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The Perks of Departing the Comfort Zone

Christian Wissmuller • June 2019 • June 5, 2019

The mission statement over here at Musical Merchandise Review is to serve all members of the musical instrument retail industry and to report upon all developments of note across all segments, and we’ve been doing so since 1879 (Fine, not the current roster – we’re not vampires – but you get the point). Even with such a clear-cut blueprint to guide our efforts, personal interests inevitably influence direction. The present-day cast of characters over at MMR features a drummer (our president), two guitarists (myself and one of our associate editors), two bassists (the vice president and one of our advertising directors), and a pianist/keyboard player (another advertising director).

As such, it’s not especially surprising that, when off the leash, we often skew sort of “combo heavy” in our coverage: “Oooo! I get to talk and write about guitar effects pedals this issue?!?!? Score!”

However, we do take our dedication and responsibility to the entire MI realm very seriously and, for every “fretted focus” issue that sends me (and others) back to junior-high-fanboy levels of excitement or “drum & percussion” books that thrill others on staff, there are those that delve with equal amounts of effort into other realms that may not immediately be within our comfort zones.

This issue takes a deep dive into a subdivision within the world of Band & Orchestra with an exploration of today’s violin and viola market (page 40) and a retailer survey on the topic of strings for orchestral instruments (page 44). Side note: neither of these subjects are entirely outside of my lifetime orbit – I studied violin from the age of 5 until 13 (I was actually pretty good, but my parents figured I had “moved on,” dedication-wise, when they found that in that final winter of study I was using my hardshell case as a sled to speed down the snowy hill with fellow students after lessons).

Surprisingly, I often find these “non-wheelhouse” issues of MMR to be as, or more, exciting. Actually, it’s probably not all that surprising – I already know that I find guitar, bass, drums, et al., (anything you’d find in a traditional hard rock group) fascinating.

What’s cool is to be reminded how many interesting developments are taking place in areas I’m less intimately familiar due to my own listening and playing tendencies. This month’s Roundtable feature on the 2019 violin and viola market was both enjoyable and enlightening to work on.

Hearing – from the vendors, themselves – about the myriad innovations and trends making serious waves in a part of MI I don’t always naturally venture into reinvigorated my appreciation for the whole industry and not just my own, meticulously carved-out corner of it.

This is a fun, fascinating, weird, and exhilarating business we’re all in, in each of our ways. I never, ever forget that… but it’s nice to be gently hit over the head with that fact now and again.

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