Savannah Music Stores Aim To Give Students A Quality Music Education


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Music education and playing an instrument has long been proven to contribute to children’s development by improving their language, memory, listening and coordination skills. In times like this when the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted lives, it can also help them reduce their anxiety and act as a sort of retreat.

It often starts with that decision in elementary school where students have the option of choosing an after-school program, such as a band or orchestra, which often continues through high school. In this journey it is common to see the relationship and collaboration between students, group programs and music stores that champion music education.

The legacy of Portman’s Music Superstore

Portman Music Superstore, a longtime Savannah staple, has an intimate relationship with group programs across the Southeast. Founded in 1936 by Ben Portman, Portman’s has been instrumental in the development of band and orchestral programs in the region. Jerry Portman, son of Ben Portman, currently owns the store and his wife Myra oversees the office. He said that prior to his and his father’s involvement in schools in the early 1950s, there were little or no band programs in the public school system and private schools in Savannah-Chatham County.

“My dad got a call from a few musical instrument companies that make instruments, and they said, ‘If we sent you horns in August, would you give them to the kids in the school marching band? beginner? And then whatever you don’t rent, send it back to us in October, and we can calculate the payment for the horns that have been rented. That’s how he officially got into the business, ”explained Jerry Portman. “He and I helped start music programs in schools that had never had music programs before. “

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Portman’s has other locations in Albany, Augusta and Brunswick and rents instruments to thousands of students each year. They also offer full repairs and music lessons with 45 qualified instructors. They laid the groundwork for the group programs students participate in today and, at the forefront, they emphasize the importance of music education.

16-year-old Anne Ou takes piano lessons with instructor Hannah Wong at Portman's Music Superstore on Abercorn Street.

“We are proud to have done this for 85 years. We created it. We are still going strong. We are dedicated to music education. We are doing everything we can, ”said Myra Portman.

Guitar and Music & Arts Center

Students and parents alike looking for places to rent and purchase instruments don’t have to look far. On the same street as Portman’s, Abercorn is lined with two other stores that emphasize the importance of music education: Guitar Center and its subsidiary Music & Arts, the two retail chains, they claim, provide the largest selection of instruments in the United States.

The Music & Arts storefront located at 7805 Abercorn St., Suite 20A.

“Music education is what it all comes down to at the end of the day,” said Mike Marra, Retail District Manager for Music & Arts. “We can offer students the opportunity to explore a new art and give them a platform to express themselves. Music education has been proven to increase test scores and academic ability. For us to bring that into this community, that’s who we all are.

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Both stores also offer private and group musical instrument lessons with qualified instructors, rentals and repairs, contributing to the many choices available to students in acquiring a quality music education.

The Guitar Center showcase located at 7700 Abercorn St.

Guitar Center opened on the lot next to Portman’s in November 2021. Music & Arts opened across the street in April 2021; However, said Marra, prior to the physical establishment, Music & Arts had worked in partnership with directors of local bands and orchestras for more than six years, helping students choose the instruments that were best for them.

“A big part of educating and maintaining music is about getting kids interested. And we provide services that help these principals go into elementary schools and reach out and motivate these people to try and get started so that we can continue to bring music to life in schools, ”said Marra.

Music during the pandemic

Like many businesses, the pandemic has affected the operation of these music stores. Guitar Center and Music & Arts offer virtual lessons, and Portman’s installed an air purification system to make lessons safer for educators and students.

Rodney Gerido is a 52-year-old tank top who started taking guitar lessons with instructor Lee Cheek at Portman's Music Superstore in January 2021.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has changed operations, music education has persisted, from children to adults.

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Jerry Portman said when people started to come back, it wasn’t the kids who came through the doors first, but more adults.

Studies have shown that music helps people get through the pandemic, which is evident in trends such as increased sales of musical vinyls since 2020 and increased sales of guitars. According to a study by Fender YouGov, nearly 16 million people have taken back the guitar since the COVID-19 pandemic.

A wall of guitars at the Savannah Guitar Center.  Will Bryant, chief executive, said there was an increase in the number of people wanting to learn to play the guitar during the pandemic.

“There was certainly a great deal of interest in people looking to buy a new instrument, whether it was a seasoned musician who has been playing drums for years, who perhaps wanted to get into the guitar.” , said Will Bryant, Managing Director of Savannah Guitar. Center. “We’ve also had a lot of people who were just looking for a hobby to take their time while they’re stuck at home. And a lot of people kind of look to the guitar for that because so many people would come and say that they wanted to learn to play guitar for years and years and years. Now that they are kind of forced to take that free time, it has given them the opportunity to follow that passion. ”

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The stores also make an effort to supply musical instruments to other organizations in Savannah. Friends of Ben Tucker Inc., the charity honoring jazz great Ben Tucker, partners with Portman’s to provide musical instruments to underprivileged children in the Savannah area, and Music & Arts has partnered with Savannah Jazz to sponsor the 2021 festival master classes.

For a city like Savannah that is teeming with music, music stores are providing the next generation with the tools to acquire a quality music education.

“It just means the music is always popular. The groups will be there forever. School music will be here forever, ”said Myra Portman.

Laura Nwogu is the Quality of Life reporter for Savannah Morning News. Contact her at [email protected] Twitter: @lauranwogu_

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