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.
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 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.
In 1976 Miller's Piano and Lowrey Organ Mart opened in Bogue Falaya Plaza shopping center.
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
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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).
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.
Private LessonsMaria 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.
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.
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.
Anne Flint recalled that she took piano from Mrs Chamberlain on 25th Avenue, whose husband was a teacher at Covington Junior High 1967-1969.
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.
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.
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.
Judy Krogsgard lived out on Lee Road and 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.
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.