Written by Holly M. LaPrade, photos contributed

Music is, quite simply, a way of life for Cheryl Maust.

“When I first heard the poetic voice of a guitar, that’s when I fell in love,” said Maust, who founded her studio, aptly named Simply Guitar in 2012, following on the heels of a lifelong love affair with music.

During an interview from her New Hartford home; where her studio is based, Maust went on to explain that her initial inspiration was sparked at the age of eight, when her father bought Maust her first acoustic guitar.

This seemingly simple introduction served as the catalyst for a life spanning career and passion for music. She fondly recalls attending many local theatre and Off-Broadway shows in her youth, and eventually went on to study in various master classes and guitar workshops under guitar legends, including Grammy Award winning song writer Robert Lee Castleman.

Maust’s diverse resume also includes her time studying at the Hartt School of Music under Yovianna Garcia Alvarado and at the Music Conservatory with George Hadjimarkou, a classical guitarist from Cyprus.

“Creative people are spontaneous, they just think differently,” Maust said, of her early influences.

Maust has also been inspired by many modern musical greats including Stevie Nicks, John Denver, Lionel Richie and the increasingly popular Trans-Siberian Orchestra, an American progressive rock band that features a string section coupled with electric guitars and keyboards.

“I’m surrounded by some great people,” Maust said. “That just makes you want to keep going. I’ve been inspired by so many people – the thread just continues.”

Through her most recent business venture in Simply Guitar, Maust offers private lessons to students of all ages. She focuses primarily on beginner and intermediate level students in three styles of guitar – acoustic, electric and classical.

Over the years, Maust has called several different states throughout the country her home away from home before eventually returning to her Connecticut roots and settling in New Hartford with her husband. Prior to opening her home studio, she taught guitar at the Warner Theatre in Torrington for several years, where she continues to volunteer her time and talent.

A believer in things coming full circle, and furthering her strong ties to her local roots, Maust feels that the fact that Ovation Guitars operates a location in New Hartford is not a coincidence.

“You have some of the best luthiers in the world right here in New Hartford,” Maust said, explaining that she works closely with many of the staff at Ovation.

Ovation, which operated a plant in town for 47 years, closed in 2014 and was then re-opened about a year later, much to Maust’s delight.

Since returning to Connecticut, Maust has made a concentrated effort to focus her and her student’s activities in order to benefit the local community.

Maust and her students have regularly participated in the town-wide “Light New Hartford” festivities, performing at Passiflora Tea Room on Main Street and organize a mitten drive annually as part of the event.

Her most recent endeavor was a fundraising event held this past Mother’s Day to benefit the Roaring Brook Nature Center in Canton. The fundraiser served as a unique opportunity for her students to showcase their musical talents, a concept she has named, “Students in Bloom.” She encourages her students to get involved in giving back to their community through their music, and urges them to be creative in choosing their own songs.

This event was a particularly memorable occasion for Maust, as one of her students; who experienced a traumatic brain injury at the age of three and had never actively used her right arm before picking up a guitar in Maust’s studio; wrote and performed the event’s opening song.

“She is amazing,” Maust said, with palpable emotion apparent in her voice. “She had all odds against her. I told her: ‘Don’t ever let anyone ever tell you that you can’t do this.’”

Maust plans to continue giving back to her community, and also intends to revisit the fundraising event at the Nature Center by planning another in the near future.

“It was in a setting that was so positive,” Maust said of the recent event. “It’s truly a perfect match for me. It just ties into everything I believe in. I’ve always been inspired by nature. It’s a true blessing.”

In addition to encouraging a love for service in her students, Maust’s ultimate goal is to prepare them for the world beyond her studio. In many cases, their first exposure to live performance is realized at Passiflora Tea Room, “the local meeting spot for musicians, artists and writers to share their creativity and passion with the community,” according to the café’s website.

“There are so many great places right in our backyard, you don’t have to go far,” Maust said.

Other students have gone on to perform at local open mic nights, to sing at their church, attend renowned music colleges or in some cases; to audition for such popular television shows as “The Voice.”

“My students are doing awesome,” Maust said. “I’m definitely on the right road. I absolutely love every second I spend with them.”

When she’s not devoting her time to her students, Maust explained that she is “constantly creating.” She writes her own original songs as well as poetry in her free moments.

Maust explained that she strives to instill a certain attitude in her students – and to anyone aspiring to be a musician – that will directly contribute to their success.

“Don’t ever compare yourself to anyone – those words will hold you back,” she said. “There’s always going to be someone better than you – let those people inspire you.”

When asked the typical age of her students, Maust explained that she has taught people of literally all ages throughout her career. Her oldest student was 90 and her youngest was the three year old son of a Yale professor, who naturally picked up the instrument within minutes.

Her fondest memory of a past student was an 80 year old retired nurse who came into the studio armed with an electric guitar and a goal to serenade her husband John with the Chuck Berry song, “Johnny B. Goode.”

“It’s never too late,” Maust emphasized. “Some people may think they’re behind the eight ball (by starting an instrument later in life). But you need to ask yourself: ‘If I’ve always wanted to do something, then why am I not doing it?’ The end result is totally worth it.”

Private lessons can be arranged by contacting Maust by phone at 860-806-4638 or via email at simplyguitarstudio@gmail.com. Gift certificates are available.