Business

BLI Music becomes Mercer Island Music

Instruments line the storage area at Mercer Island Music, formerly BLI Music. Students can rent an instrument for three months minimum to see if they like the instrument before investing in one of their own. - Linda Ball/Staff Photo
Instruments line the storage area at Mercer Island Music, formerly BLI Music. Students can rent an instrument for three months minimum to see if they like the instrument before investing in one of their own.
— image credit: Linda Ball/Staff Photo

No doubt you’ve seen the sculpture of a bicycle and a cello on Island Crest Way at 82nd Avenue S.E. and maybe wondered what that’s all about.

The Bike Lair occupies the upstairs, but what was formerly BLI Music downstairs is now Mercer Island Music. BLI has been there for seven years, owned by Dan Sotelo, who also owns the Bike Lair, a repair shop for bicycles.

Connie Wible, an accomplished musician with a piano studio a couple of blocks away, was approached by Sotelo. He wanted to sell her the music business so he could concentrate on the bikes.

“I’ve always had a vision to connect people to music,” Wible said.

Already teaching piano and running a music technology camp, she thought this would be a good way to connect music and the community — sort of a musical hub.

She approached her best friend, Maggie Harvey, and Harvey’s fiance, Pete Tellefson, both longtime Islanders, and together they’ve created Mercer Island Music.

BLI was always known as a place where fledgling music students could rent an instrument before mom and dad bought one, only to find out their child didn’t like it. That still holds true, with NEMC as their distributor. In fact, they just got in 85 instruments in addition to more that were already in stock — just in time for school.

Both Wible and Harvey have four children, all grown. Harvey doesn’t play an instrument, but all of her kids were in the Mercer Island High School marching band and loved it. She drives school buses for the district, which allows her to be in the shop when she’s not driving.

“They just really help these kids nurture their talent,” Harvey said of the band program.

Wible’s oldest child, Katrina Kope, started in an orchestra, then took up guitar before taking vocal training, and is now a singer-songwriter, and a voice and songwriting instructor. Wible said her kids were more into the independent musician movement, which Mercer Island Music encourages as well.

Tellefson said the coolest part for him was being part of a business tied to the Island and the community.

Changes are taking place at the music store. Wible has hired more instructors to teach various instruments. She still teaches piano in her home studio, and beyond. With the help of a clavinova — sort of a computerized piano — she can attach her computer to it and use Skype to teach clients as far away as Alaska and California.

“I can play on someone else’s clavinova remotely,” she said.

Presently, the three owners have four piano teachers, two guitar teachers and more teachers coming, including a drum teacher, Becca Baggenstoss.

Wible is also working with Ann Hunsberger, who is pursuing a degree in music therapy at Seattle Pacific University. Hunsberger will specialize in early music education for children with autism.

Wible has worked with children and adults with ADD, bipolar disorder, Tourette’s syndrome, Down syndrome and many children in the autism spectrum, from profoundly autistic and non-verbal, to high functioning Aspergers Syndrome. She has also worked with blind children and partially deaf children.

“We really want to use music to promote happiness,” she said.

And that’s not all.

The three also have resources to connect customers with a band for hire — good bands, they said — for your private event. So if you’re planning a wedding, forget the D.J.

“This is why I stay in music,” Wible said. “I have all this experience.”

 

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