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Chinook Music Service: Sweet music

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Mike Conrad, left, teaches Mikel Poulsen to play a drum set in one of the many new instruction rooms at Chinook Music in East Wenatchee. Both are from Wenatchee.

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1. As a Wisconsin native, he’s a big Green Bay Packers fan. Sturzl keeps a small Packers football in his office, but otherwise Chinook Music is bereft of Packers memorabilia. “I have a lot more, but I don’t bring all the stuff in because I’ll just get harassed by the staff,” says Sturzl, who, of course, relished the team’s Super Bowl victory in February.

2. Even though Sturzl played guitar in rock bands when he was younger, he prefers to play a piano nowadays.

3. Sturzl has a wide variety of musical interests. “Everything from classical to jazz to rock,” he said.

4. Seeing as how he named his business after a fish, it should come as no surprise to learn that Sturzl enjoys casting lines in his free time.

— Doug Flanagan, Business World

Steve Sturzl can speak from personal experience about the benefits that can come from getting involved with music at a young age.

As a child growing up in the upper Midwest, Sturzl joined his school’s band. As he learned more and more about music and became a better musician, he began to notice that he had begun to develop in other areas of his life as well.

When I got involved in band, my grades went up — period,” he said. “Music education is crucial. It serves so many good purposes in schools. The kids that are in band are usually the better students, but they’re (not just good) students who take band. They are oftentimes better students as a result of band. Skills develop that wouldn’t (develop) if (a student) wasn’t involved. You learn discipline, self-control.”

That’s why Sturzl works hard at his job as the owner of Chinook Music Service in East Wenatchee to make sure that burgeoning music students all over North Central Washington have everything they need to continue to pursue their passion.

Sturzl works directly with school music directors in the area to ensure that their needs are met. If that means helping a student select an instrument to play, he’ll do it. If that means showing up at the site of a concert or contest to provide repair services to an instrument, even if the instrument wasn’t sold at his store, he’ll do it. If that means providing instrument lessons for a student, he’ll do that, too.

Steve is an awesome guy for what he does with the schools,” said Ray Dietz, the music director at Eastmont High School. “He has a business, but he also realizes that his business is contingent on the schools. Basically, the parents and kids are his clientele. He bends over backward to support the schools in whatever way he can.”

Chinook Music has been serving the Wenatchee Valley for 16 years and provides instrument sales and rentals, as well as lessons and in-store repairs.

But Sturzl knows that perhaps the most critical service his store provides is assisting the area’s student musicians.

It’s nice to be able to provide that,” he said. “I have fond memories of when I was first getting into it, going to the music store, getting an instrument, getting a kick out of looking at all of them and drooling on them. It’s how people get started.

(The) more players that are out there, the more (good) players, encourages more players. That kind of exposure is nothing but good for us. The more musicians there are, the better off we are.”

The service that Sturzl provides is even more crucial, in his view, because many schools are scaling back their music and arts programs due to budget cuts.

That’s why he’s willing to assist any band program from Moses Lake to Twisp and everywhere in-between.

We just have a very large area that we cover,” he said. “(Music) has lost a lot of support in our schools, I’m afraid. That’s too bad. The pies are smaller, so you have to go around and find more pies to get a piece of, or get bigger pieces of those smaller pies.”

His efforts are vital to the continued success of the schools’ music programs, according to Wenatchee High School band director Jim Kovach.

Chinook has always been there for us when we need something,” Kovach said. “We’re not in a big city, so when we need something that’s esoteric in nature, Steve can order it and get it to us within a week, which is great for us because we’re pretty busy. He really responds to the needs of the students. His service is good, friendly and kind of goofy.”

Sturzl grew up in Wisconsin and attained a college degree in music. While his studies focused on piano, he played guitar in several rock bands while he was in school. After graduating, Sturzl abandoned his original goal of becoming a music educator to get into the instrument repair business, which he worked in for 15 years.

After moving to the Wenatchee Valley — he fell in love with the area after visiting a friend — Sturzl worked for several years at the Band Box in downtown Wenatchee before opening Chinook Music in 1995.

You get into (music), and it’s an enjoyable thing. It becomes a passion,” Sturzl said. “As far as the retail aspect of it, I just sort of fell into it as time went by because of my background and knowledge. It just seems to be something I was fairly good at, so that doesn’t hurt, either. It’s probably a bit more lucrative being a business owner than a musician on the road. I wasn’t extraordinary enough to make a good living at it, I’m sure.”

Last year, Chinook Music moved into a 5,000-square foot building at 510 N.E. Second Street. The interior has five sound-proof studios, including the retail space used to display amplifiers and speakers. The building also includes a full-service repair shop.

The Eastmont High School jazz band performed at the new store’s grand opening celebration.

Steve is willing to do what it takes to help me as a director do my job better,” Dietz said. “If I need something, and I can’t stop by the store to get it, he’ll bring it by the school. If I need something at the last minute in an emergency — a drum head breaks at a parade, for example — he’ll bring it right over and we’ll settle up later. He puts on ‘instrument rental nights,’ where he has instruments available for the kids to help them figure out what they’re interested in and get them started in the band program or orchestra.

He provides incredible service to me and the kids in my program. I have no idea where we would be without his business.”