A lifetime of memories and music all started with a fire in 1978. Elaine and Dick Wilson saw the original location of their music store burn in an act of arson, along with surrounding dress shops and restaurants.
A lifetime of memories and music all started with a fire in 1978. Elaine and Dick Wilson saw the original location of their music store burn in an act of arson, along with surrounding dress shops and restaurants. The fire moved the store to the Camdenton Square for five years until 1983. The store then moved near Main Street Music Hall in Osage Beach and settled down for a few years more. In Eldon, a well known music store by the name of Vernon Music sat open for 35 years until the owner could no longer manage the store. The Wilson’s decided they didn’t want to see the music business of Eldon move to Jefferson City, so they took on the business at Vernon Music. This would be where they would finish their career in August 2019 after 32 years in Eldon and 43 years in total.
But that’s the quick history of the Wilson’s long journey. It doesn’t include the hundreds of student hours taught and the dozens of instruments in stock. It doesn’t include the thousands of hours manning the stores and the love put into making sure every child walked out of Wilson Music with a new instrument to learn and love. That part of the story is the tale of a love for music between a loving couple.
Elaine says that the store was never about selling merchandise. She says it was all about a life-long love of music and teaching. Dick graduated with a masters degree from UMKC with skills in trumpet, french horn and trombone. Elaine has a bachelor’s degree in teaching music with a vocal music major. The couple met at Missouri State University in Springfield outside the women's dormitory during a marching band rehearsal.
Both Elaine and Dick would go on to teach at public schools. Their first teaching gig was in a town with less than 300 people. The couple would go on to move between Republic, Brunswick and Kansas City.
Along the way, each were teaching various forms of music and working on their education. Pregnancy changed the course of their lives and switched their focus to raising a family. Elaine says their lives changed with a phone call that brought them to Lake of the Ozarks where they would raise their family and continue to pursue their shared love of music.
“Dick got a telephone call one day from a friend we made in Brunswick,” Elaine said. “He said “How would you like to make $40,000 next year. This was in 1969.”
This call would finally land the couple at the lake with Dick selling land. This supplied the couple with a good financial footing and Elaine says that, after some time working this job, Dick approached her and simply said “Let’s open a music store.” The rest is history.
Decades have passed since the Wilson’s decided to venture into the music store business. In August, the store officially closed in Eldon and Elaine is moving on. She plans to stay active in music providing personal lessons and playing.
Dick died in July after battling Squamous Cell Lung Cancer. Dick started chemotherapy in March. At the time, they had thought he may make it through and come back to work. But things progressed for the worse and Elaine was faced with making the choice to close the business they had built over the years.
Although the doors have closed, the fond memories of working side-by-side will always remain.
Elaine says that a number of the highlights attached to their career include playing with Riverview Baptist Church for 24 years and, of course, the many students they have been able to teach. She says that some of the students she and Dick had taught over the years were children of other students they had taught. Elaine focused on mainly vocal teachings while Dick worked with nearly any instrument asked of him. Elaine’s current piano students will continue to learn at her home.
Dick was a charter member of the Lake Area Arts Council and both were involved with lake musical theater and orchestra work. Being able to commit their talents into the community is something Elaine says they had always both enjoyed and looked back on fondly.
Elaine says the store will be holding an auction soon to get rid of the remaining stock left over and the hardware from the store. Owning the store, she says the plan is to also sell the building.
Like many other local businesses around the lake, Elaine says the store suffered in recent years with the competition of online sales. She says they went from selling 4-6 pianos a month to 4-6 a year. The same for guitar and band instrument sales. However, the individual help and specialized teaching and instrument tuning was something that many people came back for year after year. Dick was well-known throughout the lake area not only for his musical skills but for the expert tuning skills. “We had a steady clientele that always came back,” Elaine said.
Looking back at the many years and the many students taught, Elaine says it simply came down to a love and passion for music. She says that this store and this skill was a path laid out by God and was meant to be.
“I’ve always said, this has always been between myself, Dick and [God],” Elaine said. “I’ve run the race, I’ve finished the course.”