Music & Sound Retailer September 2021, Vol 38 No 9

Page 36

M I SPY

Heading to the Southern Tier and Central New York

I’m back on the road this month, MI Spy fans! You all know I love to travel, but it seems like I can never really get away on a true vacation. These days, I’m only ever traveling for business. But, hey, these tuxedo dry cleaning bills won’t pay themselves. And until the gin companies get serious about signing me to a sponsorship contract, I’ll have to keep picking up my own martini tab. So it’s back on the road, and back to work. When I got the word from Spy HQ that this month’s mission would take me to some of upstate New York’s coolest college towns, I thought going everywhere by myself might be a bit embarrassing. I am not exactly college aged, after all. I figured a disguise might help me fit into the college bar scene, but when I looked in the mirror, I realized I was dressed exactly like Steve Buscemi in that “How do you do, fellow kids?” meme from “30 Rock.” Fortunately, there are plenty of fun family activities to do in New York State’s Finger Lakes and Southern Tier regions, so I felt I would be less likely to raise suspicion if I was disguised as a typical family man. However, as a debonair spy and a fixture of the single scene, I have no kids of my own. So I enlisted the help of a family who let me bring their two oldest kids along with me. (The family is part of a program Spy HQ has where we call in favors owed to us by people who we’ve helped out in the past. You’d be surprised how often us spies farm out McNeil Music this kind of work to civilians.). With college-aged Temp Agent J and her 4517 Vestal Road younger sister Temp Agent M in tow — and wondering if these rookie Vestal, NY 13850 agents had what it takes to handle a high-risk mission like gathering 607.729.1548 intel on music stores — I packed my hiking shoes and my laptop (and A room full of pianos beckoned to us at McNeil Music, particularly a notepad, because I have a few old-fashioned work habits) into the MI because Agent J just finished taking a course in piano tuning. Atop one Spy Mobile, and we hit the road. of the upright console pianos, there were a few spare piano pieces, and First, we snooped around in the Binghamton area, and then moved J demonstrated what they were and how they are used. on to Ithaca (with a special stopover in Corning). In order to establish The pianos were not the only star of McNeil’s inventory: it carries a our cover, we drove around some famous colleges (including a posh large number of acoustic and electric guitars and basses, percussion, Ivy League school and a few State University of New York (SUNY) drums, orchestral and band instruments, as well as an impressively branches), and I played the part of a dad bringing his kids on a college large selection of sheet music (in which the offerings were especially tour. But even though this was a business trip, I wasn’t going to miss geared toward students). In fact, this store had more choral music out on the opportunity to enjoy all the area had to offer, so we hiked offerings than just about any music store I’ve ever seen. The selection through parks, marveled at waterfalls and gorges, patronized a few exalso included NYSSMA (New York State School Music Association) cellent museums, and ate at some incredible restaurants (including one rankings, and apparently a significant portion of this music is offered as particular ice cream shop, Purity Ice Cream, that I can only describe as a lending library, with the check-in/out dates displayed on cards. “creamy heaven”). The room with the store’s acoustic guitar display was neat and very And oh yeah, we checked out some MI stores, too. The stores on the appealing, and in addition to the wide variety of acoustics, there were agenda for this mission were all independents or small chains. Your MI many banjos and mandolins on offer. Another area had several violins Spy was a bit surprised to find so many worthwhile retailers, including on display, including an unusual S-shaped model. two surprises which I’ll discuss later. And I was particularly keen on McNeil Music had so much to offer, but one thing that it didn’t have, investigating each store’s acoustic guitar offerings this time around, at least in our estimation, was a really friendly staff member who would since the acoustic guitar market has been on fire. 36

SEPTEMBER 2021