Saturday, June 12, 2021

Music Stores, Lessons and Teachers

 Community music stores do a lot more than sell guitars, sheet music, and piano keyboards. They also dispense music lessons, encouragement, and the dream of becoming a professional musician one day. Maybe even a rock star. Whatever the dreams,  the stores over the years have influenced many young people to realize and take advantage of their musical talents.

Music lessons have been available for a long time from both commercial music stores and  private teachers throughout St. Tammany Parish. New Orleans being a world renowned music center, much of that talent and dedication found its way north of the lake. The following information was provided by dozens of people on Facebook offering their recollections of memorable people and events in their musical journey.

Music Shops

St. Tammany Parish has had its share of great music stores. In the early 1960's Ed Dutsch sold instruments at Dutsch & Peter’s department store on Columbia Street in Covington. Around 1965 Ed opened a small guitar shop alongside H.J. Smith's Sons General Merchandise, and Walt Sloan worked there after school and on weekends.

Covington Music Supply

Ed later moved his guitar shop to a building close to Dutsch & Peter’s in Columbia Street. It was named Covington Music Supply, and Tom Rodwig was associated with that guitar shop, and Walt Sloan worked there as well.

Harold E. Collins recalls Ed Dutsch's Covington Music Supply. "It was Covington’s music store. Collins Music purchased that store and its stock, and moved into that location in 1969 or 1970. It was at 415 Columbia St., across the alley way from Dutsch and Peters."

Collins Music

 Collins Music in Covington then moved to Jefferson Avenue near the United Methodist Church, then moved to Boston Street near the old courthouse. Harold E Collins recalled that his family was living in old Golden Shores, at the time, (1967) and his parents opened the  store on Jefferson St.

"In 1968, we moved to Covington in the old Baskall home, 1723 w 21st Avenue," he stated. "We moved the music store there as well. Dad bought out the Covington Record Supply, and Ed Dutch’s, Covington Music Supply. We merged those businesses together at the Covington Music location, 415 N Columbia, next to Dutsch Alley."

Harold Collins gave additional information on his family's background in music. "My mom was the owner of Collins Music. She was involved in the music business all of her life, at one time doing shows as a pro accordion player. She went to work at Grunwald’s Music, in New Orleans, as an employee and piano teacher. She became a member of the Methodist Church, on Jefferson Avenue in Covington and became the choir director there until she became choir director at St. Timothy Methodist Church in the mid seventies.

"She and our whole family were active in Playmakers, in those days. She sang and played, different occasions around the area. One big event was when she sang in concert, with Frankie Valley, at the Municipal Auditorium."

"It was in 1967 when she opened her own Music Store," Harold said, "and gave lessons there. She had developed great relationships with the school music directors, and that gave her a 'make or break' commodity: band instrument sales, and rentals. 

"Collins Music grew, and eventually sold and installed car stereos, CB radios, Sony TV’s, and home sound systems, record and tapes, as well as sheet music. Lessons were taught, and we had a repair bench, and any musical instrument you can think of," he went on to say. "Believe it or not, we even had a Tennis Shop."

Music teachers at Collins Music included his mother, himself and John Barre, a great classical guitarist. Beth Ann recalls that Harold Collins' mother taught her piano lessons for a few years in her home, a "big beautiful white house on 21st Avenue. She was my 2nd teacher. I improved a lot with her guidance. She was very kind and sweet to me," she said.

 Jeff Schmeckpeper stated that John Barre taught him guitar at Collins Music on Boston St. in Covington around 1971 or 1972. Learning how to read music was a challenge, however, as it is for many people. "He told me to go forth and learn by ear," he added.

Collins Music eventually moved to 519, Boston St, where Busters Restaurant is today, and finally across the street to 512 Boston, (as in the picture below.)  The store had studios with teachers, and a rental program for instruments to school band students.

"In 1976, dad sold the store to Danny Stokes," Harold Collins stated. "Danny had worked for us in the evenings, after school for a period of time. When he got his inheritance, he bought the store, and changed the name to Contemporary Music."

