If you’ve been living in Ossining for more than a short time, you have to know Miriam and Mike Risko. The Mike Risko brand includes a music store, music school and a band that performs often in town events like the Ossining Waterfront Concert Series, the Annual Tree Lighting and the Ossining Village Fair.
The Riskos live and breathe music – they even got engaged and married in the music school! In their free time they listen to and play music. It’s clear that for Mike and Miriam, music is not just a business, it’s their passion and lifestyle.
Here is the next installment in the “5 Questions” series, featuring Mike and Miriam Risko and their brand Mike Risko Music.
Hi Mike, please tell us about yourselves.
Miriam and I are both from Westchester. I grew up in Yorktown and Miriam was raised in Ossining. We live in Ossining now, with two children in the Ossining school district, and our extended family lives locally also.
What do you do in your spare time?
Miriam: We love music, so when we aren’t working to help people become musicians, play music or find the perfect instrument, we’re listening to music or playing music. We really enjoy practicing with our band or just sitting in our living room jamming. We also like to see other people perform and we go to Broadway musicals a lot. We spend a lot of time with our kids and in our spare time, we cook together, and squeeze in a workout. It’s often in this spare time, when we’re in the kitchen making a meal, or headed to the gym together, that we come up with new ideas for our business.
What’s the history of your business?
Mike: I started teaching out of a small room at the Ossining Music Center, which was located at 144 Croton Ave in the 1990s. I worked closely with the store owner, Bob Galassi, who encouraged me to open a music school. In 1995, I rented space on the same street, and that’s also when Miriam and I started working together in a band, which has remained one of our passions ever since. She is a singer and I’m a guitar player.
Back then I had asked her if she was interested in teaching voice lessons at the music school, so she began with a few students and together we started to market the music school and successfully grow the business. We eventually hired more teachers and other staff, created a curriculum and added more programs. I proposed to Miriam in the music school in 1999 and we got married there in June of 2000.
In 2009 there was an opportunity to buy the building that was home to Ossining Music. We decided to purchase it and moved our music school in. We also opened the Mike Risko Music Store in the space and began our journey of having a music school, a music store and maintaining our career as musicians. Our music store is fully stocked with instruments of all kinds, from guitars and keyboards to drums and ukuleles, we rent band and orchestra instruments to families in school districts all over Westchester. We also sell sheet music and musical accessories.
Over the years, we’ve been able to expand our program offerings, and in 2015, we added an online store and musical theatre program, which has been a huge success. In addition to offering in-house lessons on all instruments and voice with a staff of over 30 amazing instructors who come to us from all over the tri-state area, we also offer a live video option for students of all ages to either study with us from home or take lessons with an instructor located elsewhere in the country.
We also play regularly with our band, the Mike Risko Band.
We’re gearing up to celebrate some amazing milestones professionally and personally – the music school will celebrate it’s 25th anniversary in 2020, the same year we celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. Next year, the store celebrates its 10-year anniversary, so we’re really excited about these accomplishments.
What makes you proud of your business?
Miriam: We love what we do and we’re really proud of the business we’ve built in our local community. We’ve been named a top 100 Music Store in the world for the last five years – every year since 2014 – by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM).
Perhaps what makes us most proud are the relationships we’ve developed with our customers, who are very special to us. We are part of their family and a piece of how they choose to spend their day, and that’s a great honor. Being within the Ossining community has allowed us to provide musical services to local residents, but also live music in Ossining and the surrounding towns, which gives us great joy. We realize the integral role the Ossining community has played in our growth, and we’re thrilled to give back as much as we can.
Why did you open in Ossining?
Mike: When we opened our business, we never even considered opening anywhere else. Ossining was the place that brought us together and we both had a lot of history here. To be part of this community and its evolution makes us proud to call ourselves residents of this town.
What product or service do you recommend for someone who is not familiar with your business?
Mike: We believe in creating musicians and our goal is to find the music in everyone who walks through our doors. We always offer a free trial lesson to anyone who’s interested in lessons, and hope that it sparks that inner musician in them. It’s always inspiring to see how music can transform people of all ages, and we’re thrilled to be able to help people discover a new interest or talent.
Give us your best tip(s) for Ossining!
Miriam: We have lots of customers who visit us from other communities. We always give them tips on things they can do while they are here and it’s usually something really special to us. From visiting the Ossining Library to taking a walk along our beautiful waterfront or enjoying a salad at Melike or a seafood dish at the Boathouse. Our favorite park is the Arthur Jones Park, where our kids spent a lot of time when they were little.
If visitors have extra time, we always recommend they walk in the village and see some of the beautiful older homes. I’m a long-time customer of Dawn’s at Shine Salon on Main Street and Grace Nails on Pleasantville Road and I love going to both those places. One of Mike’s favorite places to patronize is Bob’s Army & Navy which has been a staple in Ossining for decades. We love playing with our band at events in Ossining. A few of our favorites are playing at the Ossining Waterfront Concert Series and at the annual Tree Lighting.
Perhaps the most special attribute of this town though are the residents, many of whom we’ve known for decades.
We really can’t imagine being anywhere else, or part of a better community.
Thank you Mike and Miriam!
Mike Risko Music Info
Mike Risko Music School
144 Croton Ave Ossining, NY
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/mikeriskomusicschool/
Mike Risko Band Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/mikeriskoband/