BY RUSSELL CLEPPER
Whidbey Life Magazine contributor
Nov. 4, 2013
It looks like any other commercial building near downtown Oak Harbor. One story, glass-walled store front, flat roof, surrounded by asphalt. Once it housed two businesses, a paint store and a gym.
Now it’s a mission. A mission with a sign that says “Click Music.” The mission is to bring live music to the community.
“The mission is also about finding a place in community and through music for people who might not fit in anywhere else,” said Avi Rostov, owner and founder of the store.
“I know what music did for me as a kid in terms of expressing myself. That’s what I want to do for kids.”
Rostov said that the retail store with its inventory of guitars, ukuleles, drums, sheet music and all the rest, is just a way to pay the rent for what she considers to be the important part of the enterprise. Click Music offers lessons in stringed instruments, horns and woodwinds and other band instruments as well. It also serves as a space for musicians to gather together to practice, jam and sometimes perform for live audiences. It’s that part of the business that carries out Rostov’s mission: Teaching people, especially youth, to express themselves through music, and to give them and other musicians a place to practice and play together.
Like an angel of musical mercy, the quiet but determined Rostov never misses a chance to help some young, struggling kid. She has helped many to realize that some of their difficulty with learning music was not their fault, but the result of the faulty instrument they had rented or been issued to play.
“That’s the reason I got into [instrument] repair,” she said. “Half the time their instrument wasn’t working. They get told to practice more. They get that all the time. I carry a screwdriver in my pocket and I say ‘let me do this for you.’ That’s why I got up this morning.”
Besides fixing malfunctioning instruments, Rostov also refurbishes the ones that are not rental quality and gives them to foster kids.
Although many of her own students, as well as others who have taken lessons at Click, have attained notable musical achievements, such as going to state competitions or becoming music majors at universities, Rostov’s main focus is on students who are having a difficult time in life.
“I’m always interested in the student [who’s having] the hardest time, not the ones with potential to be a rock star,” she said. “The kid with the heavy heart can go tell his troubles to his clarinet. To me that’s much more important.”
Rostov opened Click Music five years ago. Her home instrument repair business was suffering as several of the music stores she was affiliated with began to close. She continued teaching clarinet lessons to students all up and down the island. Parents would enlist her aid to acquire instruments they could no longer get anywhere on the island. She built a network of suppliers and would joke with their parents sometimes about how she would open up a music store “if she had any money.”
One night, six of those parents met with her.
“Now you have the money,” they told her, offering her thousands of dollars in gifts and trades of various sorts. It wasn’t really quite enough, but Rostov took their support to heart and began looking for a place to rent.
Now besides the retail store, the facility boasts about a half-dozen private practice rooms for lessons, two large practice/performance spaces, and the instrument repair rooms, too.
“Retail is to pay rent so we can do repairs and lessons,” Rostov said. “We have amazing teachers. When they’re not giving lessons, they sit down together to play and trade knowledge. People show up during the day just to play.”
There are 14 teachers who give lessons at Click Music. Dave Willis is one of them. He used to own one of those music stores that closed. Now he teaches fretted instruments and also repairs them.
Rostov handles band instrument repair, a skill for which she has more than 20 years experience and a certificate in instrument repair from Renton Technical College, one of only three schools in the country that offer such training.
When she talks about the youngsters who take advantage of the facility to get together to practice and learn, that is when “Our Lady of Click” shines brightest. Some of the students and their parents built a stage in the large space that was formerly a garage. They can play loud and scream all they want. As far as Rostov is concerned, they are expressing themselves through music.
One of the purest incarnations of this phenomenon is the Wizard Band.
“They are kids who didn’t like band class or are on the verge of quitting,” she said. “They want to play the music they want to play.”
And what did they want to play? The music from “Harry Potter”; hence, the Wizard Band. They have gone on to learn the music from “Star Wars” and “The Hobbit” and are working on the score from the movie version of “Les Miserables.”
“The project grew out of a conversation with these kids who were taking lessons,” Rostov said.
Now it has grown to a group of between 12 and 16 participants, some of whom are not students at Click.
Other Click Music projects include a Clarinet Choir and an acoustic/bluegrass jam. The space is also utilized by a group that practices juggling and for belly dancing classes. The community-minded Rostov is open to any group that needs space to practice their chosen form of creative expression.
Music will always remain her focus, however, and if Oak Harbor ever becomes known as an incubator of musical genius, Avi Rostov will deserve no small share of credit for it. She will probably miss the award ceremony, however. She’ll have her screwdriver out, taking apart some chapfallen kid’s clarinet to see why she can’t quite hit that C note.
For more information about Click Music, Avi Rostov and the rest of the staff, visit the website.
Russell Clepper is a singer-songwriter who plies his trade locally and around the country. He also is a substitute teacher for the Oak Harbor School District.