Life in Maryland / Success Stories
Frederick’s Music & Arts creates harmony across the country
By Amanda Winters /
June 11, 2019

It’s all about the magic of music, according to Renier Fee, director of marketing for Frederick-based business Music & Arts.

For nearly 70 years, Music & Arts has taken pride in being the “neighborhood choice for music.” And with 17 locations in Maryland alone – from Calvert County to Washington County – you’ve probably seen or visited one of its retail locations throughout the state.

What began in founder Benjamin O’Brien’s Bethesda home has expanded nationwide over the years. In addition to its more than 215 retail stores in the U.S., Music & Arts also partners with local music stores—ones that usually do not have a large instrument inventory—by providing them with the assets to rent out to customers. Including its partner stores, Music & Arts can be found in approximately 500 stores throughout the country, making it the nation’s largest music lessons provider, as well as the largest band and orchestra instrument retailer.

Providing more than 2 million lessons each year to an estimated 40,000 students, Music & Arts is known for making an impact. With a wide variety of students—from a five-year-old learning piano to senior citizens looking to learn a new skill—the majority of learners are elementary and middle school students. The business also employs educational representatives that visit schools with fleets of instruments to encourage students’ interests in new hobbies.

“It’s a very neat experience to see kids play the first note on an instrument and realize they can express themselves in that way,” said Fee. “It’s very encouraging and inspiring.”

The mission of Music & Arts, even as a for-profit business, is focused on music education. The business’ goal is to grow the number of musicians throughout the country. From repairing family member’s instruments, to renting and teaching more than any other company, it all begins at Music & Arts. The business is the place where student musicians go to start learning about music and about themselves; students begin exploring their musical journey right when they step through the front door.

“If a child takes a few lessons, and they become confident with their presentation skills and social skills, and they’re able to express themselves more creatively, that’s a win for us—even if they don’t continue on with the lessons,” said Fee.

This year will be the first time Music & Arts participates in Make Music Day, a worldwide musical holiday celebrated in more than 120 countries. Make Music Day is a free event open to anyone and everyone who wants to participate—by playing music or hosting musical performances.

“This is new for us. We’ve discussed it before, but this is the first year the stars have aligned. We can help Make Music Day by providing the destination [for musicians],” said Fee.

To celebrate Make Music Day, the company will host an open mic night on June 21 and offer free guitar lessons on June 22. According to Fee, open mic nights give musicians exactly what they need to play—a home and an audience. Free meet and greets will also be available with music instructors throughout the weekend to ensure compatibility and comfort between the students and teachers. Guitar lessons in Spanish will be offered in certain markets throughout the country.

Later this summer, the company will also host its fifth annual Battle of the Bands. Held on July 25, the event requires each band to include at least one Music & Arts employee in order to compete. Prizes valued at $25,000 are donated by partners, like Fender Guitars, D’Addario Strings, Zildjian Cymbals, and Gibraltar Hardware, and will be distributed amongst the top three Battle of the Bands winners.

Last year, Flying Dog Brewery – a partner since the first annual battle – hand-painted a guitar that was later raffled off at the event. All proceeds from Battle of the Bands go to the Frederick Food Bank, one of several community organizations that Music & Arts is committed to supporting.

“We want to make sure we’re partners with our neighbors in Maryland,” said Fee. “We truly support the community. If they’re hungry, we want to help them.”

Learn more about the company and upcoming events on


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