- Associated Press - Saturday, March 1, 2014

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - Craig Smith finds his peace in his passions. While many people set aside some time each day or each week to practice their hobbies, Smith has brought his two passions together into his everyday life through his business.

Smith owns the music store Pro Music, a cozy shop located on the Chena River just across the water from the Chief David Salmon Tribal Hall. Smith sells various musical equipment upstairs and teaches lessons downstairs.

He has operated the music shop in Fairbanks for more than a quarter-century, even though it was just something he stumbled into, Smith said.

He first came to Alaska as a young man, after wandering through much of the Lower 48, to study geophysics at University of Alaska Fairbanks. He grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and received his undergraduate degree in forestry in upstate New York before coming up north.

The 49th state was one of the few places he felt he could live and work honestly and freely. He found that freedom with music, and, in 1988, opened Pro Music.

“Music is wonderful,” Smith said. “It’s a great way to cross cultures, age groups.”

Running a music shop isn’t free of its challenges, Smith said. He’s had to work hard, but it’s easier to get up each morning knowing he’s going to work on something he’s passionate about. It also helped that Pro Music was an early adopter of online selling. The company has been offering its products online for more than seven years.

It was his desire to work with his passions that led him one and a half years ago, to begin selling an entirely new product line - one that no doubt had some music shoppers perplexed - prospecting gear.

Pro Music now sells a variety of prospecting gear in addition to the music equipment it has offered for two and a half decades. Most of the prospecting equipment has moved into the bottom floor area where Smith teaches music lessons, leading to a bit of a split storefront.

“You’d be surprised how many miners are musicians,” Smith said.

He doesn’t offer prospecting lessons like he does for music, but he does offer the next best thing. As the president of the Interior Alaska Gold Prospector’s Association of America, Smith hosts the group’s meetings in the lower floor of his shop each month.

The meetings take place the last Monday of each month at 7 p.m. at Smith’s store at 300 Front St. In the summer, the group meets next door at Graehl Park (the store is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday). Anyone can come to the meetings, regardless of membership status. The group welcomes both beginners and experienced prospectors.

Smith is more than willing to share his knowledge of and passion for mining to anyone interested.

“It’s like working in a garden,” Smith said. “You’re working with the soil.”

Giving back to the community has been a common theme throughout each of his different passions, Smith said. He did the open mic night at Ivory Jacks every Saturday for 11 years, burning a CD of each person’s performance for them to keep.

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