When fans of Middle C Music gathered Saturday for the Tenleytown store’s 15th anniversary celebration, Mozart pranced merrily through the crowd. Mozart is a golden spaniel mix, and one of the prime attractions for visitors aside from its other music-inspired wares.
The store at 4530 Wisconsin Ave. NW has been owned and operated by Myrna Sislen since it first opened in 2002. It’s now double the original size, occupying space previously used by a real estate office.
“It’s always a surprise to me that people value this as much as they do,” Sislen said. “Because if the community didn’t want us here, we’d be gone.”
Ward 3 D.C. Council member Mary Cheh attended the celebration to announce that she and her colleagues had declared March 25 to be Middle C Music Day.
“We aren’t always all together on a vote,” Cheh said. “But this one was unanimous.”
For the past 15 years, Middle C Music has offered music lessons to children and adults, rented out instruments and sold everything from music books to guitar accessories. Sislen prides herself on employing many community music instructors like Michael Sweeney, who describes his role at the store as a “jack of all trades.”
Sweeney looks forward to the anniversary event each year. “These people are our family members, our friends,” he said.
As part of Saturday’s festivities, the store served cake and gave away a ukelele, a Beatles music book, headphones, multiple other instruments and the grand prize: a $1,550 Yamaha guitar. “It’s $1,500 to celebrate the 15th anniversary, of course,” Sweeney said.
To win the guitar, customers created videos explaining why they love Middle C Music and what music means to them. Sislen was shocked at the range of ages in the 20 video submissions.
“It’s hard as an adult to expose yourself to that type of judgment,” she said. “It’s very important to us that we take their courage seriously and ensure them they are safe here.”
Ari Kurtz-Popadopoulos, a middle school student who lives in Tenleytown, won the video contest and guitar.
“Ari takes lessons here and plays lots of instruments,” Sweeney said. “His video was basically a short movie about how when he moved to D.C. he was looking for something, and he found it here at Middle C Music.”
In addition to the video entrants, many others showed their support for Middle C by attending the anniversary celebration.
“It’s important for the community to have this store,” said Kristina Mitchell, who has been taking opera lessons there for the past two years. “Life is more special with people and music.”
The store sits between the recently opened Dunkin’ Donuts and The Tile Shop on the ground floor of the Tenley Point office building, constructed in 1987 at Wisconsin Avenue and River Road. Although Sislen has seen neighboring stores come and go, she hopes to continue doing what she loves for as long as the community will let her.
“People come in all the time and say, ‘It feels so good to be here,’” Sislen said. “It’s all about making a safe space where people feel comfortable.”