Oral History -
Art Risavy Sr. has always been fascinated with music. He had the idea of converting an old bowling alley into a music store in southern Illinois in the 1960s and Swing City Music was born. Fitting enough, his son and future partner was born a few years later. The store became “the place to go” to find musical products in and around the St. Louis area and became a favorite for roadies who cared for the gear of traveling bands. Art continued to service the customers as well as seeking ways to satisfy their various needs.
Art Risavy Jr. studied business in college and worked in a bank before returning to work in the music store his father had formed just a few years before Art was born. Working alongside his father, Art Sr., he helped the store grow and oversaw the expansion of the church and pro audio departments. Swing City Music is located in an old bowling alley and contains an impressive selection of musical products.
Al Rich, the former president of Pearl River Pianos in the United States seems to have pianos in his blood. He grew up in DeKalb, IL, the home of the mighty Wurlitzer Corporation. Al’s father owned a music retail store where Al recalls meeting the many traveling salesmen with a celebrity like status.
Tom Rhodes was a Texas bandmaster who felt strongly about the need for sheet music dealers to work closely with school band directors. Along with two partners, Tom established the RBC Music Company in 1988. Within the year, they had created a small music publishing company under the same name.
Delores Rhoads began teaching music in 1939. Seventy years later when she was interviewed by NAMM, she was still teaching. After World War II Delores and her husband opened a small teaching studio and retail shop in North Hollywood, California, called Musonia. Over the decades she taught thousands of students including her two sons.
Earl Remaley began working for the C.F. Martin & Company before World War II. His long career with the company included nearly every phase of production and assembly. During the 1950s Earl worked on the Martin ukulele products and he later worked his way up to plant manager.
Bennett Reimer’s name is familiar to millions of music college students who have read his books, A Philosophy of Music Education and the Silver Burdett Music book that he co-authored. The text book and its four editions have pioneered music education and brought to prominence the concept of continual evolution of music curriculum. From the early 2000s, Professor Reimer played an active role on the NAMM Foundation Research Advisory Board.
William Reglein has played a key role in the growth and development of the jj Babbitt Company since taking over its presidency from his father, Bud. William’s great uncle was the company’s founder, Jessie James Babbitt, who began creating musical instrument mouthpieces out of his small garage in Elkhart, Indiana.
Bud Reglein’s uncle formed a small mouthpiece company in Elkhart, IN and named it jj Babbitt as he felt it sounded better than Jessie James Babbitt. Bud took over the company in 1939 and, in the 1940s, engineered a custom facing machine to ensure each mouthpiece made could be consistent, thus setting the stage for a much larger product line. His creative thinking and dedication guided the company through expansions and growth. Bud’s son, William, took over as company president and has clearly inherited his father’s love of the industry.
Les Ray was a well spoken advocate for music education. As the founder of ASM Music Schools in Florida, he created a respected educational program that includes some 2,500 students each week. He had strong feelings about the importance of the process in learning to play a musical instrument. Mr. Ray ensured that all children were given the chance to participate and designed programs for those children with special needs. One of the strongest elements of his program, which continue since his passing, is that all children have a private lesson as well as a group lesson to ensure they are provided the elements of playing together, making friends, and having fun.