Tuning up for isolation

By John Lewis

If you've got lemons, make lemonade — or, in this case, jam.

At the end of lockdown, Shepparton could be in for one big jam session if the musical instrument market is any indicator.

Shepparton's Little Music Shop owner Bruce Curnow didn't know what to expect when self-isolation rules tightened last month in the wake of the spreading coronavirus pandemic.

“Initially we were very scared that we would be shut down. With all the government help that's out there, we fell between the cracks and we were worried that we were just going to have to dissolve the business to be able to go on the dole,” Bruce said.

His income from playing drums in the popular covers band Current Stand had already disappeared overnight when public gatherings were banned.

But three weeks later, things are looking up.

“Customers were ringing up and asking if we were still open. They were worried about not being able to buy strings or sticks — consumables.

“Then suddenly people's shopping habits changed and they weren't just coming in to look around, they were coming in and saying I'll have that. I've always wanted to play guitar and now I've got the time to do it,” Bruce said.

He said guitars, ukuleles, keyboards and pianos were the most popular.

“It started around the start of the holidays — people were thinking `I'm locked down, I can't go away for Easter — let's buy a musical instrument'.”

He said the rush had been so big, Yamaha Australia had run out of stock for pianos and keyboards until the end of May.

“There were some days before Easter when things were very bleak through the till and I thought `right, this is it. This might be curtains for us'.

“But then the next day it was like two days before Christmas — everyone was buying,” he said.

Bruce and wife Michelle are now preparing for the situation to remain unchanged until at least the end of winter.

And just maybe there is an even brighter light at the end of the tunnel.

“I would love to think that more people have discovered the pleasure of playing music. It's not an immediate thing like Xbox — it's not instant gratification, but in the long term it sure is.”