Music Max Thrives in Palo Cedro
Story by Jim Dyar Photo by Eric LeslieAl Mires knew music instruction would play a prime role when he started Music Max during the summer of 2008, but he didn’t realize how critical a role.
Though Mires couldn’t foresee it at the time, he was opening a music store at the beginning of a long, difficult recession. And even before the economy was stalling out, the trend of Internet music equipment sales cutting into local retail business was deepening.
“The economy hit the music industry significantly,” Mires says. “It forced us to retool, sometimes every six months. I’d say the focus has become more organic. We try to provide great repair (service) and great lessons, and from that, we sell some things.”
On a typical week, more than 200 music students pass through the doors of the Palo Cedro business. Kids, teens and adults meet with teachers in a variety of disciplines to improve their skills on guitar, bass guitar, drums, piano/keyboards, violin, brass, woodwind, vocals and more.
The store has also become a regular venue for student concerts and clinics by touring professionals passing up and down the I-5 corridor. The store has hosted notable virtuosos such as guitarists Larry Mitchell and Dave Martone, and bassists Stu Hamm, Michael Manring and Brian Bromberg.
Mires finds fulfillment by hosting such a scene at Music Max. A few decades back, he says he was an unfocused kid with “one foot on the wrong side of the tracks.” During his senior year at Central Valley High School, Mires signed up for a guitar class on a whim and found that music provided hope and direction. It wasn’t long before his grades were up and he was earning money playing in a band.
Mires has made a living with music ever since, playing or recording with the Diamonds, Coasters, Miami Sound Machine, Merle Haggard, Brad Hawkins, actor Steven Seagal and more. North State audiences have long heard his guitar skill in such groups as the jazz-based Brown Shoe and in a duo with guitarist Tyler Mansfield. His original fusion band, “After Dark,” toured and recorded at Sony records under the production of Paul Klingberg.
Mires and his wife Shelley have two sons, Alex and Jake, both of whom are musicians and sometimes perform with their father.
“Owning a music store is an extension of being a musician,” says Mires. “In five years I can’t think of one customer I’d remove. Musicians in a music store, at least in this town, are really great people.”
In addition to Mires, who teaches guitar, the store features a group of instructors who are exceptional masters of their craft, Mires says. They include Marvin Allen (guitar), Mike Mathis (guitar/music production), Kenji Kato (drums), Wade Craver (bass guitar), Cleveland Boney (piano), Wendy Wendt (fiddle) and more. “Some kids, when I start working with them, are kind of dark and quiet,” says Kato, a graduate of the Berklee College of Music and the Yamaha Music Academy of Japan. “But after a few lessons, they start getting more positive and they start smiling a lot. I learn a lot from them, actually. Kids don’t have any preconceived ideas. They have many fresh ideas.”
Kato’s youngest student is 4 and his oldest is 68. His instruction room includes two full drum kits, a computer, keyboard and speakers.
“I have student concerts about four times a year,” Kato says. “It’s nice because father, mother, grandmother can come and hear them play.”
About seven months after it opened, Music Max held its first student concert. The events have grown so popular that the business holds them about every two months. Though it’s not a requirement for any student to perform, it’s rewarding to see young and not-so-young musicians play their first notes before an actual audience, Mires says.
“You may be passing on music to a youngster who will then pass it on to another youngster and on and on,” Mires says. “I know kids and adults who have been through tough circumstances and find comfort expressing themselves through music. It’s an important thing for healing. Scientifically, it’s been proven that kids in music programs do much better in school.”
Music Max • 9472 Cedro Road, Palo Cedro (530) 547-7070 • www.musicmaxonline.com