Music shop measures self beyond marking time

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At 72, Ted Hoffmann is known around Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes as a resident music historian. His research has uncovered stories about jazz bands and classical ensembles competing against one another as they sailed area bayous.

Research of regional roots found that the origins of Dixieland were not limited to New Orleans, but had contributors blowing in from Thibodaux.

This music man is also president of the Thibodaux Community Band and a performer with the Bayou Dixieland Band.

Ted Hoffmann did not start out in the music business, but he found his identity there. Teaching science failed to satisfy the creative side of the educator, tuba player and drummer.

So, Ted joined his brother, Lindy, a Thibodaux music teacher at the time, and began repairing and selling musical ins truments in what was at first a part-time business.

Dating itself back 54 years, Hofman Music grew, from being conducted out of a residence to being an instrumental presence that covers seven parishes.

Today, professionals frequent the store because of quality products and service. It is where new musicians of all ages can get their start, and veteran performers have commercial needs met.

Ted’s son, Scott, grew up around the music store and in time moved into managing the operation’s business aspects. His work ranges from writing service contracts with schools and churches to securing vintage instruments for movie producers.

The father-and-son Hoffmanns bought out Lindy in the late 1980s then added instrument repair specialists and piano tuners to broaden their reach.

In addition to a list of products, accessories, services and sheet music, more than 300 students a week visit the Jackson Street store to learn the basics and hone their playing skills. It is the future of that activity that has the Hoffmanns adjusting business plans.

“Internet business is killing us,” Scott said. Because of poorly made instruments sold at cut-rates on various websites, many consumers are opting for cheap-priced imports at the expense of quality and lifelong owner satisfaction.

Scott said that a properly fitted instrument is important for playing ability, and something that cannot be accomplished online. When an instrument does not fit the performer, it leads to frustration and loss of interest, no matter what basic talent might be present.

“No-name instruments don’t play in tune,” Scott said. “And they can’t be adjusted to play in tune. So, you can have a kid that might play beautifully with a good instrument, but if he has a cheap one off the Internet that does not fit him, he will get frustrated and quit. That’s a shame,” Scott said.

Another problem with Internet-purchased instruments, these music men noted, is that replacement parts are difficult to locate because, as an example, parts from saxophone pads to trumpet valve springs are not interchangeable. “We won’t even work on repairing no-name instruments,” Ted said. “It is not worth it.”

Online or in person, fretted instruments remain the most frequently sold, followed by sound system reinforcement, school band instruments, printed music, electronic keyboards and accessories, according to Scott.

The elder Hoffmann noted that while most musicians will never become professional performers, the ability to play a musical instrument can bring a lifetime of enjoyment, offer therapeutic elements for people with certain physical ailments and even has been shown to enhance academic and career accomplishment.

Ted said his greatest satisfaction, however, has come in facilitating recovery efforts following Hurricane Katrina. Beginning in 2006, Hoffmann Music delivered instruments to churches and schools impacted by the devastating storm. With funds generated by the Mr. Holland’s Opus and Music Rising Foundation, Hoffmann Music replaced music instruments for several impacted areas.

A businessman and musician, Ted said he has enjoyed performing as well as repairing instruments. He is now watching for other people develop an appreciation for the art.

“People ask what you get out of the experience of being a musician,” Ted said. “You can’t explain it. Only when you actually participate do you know what it is like.”

Living the feel of good music is as comfortable as knowing ones name, even if occasional improvisation is required on occasion.

Improvising has been necessary for this musical duo, even down to this business name. A music store in Washington state already carried the Hoffmann name, so the Louisiana Hoffmanns demonstrated willingness to get along with others, trimmed a couple of letters and keep everyone happy.

There is no scientific formula regarding the way operating an instrumental music business struck a chord with the Hoffmanns. They contend it is simply who they are.

Ed Hoffman, left, remains true to the instrumental offerings of this family performance while his son, Scott, takes care of the business aspects at Hoffmann Music.