When art becomes life; Hendry builds business around love of music


By Shannon Bohle

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TROY — To Trojan City Music owner, music is more than art: it’s life.

“I’m a recovered addict, and music is one of those things that I could always take pride in, through good times and bad, and it connected me with people. I don’t know what my life would be without it,” Trojan City Music owner and manager, John Hendry said. “I was the stereotypical troubled juvenile delinquent — and music was my therapy.”

At 15 or 16, a friend asked Hendry to sing in a band. After being shown some chords, Hendry borrowed the guitar and amp, playing at home, creating a space where the world ceased being an “angry, scary place.”

One Musician’s Journey

Poet and playwright William Congreve wrote, “Music has charms to soothe a savage breast” (meaning heart). Over time, the line became popularized after changing the last word to “beast.’”

Hendry’s journey through life exposed him to an amazing range of musical styles and artists’ influences, all of which he brings to his business.

“I have a very eclectic mix of music influences, from Neil Young to Pantera. My parents are both old hippies, and when I was five years old, they bought me Def Leopard’s “Pyromania.” I played it until the tape broke. After that, I raided my mom’s folk rock collection of Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Neil Young,” Hendry said. “I went on to be an angsty, punk rock and metal kid — and Pantera is one of my loves — playing that kind of music for a long time. These days, I’ve mellowed out into some rock and roll, grabbing my acoustic guitar and an amp, sitting down for a few hours and playing Johnny Cash.”

Sharing the Love

Then Hendry had the chance to share his love of music and the good it can do.

“Coming into this business was something that just fell in my lap,” said Hendry.

After closing Sound City Music, the owner, who had been in business for over 30 years in Troy, sold some of his inventory to Hendry. Hendry said he opened Trojan City Music at 106 East Main St. in Troy on March 11, 2017, after finding an available space that was “convenient, attractive, and incredibly affordable.” Music lesson studios started a few months later, on Jan. 1, 2018.

“Unfortunately, over the past 20 years, a lot of privately-owned music stores have either decreased the services they offer or closed,” said Hendry, but being the only full-service music store within about a 35-mile radius has helped Trojan City Music beat the odds and dramatically expand. Their customers hail from “Sidney, Piqua, Tipp City, West Milton, Covington, Pleasant Hill, St. Paris, Christiansburg, and even some folks as far away as Urbana, and going south, we’re even seeing folks coming in from Vandalia.”

The music store offers retail sales of brands like AotoSound, Blackstar, Casio, Crybaby, D’Addario, Dunlop, EarnieBall, Eden, Elixr, Evans, Flight, Gator, GraphTech, Gretsch, Hohner, Jackson, Kohala, Mapex, Marshall, MXR, NativeAudio, Nomad, NUX, Promark, RICO, RhythmTech, Seymour Duncan, SHURE, Spector, Tagima, Vater, Vic Firth, VOX, Washburn, and others. The store’s sales staff — Phil Doncaster and Caitlyn Harris, along with intern Kayla Auld — answer sales questions.

The holidays are times of gift-giving. One of the most seasonally popular musical instruments is the ukulele.

“Over the past five years that instrument has just become incredibly popular,” said Hendry. This is in part due to its low cost compared to a guitar. “But some bands, like Twenty One Pilots, also incorporate the ukulele to add an Indy-acoustic sound to their music.” While chords on the ukulele are different than any other stringed instrument, it is a great first stringed instrument to learn, especially for young children because its nylon strings are not as hard on their fingers, and it is possible to learn a few songs on the first day. Nevertheless, those aged 16-24 are the most frequent ukulele buyers, Hendry said.

Teaching the Next Generation

The store also does instrument repairs. String instruments are usually repaired on-site, while outside technicians are often called upon to perform band and orchestral instrument repairs. Donated instruments are also repaired before reuse or resale.

“This past week, we had an anonymous donor who donated a Washburn acoustic guitar, and by partnering with the nonprofit charity Operation Veteran and Caregiver Support, it went to a veteran’s 15-year-old son whose only Christmas wish was a guitar,” said Hendry.

Other instrument donors to Trojan City Music have included Jeremy and Lynne Siegrist of the folk-rock band The Typical Johnsons, who donated an acoustic amp to a 4-year-old drummer; Julius Blair, who donated a left-handed bass guitar to a young new bass player; and Chris Elliot of the Dayton heavy metal band Omeni, who donated a Jackson Rhoads style guitar, which was sold and the funds used to place a guitar in a deserving student’s hands.

Many of the donated instruments have gone to children. Getting instruments into the hands of interested young people is important to Hendry. Through their affiliation with Kincaid’s is Music in Springfield, Trojan City Music provides band and orchestra instrument rentals to local school programs in Clark, Shelby, Miami, and Montgomery counties.

Exposing young people to live, adult music is often difficult, because the performers are in often in bars, where they cannot go, explained Hendry, so the store doubles as an entertainment venue.

“All of the employees here are musicians in their own right that play in bands, and we’re all pretty active in the area music scenes. The greater Dayton music scene may be one of the best-talented and most diverse across genres, of any music scene in the country,” said Hendry. “It ranges from Indy-singer/songwriter, country, folk Americana, rock, punk rock, hard rock, and hip-hop. We really work to promote these local artists and carry a number of their CDs, records, and t-shirts, and until COVID hit, we had been doing a free show open to all ages here at the store on the last Friday of every month, and that will be starting up again in January 2022.”

Nine staff members teach “everything this side of banjo and harmonica, along with vocal lessons,” to approximately 200 students, said Hendry.

Every person on staff has their focus area. Chris Aldridge is an instructor of guitar, bass, and ukulele. David Brush is a vocal instructor. Dale Crockett focuses solely on guitar instruction. Tim Hobbs is an instructor of guitar, bass, drums, and piano. Nicholas “Reece” Lincoln teaches guitar, bass, and ukulele. Tara Mar is an expert cello instructor, and Leonore Palermo focuses on piano instruction. Rick Partida, who perhaps has the widest repertoire of knowledge of different instruments on staff provides drum instruction and provides other band and orchestra instrument instruction.

During the winter recital, their best students are selected to be part of a formal concert at the Troy-Hayner Cultural Center.

“Ages ago, my school band director told an auditorium full of potential band students and their parents that learning an instrument tends to coincide with better grades. It turns out that research seems to suggest that musical kids equal better scoring kids (you were right, Mr. Smith). A study from the University of British Columbia found that sustained musical education correlated with higher test scores in other subjects,” said Harris, a salesperson and pre-med student at Wright State. “Playing the drums might give you a leg up in math. There’s actually been a good deal of research into how learning to play music makes the brain better. In a 2005 NPR interview, a Stanford researcher, Keith Devlin, explained that musicians are able to distinguish between spoken syllables more quickly and more reliably than non-musicians, which seems to speak to the ability of musicianship to enhance the brain.”

Hendry, though, did not need to hear the research. He has always known what music can do.

To reach Trojan City Music, call 937-335-2406, visit them online at trojancitymusic.com, their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/trojancitymusic), or on Twitter @trojancitymusic.

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