Business

Griggs Music is ready to 'upsize' your violin

Shop nears its busy season

A violin on display at Griggs Music in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Jun. 13, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
A violin on display at Griggs Music in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Jun. 13, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — It seems like a quiet afternoon at Griggs Music’s northeast Cedar Rapids shop, but looks can deceive.

“We’re getting toward the busy season now,” Rich Wagor said. “Signing new contracts, maybe a couple upsizes on string instruments, making sure everybody has the things they need.”

Wagor has managed the shop for just more than two years. Griggs, founded in Davenport in 1903, opened its Cedar Rapids store in 2011.

The company, which specializes in supplying instruments to students and their schools’ music programs, had contracts with customers within the Linn-Mar school district and needed a location to service it.

“This shop basically exists to be a place where kids who have rental contracts with us can come and return instruments, bring them in for repairs,” Wagor said. “The main thing is to make sure that the people who need stuff and have contracts with us, we can provide it for them — reeds for a saxophone, strings for instruments.”

The shop also stocks “step-up” instruments so students can move up to a properly-sized violin or other stringed instrument as they grow. Stringed instruments are leased, while band instruments are usually rent-to-own.

“If you’ve been renting for two years or three years, and you want to get a decent beginning instrument once your kid’s on a full-size violin, we’ve got that,” Wagor said. “If you’ve been renting since you were in the fifth grade at Linn-Mar and you’re in high school now, we’ve got a $3,500 instrument that you can get a 60 percent discount on.”

Wagor visits schools to keep abreast of their program requirements.

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“I go around to Linn-Mar and all the Cedar Rapids schools and the Catholic schools, too, and talk to them and see if there’s anything they need,” he said. “The big thing with the schools is stopping by to see if they need repairs.”

Wagor himself is a product of Cedar Rapids schools’ music programs.

“I started at Arthur (Elementary) school in fourth grade,” he said. “They told my mom that if I was five feet, four inches tall, I could play bass because they had a half-sized bass. I don’t remember, but my parents took me to a Cedar Rapids Symphony concert and said, ‘Do you think you’d want to play one of those instruments?’ And I supposedly said, ‘Yeah, I want to play that one,’ and pointed toward the bass section.”

After earning a bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Iowa and a master’s from the Manhattan School of Music, Wagor was a member of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and principal bassist with the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony and Dubuque Symphony.

He’s performed with Orchestra Iowa and other groups across the Midwest. In addition, he’s the bassist for the Bernemann Brothers Band and the Roots of Rhythm Trio.

Wagor, who has taught at the University of Northern Iowa, at Coe and Cornell colleges, and at the Eastern Iowa Arts Academy in Cedar Rapids, has noticed young musicians seem to be branching out.

“More of them play multiple instruments,” he said. “They want to be in band and orchestra. Some of them band, orchestra and choir.”

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AT A GLANCE

• Manager: Rich Wagor

• Business: Griggs Music

• Address: 3913 Center Point Rd. NE

• Phone: (319) 294-1999

• Website: www.griggsmusic.com

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