If someone in your family has ever studied piano or just about any other instrument, there's a good chance they learned how to play thanks to a Cincinnati company, Willis Music. The Willis Music Company's been operating here for almost 114 years as both a publisher and a retail store. Local 12 News Reporter Rich Jaffe found that the key to the music business is why Willis is 'So Cincinnati'.
Shakespere said "If music be the food of love, play on." Walk through the doors of Willis Music and you'll walk right into a Tri-state love affair that's been going on for over a century.
It could be the love of guitars, or keyboards, even the organ at the Reds games came from Willis. Alex Foley studies drums at the Kenwood Store, he also plays three or four other instruments. Waiting for his grandfather who works here, Alex is like a kid in a candy store, or rather music store. "I have a studio at my grandpa's house, he lives just around the block, it's a lot like this, except it's a lot smaller, so this is just like being there, even better you know."
"I've known about the Willis music company since I was a kid. My mom was a piano teacher in Cincinnati for decades and I'll bet you there were only a couple of pieces of music in our household that didn't have the Willis signature on them."
Willis began in 1899 with Charles Willis, John Cranley took over in 1923, and in 1936 he and composer John Thompson published what became the beginners bible, Thompsons Modern Course for Piano. Cranley's son Edward took over in 1965 and now his son, Kevin runs it all. "I went to Xavier, I remember having a talk with one of the priests there who was a teacher of mine, I said you know I'm not sure what I'm called to do he said Kevin you are so fortunate to have the opportunity to be involved in a business that helps people enrich their lives and so the passion in me built over the years as I just saw how peoples lives changed through music."
The original Willis Music Store was at 4th and Elm. While that one closed years ago, Mr. Willis' music store continues to change lives and that makes it sooo Cincinnati.
Willis Music has four locations in the Cincinnati area as well as two stores in Louisville and one in Lexington. Starting in August they'll become the regional distributor for Steinway Piano's.