NAMM 2024 Dealer of the Year Feels Duty to ‘Take Care of the Musicians of Our Community’

By Jessica A. Baris | March 4, 2024

On the banks of the Ohio River sits Jeffersonville, Indiana, the home of Maxwell’s House of Music. Owner Mark Maxwell has been running a music retail store since he was a young boy. When his father finished up a gig in the late 60s as a drummer in a band on The Dick Clark Caravan of Stars, he opened a music store in Louisville, Kentucky. Maxwell and his siblings helped run the store, and the family business thrived for many years.

 “I learned a lot from him,” Maxwell says of his father.

But the economic collapse of 2008 brought hardship to the family business and Maxwell eventually helped sell it. In 2011, he purchased the current location and started Maxwell’s House of Music from scratch. When asked about how he found the motivation to start all over, Maxwell said the music business is what he knows.

“My family has always been that family to take care of the musicians of our community,” he says. “I felt like it was my duty to do the same exact thing, which is be a resource for the musicians in town, to offer great gear and to teach people how to play music.”

Teaching people how to play music is part of what earned Maxwell’s House of Music the honor of being NAMM’s 2024 Dealer of the Year. His program, Maxwell’s Music Lab, was recognized with NAMM’s Innovation Award for reinventing how to inspire students to play music. The program is a dream that Maxwell had for a long time. 

“This world would be a much better place if everybody learned to play music and could sing a song together. It just would be,” he says.

It’s this belief that led him to launch the lab, a free music-education program that gives students the opportunity to pick an instrument and, for one hour a week over 12 weeks, learn how to perform a song with a six-person band. The program gives students the opportunity to try out an instrument before making a purchase so that they can decide if it’s a good fit. 

Students participate in the music lab
A class of Maxwell's Music Lab students learn to play electronic drum sets.

A New Way to Inspire Music Students

The goal of the program is to show students that they can achieve success quickly. If they feel the rush of playing a tune early on in their learning, they are more likely to believe they are capable of being a musician.

During the first eight weeks of group lessons, 48 students learn how to play basic chord structures. The instructors then assemble students into six-person bands, including a drummer, guitar player, bass player, keyboardist and vocalist. For the remaining four weeks, the students practice performing a song with their band. To celebrate their achievement, Maxwell’s House of Music holds a concert so the bands can perform for their friends and family. 

Maxwell explained that the creation of bands in the Music Lab is a better method for inspiring new musicians than a recital model where students perform solo pieces. Working toward playing a solo is a lot of pressure. In Maxwell’s Music Lab, “you’re not going it alone,” says Maxwell. “You’re just having to do a little bit. And that person has to do just a little bit, and that person just has to do a little bit. And all of a sudden, it’s music, right?”

The Community Chips In

The Music Lab is a nonprofit, and thanks to the support of donors in the community — including a musician, a couple, a church and LifeSpan Resources, a nonprofit — the lab continues graduating classes of students, both young and young at heart. By making the program free, students no longer have a financial barrier to learning an instrument. Middle schoolers to seniors in their 80s have participated, discovering that music making is possible at any stage of life.

adults learn keyboards
Maxwell's Music Lab is also available to adults who want to learn to play an instrument.

While the lab itself invests its profits back into the music education program, it has driven instrument sales. Students who complete the program who decide they want to keep learning will purchase an instrument and continue taking lessons at Maxwell’s House of Music.

Maxwell’s next dream is to see the Music Lab replicated across the country.

“There is magic in this lab,” he says. “Since The NAMM Show, I’ve had one dealer reach out to me and say, ‘tell me what you did, tell me how to do it.’ We’ll probably get a few more places around the country that will bite into this thing.”

Locals Celebrate the Win

When Maxwell and his business partner, Whitney McNicol, returned to Jeffersonville from The NAMM Show with the NAMM Innovation Award and the title of 2024 Dealer of the Year, word got around. Customers have been coming into the store and congratulating the two owners.

“I would have bet you a lot of money that I would never have won that,” says Maxwell. “I feel like it doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to a lot of people from Jeffersonville and this Louisville area that helped us get to that point.”

The NAMM Top 100 Dealer Awards Category Winners

The NAMM Top 100 Dealer Awards, held at The 2024 NAMM Show, celebrated the 100 best music product stores around the world, in addition to winners in seven “Best of” categories and the 2024 Dealer of the Year. The 2024 winners are:

2024 Dealer of the Year — Maxwell’s House of Music | Jeffersonville, Indiana
Best Community Retail Store — Santa Monica Music Center | Santa Monica, California
Best Store Design — Zuhal Müsik | Istanbul, Turkey
Best Online Engagement — Thomann | Burgebrach, Germany
Best Customer Service — Zeswitz Music | Reading, Pennsylvania
Music Makes a Difference Award — Ernie Williamson Music | Springfield, Missouri
Best Marketing and Sales Promotion — Instrumental Music Center | Tucson, Arizona
Innovation Award — Maxwell’s House of Music | Jeffersonville, Indiana

Visit our 2024 NAMM Top 100 Dealer Awards page to watch the awards or view a list of the Top 100.

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