Billy Cole – A Trip Down Memory Lane
Written by Rob Smittix on June 27, 2020
Billy Cole is a veteran to the music scene even when it’s behind the scenes. Now he has taken his experiences and combined them together for all of us to enjoy. The music shop owner has taken some time out to speak to us about his new release.
RRX: Billy Cole, thank you so much for taking the time to discuss your new book with us. The book is entitled With the Band, Memoir of a Music Store Owner (Cole’s Woodwind Shop). In your own words tell us a little bit about this book.
BC: The book is just that, my memoir. It’s a pretty concise account of my experiences as a woodwind and brass instrument technician. Starting out, I recall the days before applying for the Music Instrument Technology program at SUNY Morrisville as a 17 year old. Then I share many of my stories and experiences throughout my 40 plus year career, including my son working as my apprentice and ends with my work in Haiti.
RRX: In your acknowledgements you thank your high school music teacher (Margaret Coker) for helping you realize your potential and for helping set your musical journey. I am a musician as well but I couldn’t tell you the name of any of my school music teachers. What was it about her influence that made her so memorable? Any other influences worth notating?
BC: It’s worth mentioning that Margaret was not much older than me at the time. She had just landed her first teaching job and must have been in her early 20’s. To me, she was worldly and I respected her as a teacher. I had this sense that she genuinely cared that I did well, not only in my lessons, but as a person in general. A month before graduation, we were having a lesson and she found out I wasn’t going to college for music, in fact I wasn’t going to college at all. Her reaction was to pace back and forth saying, “But you love music, you’ve got to do something with music!” and stormed out of my lesson to retrieve some college brochures. The rest is history as they say.
Another influence in the early years was my college professor Jim Gebler. Jim passed away this spring just as I was publishing the book. I so wanted for him to read my book. I wanted him to see how much he influenced me and changed my life. He not only taught me how to repair woodwind instruments, he taught me how to do it with kindness and a sense of gentle purpose that I will never forget.
Throughout my life I’ve had many others who have inspired me, and I really think that it was an ingredient to my success. To have recognized something greater than myself, adopt it and make it part of my own personal direction.
RRX: This book clearly was decades in the making. Are you still making memoirs today?
BC: The book ends around my 40 year anniversary as a music shop owner. Soon after I decided that enough was enough, Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary came in the shop when he was playing at Lena’s to buy a flute for a friend. My daughter Jennifer was working with me at the shop that day and got to share the experience. Later that summer, the great trumpet player, Doc Severinsen paid a visit to the shop and it goes on and on. So yes, I love to write and I feel that God continues to bless me and the stories keep coming. How can I not write another book… if for nothing else, just to document it for family generations to come. I actually started writing my second book as the first one was being edited.
RRX: Cole’s Woodwind Shop in Saratoga Springs has been a staple in the community for over 40 years. How has the changing times effected your line of work (technology/corporate chains etc.)?
BC: Sure, computers, online mega stores, smart phones and their apps have changed the way we all do business over the years. But at the end of the day, that personal connection that I’ve had with my customers remains exactly the same. There is nothing bigger or better than that.
RRX: I didn’t get into great detail as you see about your memoirs because I’d like to see people buy the book but anything else you care to share?
BC: The cover design of the book incorporates some of the backstage passes I’ve collected over the years. So it may imply that is just an account of my backstage experiences but it is so much more than that. It’s an account all of the wonderful day to day stories I loved to tell my friends and family over the years. It’s about finding extraordinary in the ordinary. It’s about the pure joy one receives from helping another with a God given talent. I can’t even begin to tell you a story now. I won’t stop and the interview will run way too long! hahaha
RRX: Please let our audience know where they can find you, your shop and your book online.
BC: Other than Sunday or Monday when I’m closed, you can find me at my music shop at 47 Phila Street, Saratoga Springs, right under the legendary Caffe Lena. Stop by, point out a photo of an artist on the wall and I’ll tell you a story about he or she. If you’d like to buy a book I’ll have some at the shop. Or you can purchase With The Band, Memoir of a Music Store Owner at Northshire Books website. The direct link is www.northshire.com/book/9781605715155. Or at one of their store’s in Saratoga Springs NY or Manchester VT.