"When Contemporary Music closed, Richard Benivegna opened The Music Corner, on Jefferson, and 21st."

 Many Covington residents remembered The Music Corner. According to Chuck Gwartney, The Music Corner was the happening spot when he was playing music around the area in the early 1980's. "Phil Patterson and Joe Manuel were the guitar teachers there. Phil was an old friend of mine from college who does great work on guitars to this day and is half owner of Manuel-Patterson Guitars, located in Folsom, the best sounding acoustic guitars I've ever heard," Chuck stated. 

 
Joe Manuel

In 1976 Miller's Piano and Lowrey Organ Mart opened in Bogue Falaya Plaza shopping center.

 
Roy Blaum
(Photo by Ron Barthet) 

Roy's Knife and Archery Store on Columbia Street has been known to sell  a guitar or two, and Roy Blaum could be seen playing his own guitar in the shop on many days.  

Click here for Archery World video of Roy Blaum

 

Christy Music

Over in Slidell Christy Music has been in business for over 40 years, with a wide variety of instruments, including the largest selection of Ukuleles on the North Shore. According to their Facebook page, they have over 300 different brands to choose from and they specialize in anything from microphones, to guitars, to professional audio. 

 


 Christy's not only has a band instrument rental program, but it has provided lessons for flute, clarinet, bassoon, saxophone, french horn, trumpet, trombone, drum, guitar, bass, piano, keyboard, violin, and voice.


Christy Music current location in Mid-Town Square

 
Christy Music former location on Robert Road

Lanier Music

In Mandeville, Lanier Music has been providing music instruments for over two decades.

The following information came from the Lanier Music website: Randy Lanier has run a successful music store for over 20 years. He built Lanier Music from the bottom up-literally, board by board, and the store more than tripled its size in 2008 to over 9,000 square feet. That was an addition of  4200 square feet of retail and repair space, and 2,800 square feet of lessons space.  

A separate section for Band and Orchestra was recently expanded, and he has included dedicated space for Drums/Percussion as well as a dedicated lighting area.

 
The store is located at 2025 Hwy. 59 north of Mandeville.

In his youth, Randy did what he could to help his family through tough times. After learning how to play the drums, he hoped to play in a band someday.  He reached that goal and then, while working at a music store in college, decided he wanted to open one of his own when he settled down.  Applying the work ethic he grew up with to his new business may have helped him to prosper.”Every day I get to help people on a musical journey,” he says.

Lanier tries to help people beyond their expectations "It’s loaning a guitar or amp for someone to try out on a gig. Helping a church out with a speaker in a bind.”  After Hurricane Katrina, a family came into his store that had lost everything, yet they still had an amazing attitude.“We were talking when the father says to his wife, ‘Look, honey,’ and points to their son playing one of our guitars. The boy looked happy.  She teared up and told me that he hadn’t smiled since the storm three weeks before.  The dad asked how much the guitar was, and I said it wasn’t for sale.  ’Why not?’ he asked. ‘Because it’s already his,’ I told him.

“That’s the best thing about being the owner: I have the luxury of doing that.  That family told tons of people about that, but I didn’t do it for promotion. I did it because it was right.”

 
Lanier Music Store in Mandeville  

Lanier Music has eight private lesson rooms that are acoustically designed for lessons. They offer lessons for guitar, piano, drums, percussion, voice, a variety of band and orchestra instruments as well as ukulele,mandolin and even banjo.

Haydens Music

Mark Carpenter remembers Haydens Music in the 1990's in Mandeville. It used to be on U.S. 190 where WEM Distribitors Billiards and Accessories is now by MedVet. "I bought my first amp (a Crate GX40C) there as well as received my very first guitar from them at 15 years old (left handed Fender strat)," he recalls. Hayden's Music was a branch of Carl Hayden's Music business over in Hammond for many years.

Band Directors

No review of music stores across the years would be complete without a mention of the public and private school band directors. I started to name a few school band directors to this article, but then I realized that there must be dozens of band and chorus teachers from schools across the parish who needed to be named, needed to be thanked and remembered for their contributions. Several have won regional and national recognitions for their accomplishments.

