The Music Store Knows Learning to Play Makes Life More Fun

Music has always played a major role in Bobbi and David Dickerson’s life, even before they married three years ago.

David, 68, ran Dickerson’s Piano Service. Bobbi, 64, is a retired teacher who has given countless piano lessons.

Together they run Tri-City Music, a Richland store where musicians can buy or rent pianos, attend recitals or listen to concerts, either in the store or live on Facebook.

The couple bought Tri-City Music in 2019 from Allan Willis, who operated it for years after buying it from founder Fred Von Gogh.

Their musical history

David comes from a long line of piano tuners, which began in Arkansas.

“Our family has been tuning pianos since 1875,” he said. “It’s been six generations.”

The family moved to the Tri-Cities in 1963. David spent half of his high school career in Richland, then moved with his family to Walla Walla.

He majored in voice in college, but embarked on an extensive career that included auto body repair and residential real estate.

Both of these experiences helped prepare him to lead Tri-City Music.

“All of that has helped me in this business,” he said. “As a body shop, I learned the details. In real estate, I learned how to communicate with people. All of those things helped me in business.

He continues to tune pianos, which need annual maintenance.

His father, Bill Dickerson, 88, is his assistant and plans the tune-ups.

“I do a lot of work in schools and in a lot of churches,” he said.

His wife is another Richland resident and knew Dave through the music community.

He is a widower and she is divorced.

A mutual friend introduced them, leading to a blended family with five sons – three for her and two for him.

Bobbi taught in New Mexico and then Oregon for 40 years before retiring in 2018. She continued her piano lessons, however.

“I teach one day a week here in the store and three days a week in our home studio,” she said. “I am a teacher at heart. I love to see a child progress and have that aha moment, with the realization on their face of ‘Look what I can do!’

She also had parents come to recitals, watch their children, and then sign up for lessons for themselves.

“I have three parent-child pairs taking lessons now,” Bobbi said. “I also have students in their 70s. I strongly believe in lifelong learning.

Make music together

Dave’s former wife died of cancer.

Bobbi and her ex-husband raised their children in New Mexico and later on the Oregon coast.

“A mutual friend of Dave and mine brought us together,” she said.

At first, Dave was visiting Bobbi in Tillamook on the Oregon Coast, and the pair bonded over their shared love of music.

“Whether it’s music lessons or piano lessons, I’ve been doing them since I was 7,” Bobbi said. “Music has always been part of my life. Music has always been part of our lives.

“Dave and I in our younger years — and in fact, Dave does now — led church choirs,” Bobbi said.

Both believe in the power of music to improve academic performance and physical health. Both raised their sons with music.

“Children who take music lessons have been proven to do better in the classroom in many subjects, including math. It improves their lives,” Bobbi said.

According to the National Piano Foundation, “middle and high school students who participated in instrumental music scored significantly higher than their non-band peers on standardized tests.”

The shop

The Dickersons carry popular and prestigious piano brands at Tri-City Music, including Samick, Steinway and Yamaha.

Grand, digital, upright, new and used pianos are spread throughout the store. And David says if they don’t have it, they’ll find it.

“We support the music community,” he said. “If we don’t have what they want, we send the customer to a store that has it. We want piano sales to stay in the Tri-Cities.

The store will soon launch a new name: Dickerson’s Tri-City Piano.

“It will probably happen after the first day of the year,” David said.

He and Bobbi want customers to know they own the store, and they also don’t want to confuse customers who walk into the store looking for a saxophone, guitar, or other instrument that is not a piano.

But piano sales appear to be making a nationwide comeback, thanks to the pandemic and shutdowns that have ended live concerts.

Sales of new pianos remain well below the national peak of 364,000 sold in 1909, when access to music was much more restricted than it is now, according to a 2020 New York Times article.

But Americans bought about 30,000 new acoustic pianos last year, an unexpected increase reported by several brands. The number that topped one million when digital pianos were counted, according to the report.

Tri-City Music confirms that sales are growing.

“When we started,” Bobbi said, “our monthly goal was four pianos. Then it was eight, then 12.”

On the day of this interview, Black Friday, they sold three pianos at Tri-City Music.

The pandemic has also created business.

“Kids need to have something to do,” David said. “So maybe they start piano lessons. And I think the trend is up.

The Christmas season can be busy, Bobbi said.

“It starts in November, when families get together. We are quite busy from mid-November to the end of December. Summer isn’t so bad either, as the kids are home for the summer.

David said pianos are a year-round business.

“What we’ve found both in the setting and at Christmas is that it stays busy,” he said.

The store holds weekly mini-concerts which have generated interest.

Every Friday noon, he organizes a mini concert visible on Facebook.

“It’s been one of my desires since the store opened. I believe people want to play music. And I believe people want to hear music,” David said.

The mini-concerts are scheduled in about a month.

This includes use of the recital studio.

“We invite all music or piano teachers to use our recital studio,” Bobbi added.

And the beat continues

Bobbi and David credit the store’s success to their three employees: Lydia Dillsworth, Lisa Ortiz and Ana Newcomer.

“I mean everyone (all the local piano teachers) are full,” Bobbi said. “I have 31 students. It’s five hours a day, four days a week. That’s enough for me there. »

Bobbi said she and David complement each other.

“We’re both high achievers,” she said. “He takes care of tuning pianos. I stay busy giving piano lessons. I help out where I can with the business. He runs the business. I pay the bills.

They have no intention of retiring yet.

Together, with their attitudes, this whole music story turned out to be a #1 hit.

“I serve people when I go out every day,” Dave said. “It’s so much fun. Life is more fun when you know how to play.

Tri-City Music: 1330 Jadwin Ave., Uptown Mall, Richland; 509-713-7288; tri-citymusic.com.

For Dickerson piano service, call 509-547-5471.

Alice P. Darby