Oral History -

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Joseph Rashid studied the art of violin-making like few others.  His goal was not to mass produce the instrument or even to sell them, but rather to hand-make the instruments based on scientific evidence.  When he could not locate data on frequency measurements, he conducted his own studies to produce the needed data.  These studies helped him create a violin with a higher quality of sound and he happily shared his finding with other luthiers.  The results of many of his studies

Zeb Billings opened Billings Pianos in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1956 beginning a long and celebrated career in the music industry.  With great success as a retailer, Zeb branched out into publishing when he saw the need to include packets of sheet music in the bench of every piano sold.  The idea and others led to Billings Publishing, which he would later sell to Hal Leonard.

Ernesto Gittli was born in Uruguay and moved to the U.S. as a small boy before he began taking piano lessons. He met his wife, who also taught music, and together they envisioned a music school that would encourage all ages to become music makers. Gittli Music opened in the mid- 1960s with a strong focus on providing parents with an education regarding why music is important to their child long before “music makes you smarter” was ever a slogan.

 Shep Shepherd co-wrote the now classic instrumental “Honky Tonk Part 2” while playing in the Bill Doggett band.  The recording became a hit in the late 1950s and helped build a stronger audience for rock instrumentals, which remained popular throughout the mid 1960s.  Shep began playing drums and other percussive instruments at an early age and later developed a successful jaz

George Quinlan was proud of his store outside of Chicago, for which the walls are full of photographs of the children he rented or sold an instrument to, and the fact that he survived hard times such as a store fire.  However, George may have been most proud of the fact that his son took over the store and has proven to have his father’s passion and love for the business.  Geor

Dick Richardson was working with the Lyons Band Instrument Company in Chicago in the early 1960s when he was given the chance to run the Musser vibraphone division of the company.  Dick become president and soon expanded the product line, bring on key endorsers such as Lionel Hampton and Gary Burton as well as building up the motivation of the employees.  His sharp insight into the indus

 Billy Shaw and his wife Donna opened Desert Piano in Palm Springs after working in a series of piano sales jobs, including one at Colton Piano where the couple met.  Billy is well known in the industry as a creative salesman and the inventor of the Piano Bar, which was introduced in the 1980s.  He also created a series of promotional programs and sales campaigns, several of wh

Charles McPherson has thoroughly enjoyed his life as a music maker.  The jazz saxophonist was strongly influenced by the players of the big band era, such as Johnny Hodges who played in the Duke Ellington orchestra for many years.  Charles took what he heard and played his own style during the formative years of bebop and free jazz.  What he sought was a way to express himself that was not only his unique sound, but conveyed his unique thoughts and ideas within his music.  As a composer he craf

Harry Benson became the president of William Lewis & Son when the company was under the ownership of Chicago Musical Instrument (CMI). Harry’s guiding principles resulted in the expansion of the violin line and the respect of fellow violin makers such as Kurt Glaesel. Harry was also the one-time boss of another industry veteran and strong supporter of this archive collection, Robert S. Johnson.

 Robert Perine was raised in Los Angeles in a very artsy family.  At the age of six, his father drew his portrait and asked young Bob to do the same.