VINELAND — M&M Music on Delsea Drive offers new and used musical instruments ranging from banjos to ukuleles.
But the second-generation business has found its real niche in South Jersey in teaching customers how to play them.
Owner Jim Marone, of Vineland, bought the business from his father, Frank, a jazz guitarist who is also from Vineland and who performed on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
“He saw everything: rock ’n’ roll from the early ’60s to the hippie era to the Spandex of the ’80s,” Marone said.
The store has seen sales decline during the recession, but private lessons have remained strong, he said.
It offers private sessions in voice, guitar, piano, drums, flute, clarinet and violin, among others, through its network of professional teachers. About 250 students take lessons every week.
“About 20 percent of our students are adults,” he said. “Some people decide to take music lessons when they retire.”
Music lessons are very popular with adults, said Brenda Dillon, a member of the Music Teachers National Association. The piano teacher from Frisco, Texas, offers individual and group classes to senior citizens using less formal methods of instruction.
“There is a real hunger to learn to play the piano in a setting that is less threatening and where they won’t feel embarrassed,” she said. “It’s a positive experience. Everyone sort of has the same frustrations.”
M&M Music also has courses designed to introduce music to children at an early age. For children ages 4 to 6, the store offers Music for Little Mozart, a piano course that helps children develop listening skills.
Marone is big believer in studies linking academic success to musical instruction. One 2001 study by the College Board’s profile of college-bound seniors found that SAT scores improved with every year the student received musical instruction. Students with four or more years of music scored significantly higher than those who received half of this instruction.
“More people are becoming aware of the research. Studying a musical instrument helps children in other ways. They’re better at reading. They’re better at math,” he said.
Marone grew up listening to classic rock and heavy metal. But he also learned to play piano. His wife, Lucia, is a music teacher in the Vineland school district and also plays harp professionally at weddings and business functions.
The couple introduced the harp to their 11-year-old daughter, Sarina, who has performed at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia.
The store offers instrument rentals to children who are taking music classes or playing in school bands or orchestras in southern New Jersey. Rentals take some financial pressure off parents and gives students more flexibility in trying new instruments, Marone said.
“Some students will stick with the same instrument and play it through high school,” he said.
The store also has public-address sound systems to rent for parties or public functions.
It caters to professional musicians, equipping them with amplifiers and effects or other gear they need on the road. M&M Music also offers in-house guitar repairs.
“A lot of bands from Philadelphia stop in on their way to shows in Atlantic City or the shore,” he said.
Edward King, a founding member of the band Lynyrd Skynyrd, taught lessons at the store before retiring to Tennessee, Marone said.
“Needless to say, his classes were very popular,” Marone said.
Lately, the store has been selling a lot of ukuleles, the Hawaiian stringed instrument. Marone said he does not know what is pushing this trend, but his store has stocked up on lesson books and sheet music for ukulele players.
M&M Music can schedule lessons over its website but prefers not to sell its instruments that way. Most musicians want to play a new instrument before buying, Marone said.
“You know what the instrument sounds like before you leave the store,” he said. “That’s really important.”
Contact Michael Miller:
Location: 2006 S. Delsea Drive, Vineland
Owner: Jim Marone