Around age 10 or so, my parents decided (as many do) that their child needed to take up an instrument. My first foray into music was, of all things, the coronet. In case you didn’t know, a coronet is a kind of small trumpet. Once a week, my parents, my coronet, and I made our way to a small music shop on Taylorsville Road whose name I’ve now forgotten. I sat for a 30-minute lesson, recalling all the things I practiced (or didn’t practice) that week, and then we had pizza at the restaurant next store. They say smell is the strongest sense tied to memory, and while I may have forgotten the name of the little music shop, I will never forget the smell.
Did you know that coronets need to be oiled? Well they do. Coronets (and trumpets alike) are a series of tubes, coils, and valves, and the working parts need to be lubricated to keep from sticking. Valve oil has a particular smell that’s hard to describe, and even harder to forget – slightly metallic, a little sweet, chemical but not harsh. The smell of that oil, combined with the warm brass of the coronet in my hand and the slight hint of breadsticks from next store, and the experience of learning music in that small shop is a memory planted firmly in my senses.
Shortly after college, I spent a few years working at Willis Music – a decent sized shop (now closed in this area) with two Louisville locations, selling everything from guitars, drums, and pianos, to all the little bobbles and accessories you might expect (including valve oil). While I had given up the coronet years earlier as a teen for the much cooler guitar and bass, I always had a sense of nostalgia when I helped a young student find their first instrument. Whether it was a trumpet – we didn’t sell coronets – guitar, or something else, the instant that young customer connected with their prized instrument was always a moment of magic. Novice players making goose noises with their new trumpet may not win any Grammy awards, but there was something inherently beautiful in it – it was the beginning of something.
Louisville has no shortage of music shops, each with their own unique history, selection, specialty, and style. But walk into any of them, and I guarantee you will find a few things in common. You may see walls full of guitars, brass and woodwind instruments stacked in their cases, guitar strings and band accessories on the wall, rows of music books tucked neatly in their racks – and you will always, inevitably, find someone there who is passionate about connecting you with music. Always, inevitably, you will find someone who’s just getting started, and for whom the sights, smells, and sounds of their music journey are beginning to take root.
Over the next couple of months, The Backbeat is going behind the scenes at music shops around town to tell their side of the story – to share what it’s like bringing music into people’s lives in more ways than one. If you’re thinking about picking up an instrument for the first time, it’s never too late! Feel free to connect with me if you need help finding lessons or getting started!