Music District

Cannon's Addition music shop offers repairs, supplies and lessons

by Mike Prager

Robin Johson's dream, at 13, is like that of a lot of teenagers. He wants to play in a rock band. Two of his South Hill buddies are into it, too. They've been jamming. Robin's on bass.

"At this age, it's so important to keep your kids busy," said his mother, Dianne Johnson, who supports her son's aspirations.

"This summer, he'll have some purpose."

To get started, thay went shopping together, and Mom bought a used bass guitar and amplifier for $350.

Then she signed him up for private lessons at Amend's Music Center at 14th and Adams, a neighborhood-friendly place in Historic Cannon's Addition.

During Robin's first lesson, Mom sat quietly off to the side while instructor Kelly Bogan showed him the fundamentals of the instrument.

He sketched out the string arrangement and had Robin pluck a few notes. Then he coached him on the proper technique for holding the guitar.

"When your wrist is dropped, you're in a position to spread your fingers," Bogan said. "The technique is what's important. The speed will come."

When the first-half hour ended, Bogan sent his pupil away with instructions: Practice for at least a half-hour a day five days a week.

"When the motivation is from the inside, you're all set," said Bogan, an accomplished guitarist who records and sells his own music.

Bogan's studio is tucked in the basement of a 1905 brick building owned by Robin and Debbie Amend. The operators of Amend Music have been at their current location for the past 15 years.

Today, Amend's is the only established music store that offers private lessons.

There was a time when there were several such stores in Spokane.

To get to Bogan's studio, you take the staircase behind the espresso counter of the Rocket Bakery, also located in the Amend building. Many parents pass the time during half-hour music lessons over a cup of coffee at the Rocket.

Pat Sowder was doing just that While her son, Colin, took a trombone lesson from Cameron Dunlop of the Spokane Symphony.

This summer, Colin is going to a jazz camp and plans to continue his musical career in high school. During the past two years, he received a lot of encouragement by participating in the strong music program at Sacajawea Middle School, Pat Sowder said.

"There's peer acceptance of the program," she said. " It's OK to do music.

I sure see it as a wonderful activity. Cameron has definitely given him the extra attention he needs."

Parents and instructors know only a few students will ultimately become performers, but they said music is a lifelong skill that opens the mind and gives meaning to culture.

"Making music with a group of people can be very stirring," Sowder said.

Then, she joked, "Sometimes it's painful to sit there and listen."

There are adults taking lessons, too, but the majority of students are teenagers.

Another of Bogan's students is Joshua Newkirk, a junior at Lewis and Clark High School. He plays bass guitar and is just now learning the piano.

"This kind of helps him with his chord structure," Bogan said.

Down the hall, ninth grader Jacob Bale was taking a lesson in percussion from Sam Wollenhaupt, a member of the 560th Air Force Band at Fairchild Air Force Base. Wollenhaupt has recorded a new-age style album called "Marimba Melodies".

Bale has been playing since the fifth grade. He said he wants to perform in high school and college and would love to go on to a career in music.

"It'd be cool, but I don't know," Bale said, "It's probably not likely."

Upstairs, Larry Jess, the principal trumpet player for the Spokane Symphony, teaches horn lessons. He has about 20 students, down from a previous load of 30.

He said individual instruction is important for serious music students. Teachers in schools do a good job, but they don't have time to help students fix problems in their techniques.

Jess said he likes teaching at a music store because it offers his students a one-stop line of services, including supplies, repairs and sheet music.

"The store that have the studios are pretty unique," he said.

The lessons cost between $50 and $75 a month for weekly half-hour sessions.

They are in enough demand that Amend is considering an expansion. He's talking about adding a small studio building at the rear of his present location to make room for more students and instructors.

The project would include a landscaped courtyard and more off-street parking, he said.

"I like being attached to a music store," Bogan said. "Part of the service of a music store is education."