Oral History -
Peter Schmitt was not around when his family started a small retail store 110 years ago, but was proud of the role he has played in the expansion of the business into a wholesale business. His son Mike later took over as President of Peter E. Schmitt Music in New Jersey.
Gunter Schmalfuss has taken great pride in working on one instrument most of his career, the tuba. Since 1961, Mr. Schmalfuss has studied, built and designed tubas in addition to teaching the craft of repair. Following a great tradition of handcrafted work, he has played a vital role in the expansion of the instrument’s models and design keeping up with the times but being grounded in the roots of the instrument. Mr.
Wesley Schaum’s father wrote and arranged music with the hope of serving school band programs in a meaningful way. He wrote several important scores including the noted Schaum Piano Method Books before joining forces with his son Wesley in 1959. Together, father and son formed Schaum Publishing Inc. to enhance the efforts of the Schaum methods, which, at the time, were in print under Belwin Music. Wesley wrote several method books following the same mission as his father and soon created a list of important publications. His son Jeff has continued this tradition.
Dr. Albert Sanderson revolutionized the process of piano tuning by inventing the electronic tuner. Although the device was first questioned by the industry among fears that it would put piano tuners out of business, it proved to be a helpful tool for the technician who could then complete a job faster and with measurable results.
Bonnie G. Rowe did not seem to mind much when people thought he was a woman because his given name was Bonnie. For 87 years he corrected people and never gave much thought to using his middle name of Gordon. “Mother and father wanted me to be known as Bonnie, so that is it” he once said.
Manuel Rodriguez Sr. was very proud of his ancestry as a classical guitar luthier in the deep tradition of his native Spain. With honor, pride and passion, the art and craftsmanship has been handed down from his father and in turn he has taught the skills to his son, Manuel Rodriguez Jr., the current president of Guitars Rodriguez.
Jean Francois Rico had an early interest in news photography, but following his grandmother’s passing, Jean began working at the company his grandfather had established, Rico Reeds. The company dominated the reed industry for many decades with a powerful sales force around the world and a steady stream of new and innovative products.
Don Ravitch pioneered many elements of keyboard retailing as president of Sherman Clay. With an engineering and financial background Don and his partners purchased the music store chain in 1959 from the third generation of Clay’s.
Mario Procida formed a music distribution company in El Salvador in 1958 that soon expanded into several surrounding countries as well. His strong understanding of musical traditions and the import/export business resulted in Mario’s notable influence as a leader in the music products industry. He knew all too well that unstable governments result in unstable economies, but he pressed on for quality and music awareness in countries whose citizens valued traditional music but were influenced and persuaded by pop culture.
Houston Person, after a 3-year old musical partnership with the great vocalist Etta Jones, is only now receiving the recognition he deserves as one of today’s leading instrumentalists in the tradition of Gene Ammons and Stanley Turrentine. Since Etta’s passing, Houston has concentrated on working with some of today’s best Hammond B-3 players; performing blues-oriented soulful jazz, “please music” as Houston likes to call it.