When David Evans opened the Kingstowne Acoustic Music store three months ago with his wife Jackie, he never imagined it would be as successful as it has become.
"My accountant is very pleased," Evans said. "When my accountant is happy that means that I’m happy."
Evans, with the help of his wife and son, run the full-service, family-owned music store in the Kingstowne Shopping Center in Alexandria. The store sells music books, instrument accessories and instruments, such as guitars, banjos, violins that sell from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. The store also gives lessons, charging $30 per half-hour, with instructors who are seasoned veteran players, Evans said.
Jody Chalk, an instructor working at the store since it opened, has been in the music business for 35 years. Chalk is a professional musician and instructor who taught Evans when he was younger.
Evans called Chalk when he was thinking of opening the store for advice. "I’m an un-invested partner," Chalk said. "Because I’ve been in the music business for so long I can give him advice."
Chalk, who gives lessons in the guitar, banjo, mandolin and bass, said that he had 10 to 12 students at one time. He helps in the store with repairs and anything that needs to be done.
Alex Hodge, of Lorton, who has also been working as an instructor at the store since it opened, said that he has around 15 students learning from him. He teaches the banjo, guitar and mandolin. In addition to teaching at the store Hodge is a professional musician performing in solo performances and with a duo at parties.
"The store is a great place for people that are interested in acoustic music," Hodge said.
THE MOST POPULAR instrument to learn is the guitar, Evans said, but students come to learn piano and other woodwind and brass instruments as well.
The store also performs repairs for all the different instruments. If Evans or another employee cannot fix the instrument, he said it is sent out to a company in Fairfax Station.
A major attraction of the store is the "jam sessions" that take place every first and third Saturday of the month between 1-5 p.m., he said. The next session will happen on July 7.
A "jam session" is different from a concert in that it is when a relaxed group of musicians come together to play music, Evans said. Each participant brings his or her own instrument to play.
"Somebody yells out that they have a song and everybody jumps in," Chalk said. "If somebody needs help with a key we help and then we just play."
Evans said that he and the instructors encourage everyone to attend the jam sessions whether they’ve been playing for two days or two years.
Even if the students don’t know the song being played, they can come in and learn for the next time, Hodge said.
"All are welcome, regardless of their level," Chalk said.
Two jam sessions take place at the store, or outside if it is a nice day, at one time. One, for beginners, in the back of the store and one, for the more advanced, in the front of the store for passersby to come and watch, Evans said.
"The sessions are very well attended," he said. "This past weekend we had close to 30 people."
Playing with other people keeps you honest with your timing, Chalk said. If you are playing alone you don’t know how well you are doing.
"When you play with others they can help you with your technique, endurance," he said. "There is a conversation that goes on between the instruments."
Most of the jam sessions include bluegrass and old-time music. Evans said that this type of music is the easiest to jam to.
With all the attractions of the store, Evans isn’t planning on stopping at just one. He said that he does not think he will ever go on to sell CDs, but he does hope to open at least two more stores around the Beltway. His future stores will continue to sell instruments and host jam sessions.
"Playing with others is what music is all about," said Evans.