Upgrading the Upgrade: How ‘Upgrade Your Sound’ Continues to Expand in 2017

by Victoria Wasylak • in
  • Supplier Scene
• Created: May 1, 2017

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Perhaps the phrase ‘kid in a candy store’ comes to mind when imagining a musician browsing the national MI smorgasbord that is “Upgrade Your Sound.”

Created by Music & Arts, the event series is unlike any of its kind, offering musicians the chance to put their talented hands on whatever instrument or model they’ve been pining for and take it for a test run with no obligations to purchase it. Pair that with the fact the festival is free and open to students and teachers of all ages, and Upgrade Your Sound is easily the most accessible way for musicians to find their next treasured instrument.

In 2017, the Upgrade Your Sound tour features two special events in particular: “Horns of Plenty” and “String Showcase,” as well as a special RSVP feature where attendees can request certain instruments to test at the event. MMR caught up with Renier Fee, director of marketing for Music & Arts, to discuss just what makes Upgrade Your Sound a vital experience for any student, professional, or instructor.

What is the history of Upgrade Your Sound?

Renier Fee: The history dates back approximately 20 years ago, in Columbus, Ohio.  Colonial Music owner, Elaine Ostrander, started an in-store, warehouse-style, music instrument sale over a 3-day weekend.  The key to her sale was inviting manufacturers to represent their products.  That was the genesis for our events because she eventually came to work for us.

In 2011, National Sales Director Jeremy Mueller developed that concept into national program called “Upgrade Your Sound.”  Upgrade Your Sound is now a bona fide semiannual sale at all 150+ Music & Arts stores, thanks to our incredible Sales team.  Throughout the country, we host Upgrade Your Sound events for band instruments called “Horns of Plenty” and string instruments called “String Showcase.”  The events contain our extended step-up inventory, plus specialized products from the biggest and most respected brands.  Students, parents, musicians, and music educators are invited to attend by RSVP’ing at

Why is it important for musicians to “upgrade their sound” with new instruments?

Musicians express themselves through sound.  The quality of the instrument is a major part of that articulation.  The better the instrument, the more refined the sound because step-up instruments are crafted from higher quality materials and are designed for stability in any setting.  This is true of instruments and accessories.

For example, intermediate and professional saxophones have keys and action that are smoother and more responsive than student models.  In step-up saxes, there are also more variety of features to choose from like bell designs and finishes and resonators made from various shapes and materials.  Accessories, like reeds and mouthpieces, also produce different sounds based on shapes and materials.

I want to emphasize that the best features don’t have to be expensive.  The best features are those that really bring out the musician’s inner voice.  To find that voice, musicians need to test drive a lot of gear.  The large assortment at Upgrade Your Sound serves that purpose with deals, 0% financing, and rebates to fit any budget. 

We also have a library of resources for parents and students to help them make informed step-up decisions no matter where they shop.  You can find that at

How does this program benefit instructors and band directors in particular?

We consider ourselves partners with music educators in developing the talent of young artists.  As musicians grow, they can count on Music & Arts to grow with them through private lessons, clinics, and performance opportunities, as well as step-up instrument deals at Upgrade Your Sound.  Nothing substitutes for a great music education but, combined, these factors can help keep a child motivated and sounding their best for the band room or competitive music festivals. 

I think band directors out there agree with this philosophy.  You see it when band directors accompany parents and students at Upgrade Your Sound events.  They are lending their expertise and investing personal time in the next generation of music makers.

Upgrade Your Sound isn’t just limited to the beginner musician.  We sell professional instruments to wonderfully talented music educators who want to add to their own personal collection.  We can also sell direct to schools to augment their fleet of instruments.

What caused Music & Arts to incorporate instrument requests in the event RSVPs?

All of our Upgrade Your Sound events will carry professional favorites like the Buffet R13 clarinets or Bach Strad trumpets. But remember that music is a form of personal expression. Like we talked about earlier, the best instrument is the one that brings out that sound ruminating in your head. 

The RSVP is a simple mechanism devised by my marketing team that allows us to learn about the customer and provide him/her with a customized experience on the day of the event.  Tell us want you want, and we’ll have it waiting for you on the day of the event.  We’ll have that R13 waiting for you, but you can also compare it against other models you have been curious about from Yamaha, Giardinelli, or Selmer Paris.  Just let us know in the RSVP process at

If we haven’t met a customer’s expectations, I want to know.  If we’ve done a great job, I’d like to share that with my teams too!  I welcome feedback at

How are you able to guarantee the largest assortment of brass and woodwind instruments? 

When we say that Upgrade Your Sound is the largest assortment of band and orchestral instruments, we stand behind that statement.  Our merchandising team deserves much credit for their ability to shift inventory from event to event, around the country,and they have fostered long-standing relationships with the major instrument manufacturers.  Yamaha, Buffet Crampon, Jupiter, Fox, Eastman, Giardinelli, Backun, P. Mauriat, Bach, D’Addario, Powell, Vandoren, XO, Conn, Azumi, Vandoren, Strobel, Selmer, and all our other brand partners back us up with extended inventory to make Upgrade Your Sound events a success. 

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