repairs.

The Riskos have partnered with the Briarcliff Chamber of Commerce to provide entertainment during their First Thursday street fairs that take place on the first Thursday of every month during the summer. The street fairs give a chance for the Riskos to perform, and also give stage time for their students.

“We’re very performance oriented,” Miriam Risko said. “My best advice for a musician is to perform as much as you possibly can. It makes you play your instrument but in front of people.”

Mike Risko agreed and added that it is also important to study with a great teacher and to practice a lot.

“You have to learn to play from the beginning. There are no short cuts,” he said.

Risko music students range in age from 3 to 90, they s said, with some students playing professionally and others as a hobby.

“Everybody’s capable of learning to play an instrument. You just have to take it one step at a time,” Mike Risko said.

Miriam added how special it is that their school has brought music into so many lives.

“We have kids now graduated from college, getting married, who are still playing and keeping their instruments in their lives in a certain capacity,” she said. “They fulfilling their musical needs, whether as a hobbyist or as a virtuoso musician.”

Know any other couples who are in business together?

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