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Industry Rallies To Provide Aid To Storm-Ravaged Houston

...somewhere between $30 and $100 billion worth of property damage. As this issue went to press, the local music industry is still accounting for the storm’s full impact. Of the five Brook Mays locations in the city, three were unharmed, one was flooded, and the condition of the fifth store was unknown because it remained inaccessible. “We were fully stocked and ready for the back to school season, but the season has been postponed and diminished,” said Bill Everitt, Brook Mays CEO. “The situation is bad and will take a long time to recover.”

The Sam Ash Music store on Houston’s I-45 North Freeway escaped major storm damage and never lost power. Shortly after the storm, however, Vice President Sammy Ash said, “We are still in blackout mode because we can’t get to the store from any roads. Fortunately, all our people are accounted for, and some have been using their boats in the rescue effort. So at least while the store is closed, they’re doing some real good.”

In a September update, Ash confirmed the store was back up and running and that sales had been strong since reopening. “How we escaped more [damage] we will never understand, but we will always be grateful,” he said.

As of August 31, the Promark drumstick factory, located in Houston since 1957, was operational and working overtime to recover lost production due to Harvey. With usual freight not operating until September 5, the factory also arranged an extra shipment with six pallets of finished goods to minimize backorders. Jason Talas, Promark production manager, said factory operations were expected to return to normal in September.

At Steinway Piano Gallery of Houston, both a main showroom and a high-end “Selection Center” made it through the storm without serious damage. Casey Saliba, vice president of sales and marketing, said the major task at hand has been fielding service calls from clients whose pianos were damaged in the storm. Houston-based Action Piano Services, which handles the company’s piano-moving needs, has rented two extra warehouses to accommodate pianos brought in for inspection or repair—around 60 in all. One of Steinway Piano Gallery’s tasks has been assessing instruments for insurance claims. “The sheer volume of pianos is mindboggling,” Saliba said. “We’ve seen everything from pianos that were sitting in a foot of water for 24 hours to ones where the water was sitting above the level of the keyboard for three days. We’re doing our due diligence on every piano we pick up, because so much of the instrument is wood that can change over time. We don’t want to tell a client their piano is fine today only for them to start having problems six months from now.”

As Saliba added, the business was closed for more than a week due to power outages and employees unable to get to work. During that time, phone calls to the showroom were forwarded to employees’ phones so they could continue answering service calls. Steinway Piano Gallery of Houston is also providing a Steinway grand for a benefit concert to assist those affected by the hurricane. “We were very lucky to escape any damage ourselves,” Saliba said.

While retailers and manufacturers grapple with the disruption caused by the epic storm, the industry has rallied to provide support for the citizens of Houston. Yamaha artist Vanessa Carlton teamed up to replace a piano that was damaged by flooding. A viral video of Houston evacuee Aric Harding, who had returned to his flooded home to grab toys and games for his seven children, showed him playing the family’s Yamaha piano knee-deep in water. The video caught the attention of CNN’s Anderson Cooper, who interviewed Harding. Carlton was so touched by the story that she worked with Yamaha to get him a replacement piano. “We were all very touched by Aric’s video, and when I spoke with him on the phone, I told him that Yamaha is very happy to replace his piano,” said Tom Sumner, senior vice president, Yamaha Corporation of America.

On behalf of Sam Ash Music and the Ash family, Sammy Ash donated more than $30,000 to relief efforts, declaring, “The Ash family sees this disaster as something that transcends all things, including job description. Yes, Sam Ash Music makes its living on the musicians of this earth, but our heart sees no difference between people at a time like this.”

Guitar Center teamed with MusiCares, a charity of the Recording Academy, to assist impacted musicians, songwriters, recording studios, and audio professionals as they rebuild their lives. For every dollar donated, Guitar Center will match the total contribution up to $25,000. All donations will go directly to MusiCares, which will interface directly with area musicians to help them replace their lost and damaged gear. Ron Japinga, Guitar Center CEO, said, “Partnering with MusiCares will give everyone an opportunity to come together as one music community to help those in need.”

NEMC has responded to the disaster by unilaterally suspending billing to all of its rental instrument customers in the area. It’s also streamlining the process to file Liability Damage Waiver claims to receive replacement instruments for those that may have been lost due to flooding. “Most of our customers have elected to have their monthly rental automatically debited to their credit card via our Easy Pay program,” said NEMC CEO Ron Beaudoin. “The last thing these families need is to be charged for an instrument they many not even have any more at a time when they are trying to cover the cost of basic human needs like food, clothing, and shelter.”
 
D’Addario employees at the ProMark factory banded together to create a GoFundMe page to aid coworkers who lost property and possessions in the flooding. Funds raised are being matched by a company donation of up to $2,500. New York-based effects manufacturer Electro-Harmonix chipped in with $4,000 in donations to the Texas Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and other local aid organizations.

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