- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 5, 2006

A Northwest D.C. music shop is doubling its size this month, just a fewyears after it nearly closed.

Middle C Music, a Tenleytown store that sells music lessons as well as sheet music, instruments and accessories, was a few days away from closing in March 2002.

Previous owner Pamela Johnson had arranged for the instruments to be sold when customer Myrna Sislen and a business partner who has since left the store, bought it.

“I just thought, ‘You’ve got to do something to save the store,’” Ms. Sislen said. “If the place closed, I knew we’d be looking at another mattress store.”

Ms. Sislen spent the last four years expanding the store’s music lessons, adding summer rock band camps and staging CD signings in an attempt to bring the store back to vitality.

“It’s a place for people to come and experience music, it’s not just a retail store,” she said.

Sales have since climbed to upward of $400,000, Ms. Sislen said. And this weekend, Middle C Music is planning to open an additional 1,250 square feet, most of it studios for private lessons — her shop’s bread and butter.

Private lessons, with instructors who work at the store part time, cost $40 per half hour, regardless of the instrument.

“It’s been tight. There have been some nervous times,” said Ms. Sislen, a classical guitarist who used to teach music at George Washington University. “This is a major nervous time,” she said of the store doubling its size — and rent.

Ms. Sislen’s customers are mostly families with children learning to play musical instruments, as well as baby boomers who are finally getting some time to learn music.

Middle C Music is one of two shops in the District where sheet music is available — the other is Musical Source on 15th Street Northwest.

Sheet music is a tough industry to get into because of the music background required to find obscure songs, songs in different keys or label, which songs are best for each instrument and at each learning level, according to Madeleine Crouch, executive director of the Retail Print Music Dealers Association, a Dallas trade group.

“It requires some pretty advanced knowledge,” she said. “You almost have be a retailer and a music history person.”

Outside of popular titles, most sheet music must be tracked down and ordered from the publishers, she said.

Middle C Music’s reopening party is scheduled to begin Sunday at noon.

In other news …

• Baltimore is touting itself as a female-friendly destination for the next three months, highlighting its museums, art, history and music inspired by women.

More than 50 events inspired by women are scheduled in the city through Mother’s Day. The “In Celebration of Women” event was inspired by Femme, a group of sculptures of the female form by Louise Bourgeois at the Contemporary Museum, a museum that promotes art in the city.

• The Westin Arlington Gateway on Glebe Road, the first hotel to be constructed in Arlington County in 13 years, opened Wednesday. The 336-room hotel features Westin’s rejuvenation feel, complete with warm hand towels upon arrival and white tea scents in the lobby.

• Retail & Hospitality runs Mondays. Contact Jen Haberkorn at 202/636-4836 or jhaberkorn@washingtontimes.com.

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