In 1981, King Music was introduced to the area. After four decades and thousands of music lessons and instrument sales, the business still stands as a recognized member of the community.
Back in the ’70s, brothers Randy and Dave King made business cards while attending Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School offering music lessons to students and community members. A few years later at Millikin University, budding music entrepreneur Randy and his roommate, John Larson, developed the idea for King Music, which was founded in June 1981.
Six months into the business, Larson left to pursue other interests, and Dave stepped in to work with his brother, while Randy was also working as a school music teacher and band director. The company initially opened on Broadway Street in Bradley, moved to downtown Kankakee and then back to Broadway at a new location in 1994, where the business still stands today.
It has been selected as Small Business of the Year as part of the Daily Journal’s 2021 Progress Awards.
Four decades after its fruition, King Music is still thriving in the community despite the challenges caused by the pandemic.
After Dave passed in 2017, his son, Ben, became co-owner with Randy, and Randy describes Ben as being the “second generation” owner of King Music.
Ben and Randy agree that 2020 was the roughest year in the company’s history, but they found ways to expand their services. This included offering more online sales, scheduling lessons online and the ability to rent instruments online. They also added the service of sound installation.
“We’ve found ways to adapt, as musicians do, and that’s helped us stay viable through all of this,” Ben said.
Being that King Music also collaborates with schools in the area, programs such as band, orchestra and choir being shut down over much of the last year proved to be another pandemic-ridden challenge. Lessons have been able to come back with proper mitigations, as has King’s program for kids.
This program stemmed out of Randy being asked to be part of a national conference more than 20 years ago regarding music and right and left brain development. The program is for ages 6 months through 6 years old, and is led by licensed music therapist Leigh Ann McKenzie.
Randy explained that research has found the highway between the right and left brains is wider when children are exposed to some form of musical training.
“More information can flow and more connectivity happens,” Randy said.
Both Randy and Ben reflected on how special it’s been to provide lessons to musicians at all levels over the years, and Ben said that the best part is seeing confidence levels in musicians increase after participating in a recital.
“Seeing them for the first time with their guitar or their piano and seeing that little sparkle afterwards, helps them continue playing,” said Ben. “And from there, we’ve seen them go on to teach music and perform in different groups.”
Ben said that King Music specializes in not only teaching music, but helping musicians figure out what to do with their developed passion — whether it be teach, perform, write or any of the many paths one can take with music.
At the end of the day, being part of the community and being able to share music with those in the community is something that King Music holds most dear. From celebrating World Music Day each year in June to hosting Strings for Food — an event in which guitar owners can get six new strings installed in exchange for six nonperishable food items for those in need — King Music continues to work to connect with the community.
And it’s through music that communities, no matter how big or small, can connect with one another.
“Our slogan is ‘Making music a part of your life,’” shared Randy, who said that when it comes to taking up music, “it’s never too late.”