The brick building at 1300 Jefferson Davis Highway has been the starting point for many budding, young musicians in the Fredericksburg area. Since 1978, Roberson's Music has helped hundreds of families with music instrument rentals and repairs. Harry Roberson, his wife, Sheila and son, James, have run the business and have made it a staple in the community, not just for its services, but for its outreach. The family takes great pride in giving back to a community that has supported it for over 30 years. The Roberson's firmly believe that an education in music -- be it a lifetime commitment or just a hobby -- helps to create well-roundedness in children.
Fredericksburg Parent and Family sat down with the Roberson's.
Fredericksburg Parent: Roberson's Music has been an asset to the Fredericksburg community since 1978 when it opened as a band instrument repair shop. When did you decide to go from repair to rental?
Harry Roberson: About 1981. It was pretty much a natural next step actually. After doing repair for a while we realized that it the next thing to go in to.
Sheila Roberson: It started with used instruments and we would refurb them and from there we would we would put them into our rental fleet. So it started out small and grew quite large.
FP: Why did it become important to lead the way in assisting school music programs?
HR: Because music in the lives of children is so important. It helps them to learn in other subjects. It's something that parents have understood over the years -- how music enhances the learning of their children. It lets children express themselves.
FP: Approximately how schools in the area do you provide student rentals?
SR: All of Spotsylvania, all of Stafford, all of King George, city of Fredericksburg, some of Westmoreland, some of Orange County, Caroline County, Louisa County and home school programs.
FP: Is it important to for the community to know that you're family owned and operated?
HR: Absolutely. I know for myself I feel very comfortable dealing with businesses that are family run. You feel a sense of honesty there. You feel like you're dealing with the actual people who are controlling the business. In a family business...somebody has to be there. It creates a good relationship with the customer when they know the people who own and operate the business.
James Roberson: Also, one, you get the quality of service and two, you know that [the company] is in the community so that money is going back into the community. From the support side of it, a lot of our advertising goes to school fundraisers and we go out to school concerts to support people.
FP: What's it like seeing a parent bring a child into the store for their first rental?
HR: It's a very heartwarming experience to see it begin. I'm always interested to find out how a child got interested in music. Did they see something on television? Did they hear a band at school play? Some kids hear music in movies or on television. They hear mom and dad playing records at home. There are a lot of different ways kids get involved with music. So to see that look on their face like "wow, I'm going to get to play an instrument" is great. It's great to parents who support that kind of thing.
JR: We go out to schools and do the testing on kids who say they want to be in band or orchestra and they get to see if they can make sounds on different instruments, that's a good experience, too.
SR: And if someone says that they want to test an instrument, we'll let them do it right here in the shop.
FP: There are studies that suggest that there is there a difference in maturity and in academic performance between students who play instruments and those who do not. Have you found this to be true?
HR: Absolutely. It's stimulation of the brain. It's hand-and-eye coordination. You have to read music and sing it. You have to be able to read and play music and march.
SR: Kids in band seem to be more scheduled. They have to schedule practice time and their study times. It also puts a group of kids with a common goal together and they help one another.
HR: It's not the kind of activity where you find, in general, kids who are getting into trouble with the law. Now kids get into all sorts of thing. What I'm saying is that your typical band kid is a pretty straight kid and is surrounded by kids of the same likes and parents who support them. They progress through life pretty well. Their brains are exercised.
FP: How should music education be approached or encouraged by a parent?
HR:: They should let their child hear music as much as possible, especially live performance. Anything at the Kennedy Center. They have free concerts every night of the year. They have a world-class, top-notch group that performs every night. And it's free.
SR: Another thing that doesn't cost is the Rappahannock POPS, it's free to students.
JR: It doesn't have to just be classical. It can something at Celebrate Virginia like a county or a rock band. A lot of times these bands come and they use live instruments that [the kids] play like a flute or a saxophone and the kids can see that and see how cool that is that their favorite bands are using real instruments.
HR: Anything a child can go to and see performance is tremendously stimulative to the mind.