With the closing of Chautauqua Music at the end of the month, it is appropriate to take a brief look at the influence this business has had on our community. We recall the original location on Second and Main; the big gold letters announcing its presence and the gold record with a music note over the door on the corner.
When the doors opened in 1973 we were listening to John Denver sing "Sunshine On My Shoulders" and "You Make Me Feel Brand New" on our stereos. This was before the Walkman. We bought our music on LPs back then, maybe a few 8-tracks. It seems like a different lifetime, the year that Chautauqua Music was ''brand new.''
Chautauqua Music has been an integral part of the Jamestown area for 40 years. It was the brainchild of John P. Davis, a graduate of Fredonia State University in 1972 with a major in music education. John had a vision to provide the community with a center where people could expect to have all of their musical needs met.
Above, John Davis, former owner of Chautauqua Music, stands in the store.
Through the years Chautauqua Music provided not only outstanding products but also a commitment to serving its customers. John reached out to schools, music teachers, churches, bands and music organizations in order to increase opportunities for people to appreciate and enjoy music.
As a former band director himself, nothing pleased John more than to place a shiny new instrument in a child's hands and see the smile of anticipation on their face. He tried to assist the school music programs in any way he could. Periodic newsletters sent to music teachers, as well as supporting music activities, were high on his priority list. One year when the JHS band was on its way to the Rose Bowl parade in Pasadena, Chautauqua Music donated a King sousaphone to the band.
A number of years later when the store moved one block down the street from its longtime location on Second and Main, the band helped relocate the business. El Greco Woodworking Inc. loaned two industrial dollies for the move and the band supplied the labor. Napoli's Pizza Shop provided pizza and drinks.
There was much laughter and singing as the band went to and from the two locations. Many of the students spoke of private lessons taken in the studios on their various instruments or of needing a quick repair that John was often able to do "as you wait." When the move was completed, the band received a gift certificate from the store to use for instruments.
For many years Chautauqua Music provided the best in audio for churches. From custom design to repair of all types of sound systems, the importance of sound quality was well addressed. John and Marty were a great team at designing and installing systems so that the most important message of all would not go unheard.
Local groups playing every weekend or full time were a big presence in the community at that time as well. Quite often when you walked into the store your could hear the sounds of a very talented musician trying out a new guitar or keyboard, or trying out a set of drums or a sound system.
It was the place to meet like-musicians, and many a band was formed after a chance meeting at Chautauqua Music. Being a musician himself, John understood an occasional emergency. More than once John would receive a phone call at home from a frantic musician at a gig who was in need of something that was absolutely necessary or the band couldn't perform. With an understanding nod, John would run down to the store and open up to accommodate the need.
In 1982 John approached Sue Tillotson, professional string teacher and performer, about starting a Suzuki Violin Program. They were both excited about the prospect and Sue agreed to pursue the idea. Chautauqua Music purchased violins of all sizes to rent to accommodate the various ages of students. It began with a large group lesson room on the mezzanine of Chautauqua Music. The program grew and was very successful, expanding to include public school participation as well.
In 1983 a location was opened in Warren. It was a good location and it continued for a quite some time until it became necessary to close in order to pursue other opportunities.
A branch store began in 1990 on the grounds of Chautauqua Institution and continued for 10 years. It specialized in supplying the needs of students and professional musicians residing there during the summer, as well as unique musical gift items. It was during these years that Chautauqua Music had a location at the Chautauqua Mall throughout November and December of the Christmas season.Customers found this to be very convenient for their Christmas shopping. The mall store opened every season until 2006.
As one can see, with the help of me and our children, John was able to realize his goals of providing our community with an endless supply of energy and enthusiasm and of spreading the love of music to the hearts of people.
John is one of those people who made a difference. Since John's passing, many people have visited the store and shared with our family the positive influence that John had in their lives. If you would like to share an inspiring story of your experience with Chautauqua Music, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org .
Because of changes in the music business climate, Chautauqua Music is playing its last stanza at the end of July. All inventory is on sale.
The family of John Davis would like to thank all of the employees, customers, suppliers and friends for their support throughout the years.
It has been a good run. Let the music play on!