Oral History -

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Milton Thomas has had a long and well-respected career in the music products industry. Milt served as National Sales Manager/Director of Marketing for the Lowrey Organ Company before becoming Vice President of marketing for the keyboard musical instrument division of CBS Musical Instruments.

Robert Street grew up in the piano business. In 1914, Robert’s grandfather, Claude P. Street, opened his first music store in Nashville, Tennessee. Claude was certain that a successful business could be built by offering the finest keyboard instruments and professional service, a philosophy the company holds true nearly 100 years later.

Dan Strait moved his family to Austin, TX from Houston to open a Baldwin piano franchise back in 1963.  The company was called Strait Piano and Organ and Dan’s motto was “Where customers become friends”.  Slowly, Dan saw the opportunity to expand to a full-line music store, and in 1967 Strait Piano and Organ incorporated and became Strait Music Company.

Jim Slutz served as the Professor of Music Business at Indiana State University before his retirement in 2004. Former NAMM President Mr. F.D. "Bud" Streep from Orlando was the first person to make Jim aware of the need for college trained music business graduates. Mr. Streep and Jim worked together to develop the first program of study in music business at Florida Southern College in 1973, along with Mr. Merrill Jones, owner of Wingert-Jones Music of Kansas City. As a result of their efforts, the NAMM Affiliated Music Business Institutions (NAMBI) was created.

Denny Senseney is a passionate music retailer who began his career as a band director. When he formed Senseney Music in 1984, he sought to provide the service to band directors that he felt was missing when he was an educator. Over the years Denny has played a vital role within the industry serving on the NAMM Board, the NASMD Board and helping establish RPMDA.

Webb Phillips formed the Allied Piano Company outside of Philadelphia with the goal of filling a need. As a piano technician it was hard to find reliable products that you can trust, so Webb sought to gather the best the industry had to offer and supply the products to his fellow tuners.

John Page is the founder of a guitar company in Sunny Valley, Oregon, which produces hand made instruments. John Page Guitars, formed in 2006 by John and his wife Dana, is just one of the many fascinating capers in his long and successful career as a luthier. His association with Fender Musical Instruments began back in 1978 when he worked as a Model Maker in the Research and Development Department. Over the years he advanced to become a Senior Engineer.

Walt Johnston was best known throughout the industry for his role in introducing the Pearl Drum Company to the United States. After a gig selling band instruments, Walt was hired by CMI to bring the Pearl kits to the American market. His success was based on several elements, not the least of which was Walt’s dedication to his customers.

Ron Marquez formed Aquarian Accessories with jazz drummer Roy Burns back in 1980. Together they developed several successful products including a series of popular drumheads. Ron established his own powder coating company in 1974, which led to his introduction to Roy who was looking for some manufacturing assistance for a new line of drumheads.

John Stowell has been a strong supporter of the music industry as a jazz guitarist and has performed at the NAMM show over the years as well as at the NAMM Foundation’s  Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad.