As we kick off Small Business Week, I wanted to highlight some of the women business owners who give their time and energy to the Tenleytown Main Street community. It only takes one Sunday afternoon walking around the neighborhood to identify the heart of the community – Myrna Sislen and her team at Middle C Music.
When I arrived at Middle C Music before our scheduled appointment, I watched Myrna testing a guitar, greeting customers, and collaborating with a staff member. Students arrived with instruments and teachers gave progress reports to the parents of the students finishing their lessons. Couples and families shopped for instruments and sheet music. There was energetic activity in the large eclectic shop and a medley of sounds as well. I was grateful to get a moment with Myrna to interview her for my blog.
Tenleytown Main Street Member Interviews
Tell me about your business.
We are the only full-service music store in Washington DC. By full service I mean that we offer lessons in several instruments, we rent and repair instruments, we sell instruments and instrument accessories and we sell printed music. We also have recitals in December and May/June, a Halloween recital and my favorite is the Family Recital where members of a family perform together.
Why did you decide to open your business?
(Though I would love to tell you this story, I found a video of her telling it here and I believe the way she tells it is amazing. Please click the link to watch the video on namm.org where she describes the way she saved a struggling music store and made it what it is today, 16 years later.)
What made you choose to open your business in Tenleytown?
Not knowing “the rules” helped me with my vision for the business. Really wanted to support the community and be a resource. I know that I am here at the pleasure 0f the neighborhood. I take that seriously and I know that Middle C Music supports 9 staff and 24 teachers and all of that is possible because of the support from the community.
What is your favorite thing about running your company?
It’s important to me to give back. I’ve been able to donate 39 instruments to the Landfill Harmonic Orchestra, a group of young musicians in Paraguay playing instruments made from recycled landfill scraps. When this group hit the news, everyone wanted to help, I was the only one who actually packed up some instruments and went to the post office and mailed them off to Cateura, Paraguay.
I wanted to do something for the local community as well. During the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM‘s) annual lobbying event in DC, we held a day of service at the Jefferson Academy. My mother graduated from that school when it was called Jefferson Jr. High. When the participants heard that 100 of their 130 musical instruments were in need of repair, I volunteered. So far we have repaired 78 instruments for the Jefferson Academy.
I know I couldn’t give back if it weren’t for the tremendous support of the neighborhood and community.
What is the best advice you’ve received?
I was at a NAMM conference one time and a panel was asked the question “if you had to expand what would you add?” Down the line, each person asked said “lessons” and that really made an impression.
Anything you’d like to add or anyone you’d like to thank?
Yes. I thank my customers. I’m fully aware that they could shop online and find almost everything that we sell cheaper. I thank each person who chooses to shop locally and support our small local business. I thank everyone who makes a purchase in our store because their generous support allows us to give back.
Middle C Music
4530 Wisconsin Avenue, NW
Washington DC 20016