We all strive to live our dreams, but few succeed as well as Anne James.
An accomplished musician, she and husband, Jim purchased Shaker Music from Joe Harless two years ago. That's when she decided to give up her day job and devote all of her considerable energy to music.
"My professional background is in urban and environmental planning, and I moved up here to work for the town of Payson on the unified development code and the development of Main Street," James said. "But my avocation is music; I've written several hundred songs."
James and Harless were close friends, and she jumped at the opportunity to buy Shaker Music.
"I considered it the neatest little hometown music store I'd ever seen, and with Joe being almost family we didn't hesitate to buy the store. It was the most friendly transition of a business I've ever heard of."
Shaker Music has two major functions, according to James.
"We are a retail outlet for guitars," she said. "The other thing is rental of band instruments as an outlet for Milano's Music in the Valley.
"We also give lessons in piano, guitar, bass, viola, violin and drums."
Two associated businesses also operate under the Shaker Music umbrella:
- Backstage Studios is a professional digital recording studio.
"They can basically compete with any of the smaller studios in the Valley," James said.
- Miracle Music is an extension of Harless' sound production business.
"They set up sound systems for churches and special events like the Payson Choral Society," James said. "They're also professional piano tuners."
James has recorded five CDs, including "Payson House," which features topical folk songs about Payson. She also performs in the Valley as a member of the Artichoke Sisters.
"We perform at special event and festival venues," she said. "We play 30s, 40s jazz standards, folk and blues. We do a lot of Andrews Sister and Harold Arlan (who wrote ‘Stormy Weather,' ‘Over the Rainbow' and other songs from ‘The Wizard of Oz.'"
One of James' primary goals is to continue growing the local music scene.
"Thanks to John Carpino, Shakey Joe (Harless) and some others there are a lot of musical opportunities for a small town," she said.
Shaker sponsors a free jam session at 8 p.m. every Tuesday at the store (which is just north of Famous Sam's). The event has recessed for the holidays, but will resume on Jan. 6.
"Electronics are banned; it's all acoustic," James said.
Shaker and Miracle Music also sponsor Music by Candlelight, the successor to Shakey Joe's Songwriters' Cafe, on Friday nights at Famous Sam's.
While it looks like the June Bug Blues Festival will not be held next year now that Harless has moved to Arkansas, James is hard at work planning a new music festival.
"Instead (of the June Bug), we are going to have a multi-cultural folk festival," she said. "It will be a free festival, and there will be no alcohol. It will be acoustic, so it won't be loud. We hope to have arts and crafts, dance, folk, blues, bluegrass and a little bit of poetry on multiple stages -- probably four or five."
James wants to hold the new event at either Green Valley or Rumsey park, most likely sometime in October.
A native of Chicago, James developed an interest in music at a young age.
"When I was very young (about 7), my brother joined a record club, and one of the albums he got was by Peter, Paul and Mary," she said.
"I listened to that music and it struck a chord and I always wanted to be just like Mary Travers. She's always been my hero, along with Bob Dylan, Jonie Mitchell, all the folkies. Then I listened to the music of Elizabeth Cotton, Mississippi John Hurt, and Rev. Gary Davis.
"I started playing guitar in '68, '69 when I was in high school, then I started performing in the mid-'70s at festivals."
The influence early folk musicians had on her own style has led to a keen interest in the genre's history. In fact, James has a collection of 150 old guitars.
"The oldest is an 1820s guitar," she said, "but I have a harp that's older. My collection is primarily parlor guitars from the 1840s to the 1890s."
Some of her collection is on display in her shop at Shaker Music. People are welcome to come by and see it.
"I've put about 30 antique guitars dating to 1820 up in the shop, and all are playable. So if anybody wanted to come in and play a guitar from the 1890s they can do that -- right here in Payson," she said. "I don't think you can do that in the Valley."
Now that she's made a full commitment to music, James knows she is right where she wants to be.
"I feel I was ready to jump off into the music business -- not just performing, but also selling, collecting, having fun," she said.
Name: Anne James
Occupation: Musician, music retailer
Employer: Shaker Music
Age: We've been working on that for a long time.
Family: Husband, Jim; son, Jim who just graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy; daughter, Jennifer in the Valley; son, Danny going to college in the Valley.
Personal Motto: Be excellent and live life to the fullest.
Inspiration: Elizabeth Cotton who wrote "Freight Train" when she was 12, Woody Guthrie, Mississippi John Hurt, Peter, Paul and Mary.
Greatest feat: Operating a music store, recording albums, living my dream.
Favorite hobby or leisure activity: Songwriting.
Three words that describe me best: I am myself.
I don't want to brag but: I've recorded five CDs. They're not all finished, but I've recorded them.
Person in history I'd most like to meet: I was a political science major and I would really like to meet Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy.
Luxury defined: Self confidence. That may sound funny, but I'm not an epicurean, so to me luxury is not fancy stuff.
Dream vacation spot: Australia, Tasmania and the South Sea Islands.
Why Payson? Real people. This is a real community. People struggle here. People have money here. Other people don't have money here. It's a beautiful environment. I've traveled extensively around the country and Europe and I can't think of any other place that would beat the territory between here and Flagstaff.