Oral History -

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Dr. Robert Freeland was among this country’s first to earn a PhD in music librarianship. He worked for the Henry Ford Library and was noted for his national column on classic recording reviews. Dr. Freeland was a charter member of the Music Library Association (MLA) in Southern California in 1947 and received the organization’s special service award in 2002.

Roger Cox began his career at Ampeg in Linden, NJ.  At Ampeg he served as Vice President of Operations responsible for Quality, Manufacturing, Service, and Research and Development.

Jeannie Cheatham played roots music before anyone was calling it that. She grew up on church music, and progressed to the blues in a time and place where black women were encouraged to express their emotions through music.  Jeannie was there when rhythm and blues became popular and played her own style in clubs and dances all around America.

Michael Balter discovered, as a percussionist for many stage and symphonic orchestras, that he could create his own sounds by adjusting or wrapping his mallets. He slowly began designing his own mallets for himself and friends, until it was clear that he had his own business. Over the years the Michael Balter Mallet Company produced a steady number of innovative products while gaining a tremendous reputation as a supporter of school music programs and industry organizations.

Heribert Glassl had two musical loves, the tuba and the cello. While it may seem like a strange pairing, Mr. Glassl made it work. In fact, after a long career in musical instrument making, the tuba and cello are the only products he produced in his small German factory.

Richard Janda specialized in repairing stringed instruments. It was also something he enjoyed very much. During World War II he was trained to repair the band instruments for the U.S. Military marching band, in which he was the trombonist. After the war he sought to add to that education while working in the repair department of Reed Music in Austin, TX.

 Jack Javens loved the piano business and became one of the industry’s quintessential salesmen.  He worked for the Aeolian Piano Company out of East Rochester New York beginning in the 1950s and stayed for 26 years.  He witnessed the famous merger between Aeolian and the Winter Piano Company in the mid 1960s and the strong competition of the home organ boom in the 1970s.  Jack was proud of the products he sold and spoke of the rich company history of Aeolian, which went back to 1903. 

George Lewis was the founder of George L’s in Madison, Tennessee, one of the industry’s leading innovators of cable and electronic components.  George played a large role in the development of ShoBud as a retail store and manufacturer of steel pedal guitars.  George’s entire family works in the business, which is now being operated by his two daughters.  His interview was as much a recount of his career as it was an American history lesson as George was on board a ship in Pearl Harbor on D

 Zhi Cheng Tong is the Chairman for Pearl River Pianos in China and one of the longest-term employees of the company that was established in 1956.  Chairman Tong joined the company just two years later.  Since that time, Chairman Tong has made his products among the best known pianos in the world, while maintaining the great responsibilities he feels all piano makers should dis

 John Hornby Skewes is the founder and president of John Hornby Skewes Company Ltd, a noted music wholesaler located in England, which was established in the early 1960s.    John is also one of the pioneers of the Music Industry Association in the UK and the British Music Fair.

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