The 317 Project tells stories of life in all of Indianapolis’ vibrant neighborhoods – 317 words at a time.
Linda Osborne is a historian of sorts. While not in title, when she talks to her customers at Arthur’s Music Store in Fountain Square she comes armed with years of historical knowledge — whether about the store or the various instruments they sell.
Knowledge about the clientele who’ve visited for generations since the Shelby Street store was opened by her father, Amos Arthur, in 1952. And knowledge about instruments from the country’s past she still holds dear.
Amy England, Osborne’s daughter, helps run the store and can explain both the history of instruments and the science behind how things like aged wood in a guitar changes its sound.
That, along with the store’s sense of nostalgia, keeps customers coming back.
“Their parents brought them in, their grandparents came in here and brought their parents in,” she said.
For the mother-daughter duo, it’s not all about making money. It’s about finding the right fit for the musician and keeping some lesser-known “niche” instruments — like the Appalachian dulcimer and lap steel guitar — alive.
That’s why Arthur’s is among the few places in the world that manufactures the steel bar used to play lap and pedal steel guitars. It doesn’t rake in profits, but they’re happy knowing they can give musicians what they need to play.
“Music is self-care. When you have something that makes you happy that you can’t do,” England said. “Obviously, that can be really bad.”
Once, a guitar player who had lost a finger in a workplace accident came to Arthur’s and they recommended he learn the pedal steel using a glove with a steel bar attached. He learned and “became better at pedal steel than he ever was at guitar,” Linda said.
But sometimes the reason the two stay is simpler. Sometimes selling a child their first guitar or getting someone back into their high school instrument is reason enough.
“There’s something here for everyone,” Osborne said.
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