Click helping local students to make music

Avi Rostov

Oak Harbor’s Click Music is more than just a store for musical instruments or accessories. It’s a place to study, jam, perform, hang out and generally engage in the joy of making music.

That’s been the vision of founder and co-owner Avi Rostov for the store’s eight years, and it’s one the community appreciates.

“Click Music and Avi have been encouraging to my son and to other students,” said Oak Harbor’s Clancy Lien, whose 14-year-old son, Spencer, has studied guitar, clarinet, French horn and piano at Click.

“She’s not just a store owner but a real music advocate — an asset to the community.”

Click occupies two huge, connected spaces, one a former gym and the other a former paint store, off Northeast Seventh Avenue. Rostov’s son and business partner, Herschel, led the effort to carve up the spaces into smaller areas. A third partner, Judy Cejas, runs day-to-day operations.

Now the store boasts small lesson rooms and larger rooms for bigger instruments, duets and trios.

Fourteen teachers are on staff to offer lessons, and an accompanist is available for practice and performances. There are separate repair rooms for strings and for band instruments (brass and woodwinds). A huge, high-ceilinged space easily houses the regular program of recitals, performances, jams and master lessons.

In a separate but connected building is the retail space, with rack upon rack of accessories for all instruments — “everything professional musicians need to have,” Rostov said. A large variety of drum sets, both acoustic and electronic, form a semi-circle on the floor. Guitars hang on the wall, and one of the store’s latest additions, recording equipment and MIDI interfaces, occupies several glass cases.

A single rack holds the store’s printed music — building up the assortment is next on the store’s to-do list.

And then there are the ukuleles. Many, many ukuleles.

“They appeal to all ages,” said Rostov, 71. “Young kids can get their hands around the necks. For high school kids it’s a totally social thing — they carry them over their shoulders and play them on the bus and in the cafeteria. Former guitar players who have arthritis can manage ukuleles, and the elderly who want to get into music to stay cognitively active like them because they’re not too heavy.”

Click doesn’t carry high-priced guitars like Fender and Gibson.

“We get a lot of kids dying to play, so we help them find something that’s not so expensive,” she said.

The store got its start when Rostov — a long-ago transplant from Baltimore — was living in Clinton, repairing band instruments from her home and coming north occasionally to give in-home lessons. Parents of students urged her to open a store in Oak Harbor, even offering her money up front to help her do so.

Numerous community members helped renovate the space.

Former Island County Commissioner Angie Homola, an architect, did all the blueprints at no charge, Rostov said.

Volunteers remain a vital part of the effort, last summer moving all the stock and then buffing and waxing the floor.

The store earns much of its revenue from renting and repairing band instruments used by Oak Harbor students.

It offers two free lessons with every rental, helping to ensure students are comfortable with their instruments and perhaps starting them on a course of study.

Rostov said Oak Harbor is “extremely fortunate” to have Lance Gibbon as school superintendent.

“He has a bachelor’s in music education, a piano major, and he understands the value of music,” she said. “It’s not just for kids making a career out of music. It’s how music affects their academics, increases their social skills, improves their cooperation and their intuition.”

Gibbon brought in a fifth-grade band program; formerly, that program started only in sixth grade.

Oak Harbor schools have no orchestra programs, so string players who transfer here — a common occurrence with such a large military presence — may suddenly have no group to play with. Click sets up duets, trios and other ensembles for them.

Students who graduate high school and miss playing their instruments are welcomed to jam on Friday nights.

Rostov, a former public-school teacher and chlld-protection worker, said the store barely provides enough income to live on but offers a great deal of satisfaction.

“There are families in and out of Oak Harbor all the time, and that affects not only those children who leave but those left behind,” she said. “It’s extremely important for every kid in Oak Harbor to have a place they can feel comfortable and safe. When they come in and wait for lessons, they play hacky-sack and help each other out. A 7-year-old might say, ‘I had this piece in band today and I don’t know how to finger this note,’ and a 12-year-old would help him out.”

“It’s all about giving kids a good start and an avenue into a social scene that’s positive — the best peer group ever.”