“I have always had a fascination with music,” says Simon Russell. “My dad was a radio disc jockey, so I’ve always been in the music scene.”
Simon is a familiar face in Wadsworth. As the Store Manager of Larry’s Music Center in the city’s Downtown, he has helped establish a comfortable environment in which young people are welcome to come express themselves. The indie music store has a homey arrangement of furniture in its center, which is surrounded by some unique guitars—I catch a glimpse of Taylor, Reverend, Washburn, and Vintage brand names as I sit down on one of the couches. Simon hands me a banjo, which I pluck away at. I remark that I like the sound, and he nods knowingly.
“My favorite part about working here is being able to meet so many people from different walks of life, and to watch as their interest is sparked by music,” he says. As a drummer and member of The New Rangers, a local musical group, he finds the arts to be an important aspect of American culture. He values the moments when he is able to help introduce people (and children in particular) to a musical instrument as they are contemplating what they want to learn to play.
“I do see from time to time where parents are kind of reluctant to let their kids get a guitar, for example,” laments Russell. “They see it as an investment in something their child will lose interest in. But I have to say when it comes to the arts—any kind of art—you have to give it a chance. While everyone may not stick with it, there is always something to learn from artistic hobbies. It’s culture, and a form of self-expression. Individuality is underrated.”
When an aspiring musician comes in, he aims to ignite a passion.
“The first thing you wanna do is ask what they are insterested in, if they like electric or acoustic or if there is something in particular they do not like,” he explains. “Then we talk about the aesthetic of the instrument and a price range. All the while, it is imporant to help and encourage kids to be excited about the arts.”
As it turns out, art is a great educational tool and its impact on children is of particular interest to psychologists. Both print and online periodicals like the Journal of Research in Music Education and the Journal of Artistic Research have heavily researched the importance of skill acquisition and overall exposure to the arts on the developing mind. There is, it seems, a definite correlation between academic achievement and artistic pursuit. This year, Larry’s Music Center hand-delivered about 50 instruments to the Wadsworth Central Intermediate School’s band room to ensure that our local schools are benefiting from academic arts.
“Though I have met musicians of all ages, there seems to be a definite appeal to kids,” says Russell. “A lot of high school kids come into Larry’s Music Center with big dreams, and they treat it like a home away from home. I love that. When it comes to the arts, it is important to offer support and encouragement, because it advances our local culture. I am seeing a notable push towards enriching local culture, especially in Downtown Wadsworth, and that’s exactly what we need. The goal is to keep inspiring others to enhance their creativity and to dream big, and I hope local parents continue to inspire future generations to do just that.”
Larry’s Music Center is located at 131 College St, Wadsworth. For hours and other information, visit LarrysMusicCenter.com.