Unfortunately, there too many to be named, and I didn't want to leave anyone out. Many people have fond (and maybe not so fond) memories of their time in "band," learning music, learning to play an instrument, and learning to work together as a group, everything from jazz ensembles to stage bands to orchestras.
 
Actually, it is the band directors from public and private schools that make local music stores more feasible as a result of parents buying or renting band instruments for their children as they navigate the challenges of learning how to play and play well.
 
Songwriters
 
Another group of musical talent who frequented music stores were the songwriters, people who don't necessarily perform music for a living, but who use their musical knowledge and piano keyboards to write songs. St. Tammany has a few dozen of those, too.(See OzoneMusic.org)
 
All these music stores are sort of like seed-planters, nurturing the dreams of performing, providing the musical instruments, the microphones and amplification equipment that dozens of bands have needed to boldly embark on their quest of a regular local gig, an occasional regional appearance, and perhaps even a record label. Cassette tapes, CD's, and now digital files by the hundreds are blanketing the world via the internet, all starting in some young St. Tammany aspiring musician's garage. 
 
 
The Radiators 

Not just band music, however, but singing as well.
 
Judy Baker, Choral Teacher

 Generations of young people from Mandeville remember Mrs. Judy Baker. Mrs. Baker taught music at Mandeville High School for years. She offered Girl’s Chorus, Boy’s Chorus, Mixed Chorus and Le Petite Chorale (12 female singers).

 
Judy Baker

Her students performed in numerous competitions around the state and even in Texas. They recorded several albums and performed at dedication at a church in New Orleans. She offered musicals at MHS as well as Christmas concerts, and she taught her students how to sight read music and even offered voice lessons in her home. Her other love was choir director at Christ Episcopal Church in Covington of which my family thoroughly enjoyed her directorship. "As you can tell I have many fond memories of her!" said  Laura Breaux on Facebook.

Also over on Facebook, Donna Vest-Robbins stated, "Of all my teachers through my entire education Mrs. Baker made the most profound influence of everyone. She always set a higher standard than everyone else for us to achieve and we always did!!! She made us "Want" excellence!! In retrospect- "the greatest teacher" in my life!"
 

Private Lessons

Maria W. Tissie Gibson says that she took piano lessons in Covington from Ms. Lillian Alvis in the 1950's. She taught lessons at her home on 22nd Ave. "She had a lot of students, and we always had a piano recital at the end of the school year," she recalled. 
 
Barbara Lee also took piano lessons from  Ms. Alvis in the early 1950's. "She rented a room in the house at the corner of 22nd Ave. and Monroe Street. Then she rented a room at the Blossman's house at the corner of Jefferson Ave. and 21st Avenue, where the snowball stand is now. In the early 60's I took lessons from Mrs. Cook on 19th Ave. The house is next to a daycare now. My sister Connie also took lessons from these ladies," Ms. Lee commented.

Mrs. Fred Cook, a retired LSU music teacher, taught piano lessons from her home in Covington, according to one contributor. "She had a beautiful baby grand and had a lot of students. She lived right off of Tyler on 19th, I think. Her husband was Mr. Fred Cook. They were both elderly when we took piano lessons there," she said. 

Above article from the scrapbook of Ted Talley

Mrs. Cook used to give miniature statues of the great composers as gifts after recitals.  Mrs. Cook had relocated from Mississippi to Covington in the 1950's and taught piano in her house on 19th Ave near Tyler, according to Ted Talley. 

Melinda Blanchard said she took piano lessons from Ms. Johnette Dunning in the early 1950’s in her house. Susan Latham noted that she and her sister also took lessons at the home of Johnette Dunning (Shelton) when they lived on Tyler Ave. 

Chantel Jourdan noted that her aunt Lois Loyd taught piano lessons out of her home on Hwy 40 near Barkers Corner,  back in the 1970's. Gwen Richoux recalled taking lessons from her when she lived in town. "She was so sweet," Gwen said. "I took a few lessons when she moved out to the country." Heather Clark also took lessons in her brick house right past what used to be Allison’s Grocery. "I hadn’t even thought of that in years until just now," Heather said. "I took lessons from her for awhile, too.  I think I was about 10, and I think my older sister did, too." 
 

