After 21 years in the Houston area, next month RBC Music will no longer host a local location. The city's last full-service sheet music store will shut its doors on May 15.
Previously, RBC had partnered with H&H Music to supply a wide selection of piano, guitar, instrumental, and choir music to all the stores in the chain. In Houston, there was always a main sheet music center mostly based in the H&H location on the Katy Freeway. It was this location where teachers and parents all over the city would flock to obtain method books, audition selections, solos for the UIL competition, concert and marching band program literature, and more.
Upon the bankruptcy of H&H Music eight years ago, RBC (where I've worked for the past 13 years) opened a store on Blalock and continued serving the community as a standalone enterprise. It was still one of the several businesses in town that sold sheet music, but online sales and digital downloads have begun to erode the sheet-music business and force consolidation.
Southern Music closed its Houston store nearly a decade ago, and even that company's publishing arm was finally bought out last year. Wadler Kaplan eventually became part of the Penders chain, and then passed on to become Dowling Music on the Southwest Freeway across from Lakewood Church. They closed their doors at the end of February.
AMC Music on Shepherd remains open, dealing almost exclusively in choral and vocal, and following a departure from Dowling Rick Valentine partnered with the Houston Piano Company to provide piano methods, classical repertoire and recital pieces to local keyboard teachers.
The days where you could walk into a building and see row after row of literature for all instruments are now officially done in Houston, though. The main RBC store in San Antonio remains open, and generally provides shipping to Houston overnight.
I've worked at RBC Music long enough to see students become teachers and children become pros. Losing the Houston store is going to leave a large gap in the city, which I hope someone will fulfill. I will very much miss guiding kids through their UIL selection choices, helping band directors pick out their program tunes, and just in general serving as the provider of music to a city that dearly loves it.
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One area that has all but eroded away thanks to the online world is pop music folios: Big books full of Tori Amos, the Beatles, Bruce Hornsby, Los Lonely Boys, and the like. The Houston location has moved many of these remnants of a previous era of music into a $5 sale bin in hopes of finding them homes with fans who will love them.
If you want to come say good-bye to yet another area of the music industry being left behind, I'll be happy to see you.
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