03 Feb 2016

Arts & Entertainment:

The Hill is Alive With Music on the Hill

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Lindy Campbell of Music on the Hill. Photo by María Helena Carey

Although they’ve been open for only two and a half years and have been in their new location only since December, it’s hard to imagine the neighborhood without Music on the Hill.

Not only is the store, located at 801 D Street NE, a welcome addition to that part of the neighborhood– a little oasis of brick, wood and strings which hopefully will bring more retail; but it is also the only music store in the District this side of Rock Creek Park. No longer do you have to trudge all the way across for quality instruments and lessons with great instructors. Even if you’re tone-deaf, you can get excited looking at the neat rows of instruments hanging from the walls, or browse through the sheet music and dream your rock and roll dreams. (Everyone has rock-and-roll dreams. Everyone.)

The fueler of these dreams is Lindy Campbell, owner of Music on the Hill and a musician herself. Lindy, who has a degree in percussion (!!!!) from Mt. Royal Conservatory, is very serious about music education, while still focusing on making learning fun. (She is the coolest, pretty much). Her musical expertise and experience working for many years as an instructor at Middle C music in Tenleytown –which, up until 2013, was the only full-service music store in the whole city– as well as her understanding of younger musicians, made it easy for her to bring a store that offered music lessons to this side of the city.

I first came across Lindy and Music on the Hill, which at the time was operating out at the second floor of 1453 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, when my older son started violin lessons through his school, School Within School. The music teacher arranged for parents to do instrument rental through Music on the Hill. Having a local store where you can get instruction, rentals, basic tuning, and where you can also find classes for very young musicians is a gift that we hope to get for many years. But how did she get the idea to open a music store in a neighborhood where most new business is oriented toward food and drink? It’s no secret that the Hill has limited retail, despite everyone’s wishes that it were different.

Lindy, like so many of us, was first attracted to the neighborhood thanks to the magic of Eastern Market. Bringing her love of music and music instruction to this part of town made sense: While the internet can ably compete in terms of music inventory, sheet music and prices, it is a lot more challenging to learn how to master an instrument from YouTube tutorials alone. Capitol Hill has a lot of stability and more mature families, who are willing to invest and stick with instrument lessons as children get older– and who are, themselves, more committed to staying around in the neighborhood and keeping things local. Providing lessons from instructors who have majored in their area of expertise has contributed to the well-deserved reputation that Music on the Hill has developed over their short history. Along with students and lessons, the growth of the business expanded to include accoutrements that keep instruments in good shape. Soon, the demand for more retail space grew, but since the inventory is dependent on client demand, it is organic as well.

The wall of guitars that will fuel rock star fantasies in the tamest of dudes or dudettes. Photo by María Helena Carey.

The wall of guitars that will fuel rock star fantasies in the tamest of dudes or dudettes.  Photo by María Helena Carey.

As for the new location, it was a logical step in order to accommodate a growing calendar of lessons. The retail space is generous, while the upstairs rooms can handle beginning ukulele players alongside vocal lessons and intermediate drum-banging. It is also a great place to headquarter their upcoming summer camp, which starts at the end of June (scroll down for more details and for info to sign up). The ability to cater to children’s musical needs while in close proximity to playgrounds such as the SWS/Sherwood Recreation playground and the Northeast DC Public Library is important to balancing out music instruction with the intense demands of children in summer. Music on the Hill also offers a unique program teaching ukulele to three-and-a-half year olds. Lindy had the idea for such a program because she saw a void between Mommy and Me-style music classes, which usually stop around the two year mark, and a more serious instrument learning path which starts for most kids around age six or seven.

A cherry red guitar begging you to learn how to play it, and a sweet display of ukuleles in the background. The portrait windows look out onto D Street NE. Photo by María Helena Carey.

A cherry red guitar begging you to learn how to play it, and a sweet display of ukuleles in the background. The portrait windows look out onto D Street NE. Photo by María Helena Carey.

But lest you think that Music on the Hill only caters to children – or specifically to Charles Allen’s staff’s children (Hi Anne and Laura!)– almost a third of the students are adults. True, many adults are trying to relive the plot to “Jukebox Hero”; but if you ever wanted to play the piano or refine your voice for your minivan’s rendition of the The Lion King (talk about a touring company!), you should stop by and bring a little musical joy into your life. Do it for the kids– they told me you’re a little pitchy during “I Just Can’t Wait to be King!”

What: Music on the Hill, Summer Camp Schedule

Where: 801 D Street NE, and playgrounds nearby

When: Different themed camps start at different dates. The first of the camps is Classical Kids for kids ages 4-6 and starts June 20. There are different themed camps, from Rock Band to Broadway to Guitar. You can find more information about different camps following this link.

Why: Summer is closer than you think. Also because the thought of tiny kids holding tiny ukuleles or violins or singing “Ol’ Man River” (precocious basso!) makes you tear up and renders typing difficult.

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