Saturday, March 13, 2010

Blue Eagle Music: A musician’s center

Whether you are looking for music equipment or a space to learn an instrument, the
Blue Eagle Music store is an excellent place to visit.

I originally found the Blue Eagle when I was looking for a place to get my violin restrung after breaking a string while tuning it. Even though right on Court Street, I had never noticed this music store and all it has to offer.

View The Blue Eagle in a larger map

Open for almost 40 years, the Blue Eagle offers musical instruments, accessories, lessons and repairs. Walking in for the first time I was taken back by all of the guitars hung from the wall in a space I had never even known about.

-The Blue Eagle offers a unique set of guitars available for purchase.

Frank McDermott, the owner of the store since 2006, greeted me attentively to fix my broken violin string, despite my novice mistake of tightening it too tight. McDermott said he has been playing guitar since he was 15 years old and loves all of the cool guitars at his disposal in the store.

Jody Schawb, a Blue Eagle employee explained that people mostly come into the store for supplies, such as amps, cords and strings. One of the most unique aspects of the store, however, is that not only do they offer music supplies to customers, lessons are offered to learn to use those supplies in the studios below the store.

After speaking to some of the instructors from the Blue Eagle, depending on the instrument you wish to learn and the type of teaching style you prefer, there is definitely a lot they have to offer.

Liz Shaw, offering fiddle and banjo (clawhammer style) lessons since the fall, has been instructing off and on for 27 years.

Describing a typical lesson, Shaw said, “First we begin by warming up. We will play something that’s familiar. I like to teach new techniques every lesson. Then we work on building repertoire; giving them more and more songs to play. I am a stickler for playing scales because the fiddle has no frets and I like my students to play on pitch. I teach a lot by ear and try to customize each lesson depending on the level of the student.”

Shaw is the fifth generation of musicians in her family and learned traditional music passed down in her family since she was 13 years old by ear. After winning a lot of folk music contests as a teenager, people started seeking Shaw out to teach them; consequently, starting her musical instruction.

With a total of 18 students, Shaw said she teaches a large age group ranging from her youngest of 5 years old to even a few college students. “I have a lot of beginners who don’t even know how to hold the instrument; but, also I have professional violists who just want to learn folk styles,” Shaw stated.

-Liz Shaw has been instructing her 5-year-old student, Jessica Roback,
for two and a half months.

Andy Fox, a recent OU graduate, is the bass instructor at the Blue Eagle. Fox sticks to an informal teaching style, completely by ear. Fox stated he has always been told he has a good ear for music. With his teaching, Fox tries to figure out how he developed that good ear and how he can pass it on to his students. Fox believes that because music today is less structured since the days of classical music, that teaching by ear is most effective, especially because the bass is all about feeling. To stress the importance of a musicians ear, Fox made the analogy that painters paint what they see, while musicians play what they hear.

The first lesson with Fox is free, in which students are asked to bring a CD to listen to, so Fox can get inside the students head. Sending students home with homework after each lesson is not on Fox’s to-do list. “Music is not something you should be tasked with,” said Fox.

In a relaxed environment, Fox instructs his students by ensuring they have fun. “After seeing the potential the student has, it’s my job to tap into that,” Fox said. After the student has been playing for some time, Fox even brings his students to his band, The Midnight Drivers, practices so they can follow the chord production and the drum beat.

Another bass instructor at the Blue Eagle, along with teaching guitar and mandolin, Ethan Greene, also the previous owner of the store, has had overall around 2000 students throughout his 43 years of instructing.

Greene adjusts his teaching style based on each particular student. “Every person will learn a little bit differently,” Greene said. Like Fox, Greene teaches with a system where there is no testing. Greene’s favorite part about instructing is being with people, making connections and sharing music. “It’s not about the printing of the music; it is the feeling of the music that matters,” Greene explained.

From the abundant amount of music supplies and lessons offered, the Blue Eagle meets the needs of anyone interested in learning an instrument and those who have been playing for years. After finding this unique music world, I never thought I’d be so happy to break a string on my violin.


Song of the Week: “Sing My Lonesome Away” – Matt Wertz (A taste of folk style in this popular artist’s music)


  1. Nice post Jenna! I've always wanted to go to this place, so I think I may have to now. :) Also, I didn't know you played violin, do you play often?

  2. I don't actually know how to play exactly. I got my violin two winters ago, with the idea that I would attempt to teach myself. After a couple months struggling with that and lack of time to devote to it, I have kind of given up. I am however meeting with Liz Shaw, the violin instructor from Blue Eagle tomorrow for a lesson. I am excited to see if that goes better than me trying to teach myself.