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'It's All About the Music' at Advance Music Center

By Pamela Sosnowski

Advance Music Center of Burlington has the distinction of being one of Vermont's largest music stores, but for Owners Jeff Wheel and Mike Trombley, there's more to the center's 33 years in business than just selling instruments. "We strive to offer our customers an experience, not just a sale," Jeff says. "We take pride in making sure that a purchase enhances a customer's musical passion."

Musicians of all levels will find just about everything they need at Advance Music Center, from instruments to gear and accessories. For starters, the store proudly offers a large selection of electric, acoustic, and bass guitars from Taylor, Martin, Fender, Washburn, Ibanez, Yamaha, and more. They also sell keyboards, synthesizers, drums, sound systems, and several woodwind and brass instruments commonly used by school bands. The store allows its band instruments to be conveniently rented or purchased.

The center also carries the state's largest collection of acoustic instruments; besides the wide array of guitars, customers will also find banjos, mandolins, guitar/banjo hybrids, and ukuleles. A ukulele, says Wheel, is the perfect instrument for a beginner looking for an inexpensive "thing to strum."

But a budding musician won't be on their own once they leave the store with an instrument; Advance Music offers lessons seven days a week in electric, acoustic, and bass guitar, as well as in drums, piano, voice, violin, and ukulele. The lesson room area was renovated earlier this year, and seven new teaching labs are available to accommodate more students. Over 150 students take lessons at Advance Music Center in an average week, and each lesson is one-on-one with an instructor who gets to know the student and teaches them at their own pace.

Students are also encouraged to learn the style of music and songs they most want to play.
"Our instructors work hard to make lessons fun and exciting," says Wheel. "If lessons are too regimented and stiff, then the students won't have fun and won't be inclined to practice. Practice is so important when learning an instrument." Wheel believes that successful instruction requires both patience and enthusiasm - so that students can "follow their passion and be the best that they can be."

The music center recently hosted a Taylor Guitar Roadshow event, one of several special evenings held in-store throughout the year. Taylor staff and guitar makers visited from the factory's El Cajon, California headquarters to give demos of their redesigned 600 and 800 series and invite attendees to try them out. Guitar clinics are periodically held to help guitar players hone new playing techniques and practice techniques that they find challenging. Twice a year, the store also holds two very popular yard sales that often encourage new players to purchase and learn an instrument.

For Wheel, this is the best part of running his business. "We especially love seeing new musicians, young and old, getting excited about playing music," he says. "At Advance Music, it's all about the music."

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