How Piano Led to a Passion for Music Retail
Music has been an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember. My father started teaching me to play the piano when I was 4 1/2 years old, and seeing my immediate interest and love for the instrument, he enrolled me in formal lessons by age 5. In addition to the obvious enjoyment I received from this music education, it also became an important part of my overall education as a child. It helped me to build confidence, discipline, and concentration, as well as to overcome my fears when I performed in recitals. It increased my appreciation for music when attending a performance or just listening to music in the car; I now have a deeper understanding of what’s behind the music. In my case, a music education also led me to a life-long career in the musical instrument industry, initially in piano sales.
In addition to the obvious enjoyment I received from this music education, it also became an important part of my overall education as a child.
After graduating high school and knowing that I would take a year off before heading to college, I was looking for employment in the interim. I came across a Jordan Kitt’s Music store in one of the malls that I had visited previously as a customer. Paired with my interest in playing the piano, it seemed a natural fit. I subsequently took a job in sales there, and soon found that I liked working for the company and in the music retail industry—so much so that I ended up spending my entire career in the music retail industry. Eventually, years in music retail led to my acquisition of Jordan Kitt’s, where I have worked for over the last 32-plus years.
Selling an instrument is all about matching the right piano with the right customer. It is also about encouraging the customer in the right way to make a positive decision, and not to put it off—which is the natural human tendency!
One sale that stands out in my memory is from the mid-’90s. A family was shopping for an upright piano for their teenage daughter at a promotional event we had organized with the local college music departments. The parents were very deliberate in their decision-making process. Upon finally deciding to make the purchase, the daughter burst into tears because she was so excited about finally having a piano to practice on. This deep and emotional effect that music has on kids is ultimately what keeps most of us in the industry. Today, it’s still the positive effect that music has on the kids that inspires and motivates me.
This deep and emotional effect that music has on kids is ultimately what keeps most of us in the industry.
A few years ago, I had the honor of presenting a Give A Note grant check to one of the Atlanta public schools. The kids and the teachers were so excited; they organized an acceptance event and performance to celebrate and thank us for the grant. The presentation ended up on that evening’s news broadcast—a welcome bit of good news for a change!
This career in the music instrument industry ultimately stemmed from my passion for music being cultivated: through both my education, as well as my parents’ and teachers’ support. It’s impossible to list all the benefits that making music has had on those of us who are involved; however, the result is clearly an improved life experience in many areas, both directly related and unrelated.
Chris Syllaba is a member of the Give A Note Foundation Board.
Mr. Syllaba has a proven track record of leadership in the music industry. He has dedicated his life to music starting with piano studies at age 4½ and entering the keyboard industry in 1984 at the age of 18. In June of 2011 he completed the acquisition of Jordan Kitt’s Music, a century-old piano retail chain that he spent his entire career with.