Salina’s Stiefel Theater Completes Undergraduate Music School

A new way to learn music has arrived Salina’s Stiefel Theater. Instructors teach students, young and old, the pleasure of playing an instrument.

the Mike Finnigan School of Music is finishing its first series of classes next week and is already planning the next series which will begin the week of February 28.

The school is named after the late rock and blues musician, Mike Finnigan, who performed with iconic musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, Bonnie Raitt and Janis Joplin. According to Matt Gerry, the school’s guitar teacher, Finnigan went to the University of Kansas and had strong ties to the Salina area, including a love of playing at the Stiefel.

Following her death in August 2021, Finnigan’s family made a donation to the Stiefel School, and she is named to “honor her legacy as a musician and spread her love for music education.”

Learn classic rock hits in a band

Those who take the eight-week courses learn in a large group, with instructors familiar with the music and the instruments being played. Instruments include guitar, piano and ukulele.

Some of the classes, like guitar, use popular and notable hits from well-known artists like the Beatles, America, Otis Rush, and even a musician Finnigan played with, Jimi Hendrix.

The choice of songs used is not only due to the fame of the piece or even the bands that made them famous, but also how the class can learn from them.

“Not only are the songs rock, but there are skills associated with each of them,” said Gerry, who also teaches guitar at Salina South College.

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For example, Hendrix’s “Hey Joe” teaches students something for all six guitar strings as well as strumming techniques.

Having the lessons in a group also allows students to learn and work together, gaining skills in addition to playing the acoustic guitar or ukulele.

Gerry’s intermediate guitar class, which is mostly college kids, worked on four songs during his Tuesday night lesson, with one person from the larger group having the chance to sing, play bass guitar, or even play the electric guitar solo for each song.

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The Stiefel Theater's Mike Finnigan School of Music Intermediate Guitar Class works on the song

A chance for Mike Finnigan School of Music students to show off what they’ve learned

After eight weeks of classes are over, students have the opportunity to shine on one of Salina’s biggest stages.

A recital is scheduled for all classes on the Thursday following the last lesson on the Stiefel Stage.

Gerry said it gives students a chance to show family and friends what they have learned. It also gives them the opportunity to be able to say they played on a stage in a building that opened in 1933, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and has seen other artists like BB King, Peter Frampton, Lindsey Buckingham and Willie Nelson.

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Register soon for the next cycle of courses

With the first eight-week courses now ending, Gerry said he was delighted the next courses would start in March. Registrations for the nine different classes are now open at and close on March 16.

The instructors for the classes are Matt Gerry, teaching three guitar lessons, Stephanie Gerry, teaching three piano lessons, and Thad Beach, teaching two ukulele lessons and a lesson on homemade instruments called Jug Band Jam.

The 50-minute classes, held late afternoons on Mondays and Tuesdays, are offered in eight-week sessions plus a short informal concert/recital on the Stiefel Stage at the end of each session. Tuition is $200 for each class and is due upon registration.

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