 Anne Flint recalled that she took piano from Mrs Chamberlain on 25th Avenue, whose husband was a teacher at Covington Junior High 1967-1969.

Melissa H. Copeland stated that Thais Perkins was her piano teacher who had a big influence on her. "She took me under her wing, let me work as a receptionist in high school and had a farm in Bush where I would help her pick the produce and sell it for her usually parked under the Old Bogue Falaya bridge. Her father was an attorney in town. She had gave me harpsichord lessons in her studio, which was in the yellow house near C.J. Schoen Middle school," she recalled. Several people recalled Ms. Perkins teaching them piano in Covington in the early 1980's. 
 
Slidell

Greta Strange taught piano out of her home to many students over the years in Slidell. She started teaching in the 1970’s, and she was a very active member of the Slidell community.
 
Rose Askelof said that her mother Myrtle Suckow taught piano and organ lessons in her home from 1958 until her death in 1994. "If you lived in Slidell at that time you probably took lessons from her," Ms. Askelof said. "She had a yearly recital including all levels and many adult students as well. She played at hundreds of weddings and was also instrumental in forming the Sweet Adelines singing group in Slidell. She directed that group for many years. 
 
Mrs. Suckow also served as church organist and choir director at the Slidell Presbyterian Church for decades. "Every time I return to Slidell I meet folks who say 'I took piano (or organ) from your mom!' It makes me swell with pride for I know what a wonderful teacher she was who touched so many lives with the gift of music," concluded Ms. Askelof.  

 Mrs. John Lenell Davis

A book on Slidell history published by the Guardians of Slidell History (GOSH) names local music teachers as Professor  J. T. Morrill (1915-1918), Mrs. Clyde Ruth Polk (1930-1951) and Rita Sphieler in the 1950's. The book also names Mrs. John Lenell Davis as having music students in the 1960's.

 
The student recital program of Mrs. Davis in 1969 
Click on the image above to read the student names

 Elizabeth Schneider found in her scrapbook the above treasure, the student musicale program from 1969, where the music students of  Mrs. John (Lenell) Davis performed various selections. Check out the list of student names from 52 years ago.  "Mrs. Davis taught my husband  and my children," she said. 

Alan Case took piano from Mrs. Davis back in the late 80's and early 90's. "She didn't have much luck with me, but I know many of her other students became very accomplished pianists. She taught piano out of her home, and our recitals were held at the First Presbyterian Church near the current Slidell High. Super nice lady," he said.

Mrs. Larsen taught Slidell area kids piano back in the 1970s from her home in Audubon on one of the Rue streets. Also in Slidell, Gary Mills remembered the House of Music, owned by Charles "Red" McIntrye.

Judy Krogsgard lived out on Lee Road used to teach voice and piano at her home back in the 1980's as well. She was also involved with a lot of local theatrical productions through the years.

 
Judith Krogsgard providing Playmakers music

Harold Collins noted that he took guitar lessons from Tommy “Fat Tom” Rodwig, at their home on, or near, 16th Ave. "I played drums with Allis Murray, who taught lessons, and she recommended Tommy. I rode my bike, carrying my guitar, and paid $5 a lesson."

David von Rosenberg said that he was in "Bayou Band, which later became Flite, and the group rehearsed in the back of Danny Stoke's Contemporary Music store. In later years they rehearsed at The Music Corner.

David also mentioned that he took piano lessons for many years from Elizabeth Wood, who lived out toward Abita Springs. Many kids during the seventies took lessons from her, he said.  Ellen Schiro took piano lessons for years in the 1960’s from Mrs. Wood, who lived in Chandler Subdivision. "She was so sweet. I still have my music books with notes written by her," Ms. Schiro recalls.

