The day the music died

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The day the music died

Time to go: Current owner Belinda Sileni has loved working at Bair Music, sharing music with people in South Gippsland since she took over the business in 2007.

WHEN Alan Clark opened his Leongatha music store in McCartin Street in 1976, he was advised he’d gone into a good business and was left with seven words that remain with him today.
Music brings out the best in people.
And for the past 45 years, the store has given generations of customers the chance to listen to, learn about and grow to love music.
Alan, originally a dairy farmer, said he opened the shop as a supplement income because the dairy industry was at an all time low.
“When I went to the bank for a loan, the manager said to me ‘You should call it Clark’s Sound Centre’, and that’s how the store got its name,” he said.
“It really just escalated from there.”
Clark’s Sound Centre, located where Target is today, was first and foremost a record store, selling LPs, cassettes and sheet music, before introducing the organ and other musical instruments in 1978.
Alan fondly remembers the shop always being full of teenagers searching for the latest top 40 hits, which he had new in stock every week.
“It was the years of musicians like Johnny Cash, The Seekers and ABBA,” he said.
“When new songs came out, I had to have 30 there and I sold them by the bucketful!”
He also watched the music scene continually change over three decades, and said music is definitely not like it used to be.
“Back then, you could sing every song in the top 10, but today you’d barely recognise one.”
The shop continued to grow, becoming Leongatha’s first video store.
However with the business expanding, the video store stayed in McCartin Street and Clark’s moved to a new home in Bair Street in the
mid-80s.
From then on, upon entering the store, people were surrounded by dozens upon dozens of musical instruments, with a piano being played in one corner, and someone testing out a guitar in another.
Alan said he developed some wonderful friendships whilst running the store and it was always a happy place to be.
“Some of my favourite memories were from when we had young work experience kids there; we always had a lot of fun,” he said.
In 1999, after more than 30 years, Alan sold the shop to one of his employees, Arch Van Graaf, who gave the store a new name: Bair Music.
Arch said his favourite memories of the music shop were the children.
“It was great watching the kids come in and get their music things and do something with their music,” he said.
“Especially the school kids; they’d always come in and get their books and their reeds.”
In 2004, Andrew Newton and Tim Mathieson took over Bair Music, with their wives Megan and Christie running the store.
Andrew said he and Tim had always played in a band together and thought it would be interesting to form a partnership in a music business.
“One of the greatest aspects about it was being able to interact with other musicians in the area, as it is something we’re all passionate about and something that’s our hobby,” he said.
Andrew’s favourite memories include getting together with different musicians for jam sessions in the shop after it had closed.
“We used to do it at least once or twice a week; it was a good relief from everyday work,” he said.
The Newtons and Mathiesons also created a new logo for Bair Music, with a paw print in the title.
Finally, in 2007, Belinda Sileni stepped in as the final owner of the music store.
Playing flute, saxophone and clarinet, among another instruments, and studying music at university, Belinda had dreams of holding live music sessions and a thriving business.

Original owner: Alan Clark, who first opened Clark’s Sound Centre in 1966, behind the counter of his beloved business with one of his many employees over the years.

She renovated the back of the store for a music school, which quickly grew to eight teachers and over 70 students, who would have a combined band rehearsal once a month and put on a cabaret performance at the end of each year.
However, with retail businesses struggling to compete with the online market, council permits making expansion difficult and her husband’s transferral to Adelaide, Belinda made the difficult decision to put the store up for sale, and eventually to close it altogether.
“If someone came in here today and offered me half of what I paid for it, I’d take it just to keep it open,” she said.
“But it’s time to go.”
Belinda said working in a music shop and running the school was her ideal job.
“It’s somewhere I loved to come to work every day, but it’s really a matter of circumstance,” she said.
“When I came here, we had a 10 year plan and this is definitely not what I wanted.”
In a bid to keep the music alive, Belinda is trying to find a sublease for the music school so her students can continue to learn and play.
The day the doors finally close will be a sad day for not only the current residents of Leongatha and surrounding areas, but the future of the town as well.
Clark’s Sound Centre and Bair Music are integrated in the town’s history and all the owners, past and present, are sad to see it go.
“It’s shocking; it’s going to be a huge loss for the town,” Alan said.
“The store has always provided a wonderful service to everyone and received great support from all the private music teachers.
“People who learn music do better at school and they develop better concentration skills.”
Andrew said he hopes the music school will continue without the support from the shop.
“The music school is something that has grown very big and is something I hope they can continue.”
So as of September 30, after nearly five decades, four eras of owners and hundreds of thousands of songs, we say goodbye to Bair Music.
But the store has touched many. As the famous musician Paul Simon once said, “Music is forever; music should grow and mature with you, following you right on up until you die.”

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Posted by on Sep 13 2011. Filed under Business, Featured, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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