Two Mandeville area residents said that a Mrs. Behrens taught them piano in the early 1970s. She lived on the lakefront but taught in an outer house out back.Mrs Granzin, a second grade teacher at Mandeville Middle School also taught piano.
 
 In Mandeville Mrs. Julian Burke,whose husband was a pastor, taught piano to many children in the area. In the 1950's Shirley Atkins took piano lessons from Carol Morse Landry, who  taught from her home in Folsom. She and her husband Tom Landry were teachers.
 
In the Folsom/Lee Road area, Ollie McGillivary taught piano lessons and conducted church choirs, in addition to all the other things she accomplished throughout her career.
 

 
Carol Todd started piano lessons at age six from a Miss Sassinot (sp?) who used to walk to and from her house on East 16th Avneue(which was then Jefferson Davis Drive) for lessons. "I believe she was my teacher for two or three years, but after that I studied piano for years, until about age 15 or 16, from Sister Mary Margaret, O.S.B., who taught piano at St. Scholastica convent. She was a lovely woman whose love for music and her infinite patience with my lack of practice I shall never forget!" Ms. Todd stated.
 
"In spite of not enough practice, I learned a lot from her and became relatively proficient - I was heartbroken when she retired from teaching music. After that, I studied piano with Mrs. Alvis for about two more years, until I left for college. The piano lessons were a big part of my growing up and sit prominently in my memories of Covington," Todd concluded.

Sandy Morris recalls that her first piano teacher was also Sister Margaret at SSA. "She was a petite woman but had a huge heart, was kind and oh, so patient. She had to be patient to teach beginner piano," Sandy commented.
 
Jimmy Foster

Theresa Ledbetter Bruhl remembers Jimmy Foster, who made 7 string guitars. (Fosters Guitars) He built them out of a shop in Covington for a while and then he built a shop behind his home. He sold his guitars to some pretty famous musical performers, she recalled.
 
"His wife Stephan Oliver Foster was a great pianist. She gave lessons for a long time. She and Jimmy would perform together. He played guitar and Stephan played piano (or key board) and sang. They have a few YouTube videos up if you want to hear them. Stephan went to Covington High School and was in the band with us. Two awesome musicians," Ms. Bruhl commented. 
 
 
Jimmy Foster

Greg Arceneaux said that Jimmy touched countless people’s lives through his skill as a craftsman and musician. "As long as his guitars continue to be played that legacy will also. He made our lives sweeter and more melodic and we can only hope we can do the same," Greg said. 
 
Gary Granger said he met Jimmy twice and both times were memorable. "The first time I simply started talking to him at a music store and realized that he actually built this incredible guitar that I was enjoying. The next time years later I called him up, and he invited me over to his shop in Covington. I spent about 3 hours learning how he created those masterpieces and jamming on all kinds of great tunes with him. He was a great musician, a superlative craftsman and a very open and warm person to be around," Granger said.
 
Some of the players who use Foster Guitars include Paul Simon, Howard Morgan, Fred Fried, Clint Strong, Steve Masakowski, Hank Mackie, Pat Practico, Alan DeMause, Ron Escheté, Ted Ludwig, David Mooney, Rob Block, Todd Duke, Bill Solley and Jim Lichens.

Danny McKnight commented that Jimmy made three guitars for him. "I made three trips from my home in Texas to his shop in Covington to get them when they were ready. Jimmy always gave me a warm welcome and treated me like the friend we had become to each other. Jimmy was a good and honest man, easy and fun to be around, a fine musician and a wonderful guitar builder. He indeed will be missed by his many friends," McKnight said.

Jimmy Foster, Master Luthier and 7-String Jazz Guitarist, died on April 26, 2011. More comments about Jimmy Foster may be found at https://www.fosterguitars.com/in-memory

 Some photos of bands and guitar players:

 
Roseanne Bivens / Bryan Gowland 





 
 
Guitar classes at Abney Elementary School, Slidell 

 

 
Harpists often accompany special community events

This article may be updated and lengthened as additional commentary comes in from various individuals with more information about music and music teachers in St. Tammany Parish. It's a "work in progress." 
 
 See also:

Jam Sessions