West Music Company’s continued growth and success has, as its foundation, a rich history of providing quality service and opportunities for all people to experience the power of making music. In 2011, West Music had over 170 Associates, seven regional locations in Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois including repair, lessons, and Music Therapy services, and multiple e-commerce websites and catalog departments.
West Music’s founder, Pearl West, was born in 1914 to a very musical family. When the Great Depression negatively impacted farming, the family turned to playing music to survive. Pearl toured and played throughout southern Iowa and northern Missouri in his youth.
In 1931, Pearl moved to Centerville, Iowa to finish high school and pursue his interest and ability for instrument repair with the director of Centerville High School, William Gower. When Gower was hired as the Head of Brass Studies at The University of Iowa, he encouraged Pearl to move to Iowa City and enroll at the university. While attending the UI in pursuit of a music education degree, Pearl repaired university instruments and played in a number of big bands. In 1939, prior to receiving his degree, Pearl moved to Des Moines to work as a repairman for the Paul Wendel Music Company. There he met Eleanor Bosworth; they were married on March 15, 1940. Following their marriage, the Wests returned to Iowa City for Pearl to complete his college degree.
In 1941, Pearl West and Pete Peterson opened Peterson-West Music Company, a one-room retail and repair shop on South Clinton St. in Iowa City. The advent of World War II a few months later led to a great shortage of musical instruments. West and Peterson quickly dissolved their partnership and Pearl played in area dance bands and repaired instruments. In 1942, Pearl established West Music, a small instrument repair shop at 110 Iowa Avenue in the back of Hewitt Music. Pearl auditioned for the Navy Preflight Band, but did not pass the physical.
In October 1942, Pearl joined the instrumental music department at Iowa City High School as a woodwind specialist. He taught during the day and repaired instruments at night. When the war ended in 1945, Pearl used his experience in music education, instrument repair, and performance to understand the needs of musicians; he opened the expanded store front of West Music Company at 14 South Dubuque Street.
During the early 1950’s, Pearl and Eleanor continued to operate West Music, with Eleanor serving as the office bookkeeper while raising their two children, Shari and Steve. Pearl developed and built the Westwind flute (later called the P.L. West Flute). West Music’s inventory expanded to include not only band instruments and pianos, but guitars, drums, percussion, and amplifiers.
Steve West joined the company in 1969, after graduating from the University of Iowa. He was named Sales Manager in 1971. Shortly after, a second West Music location was opened in east Iowa City. In 1973, the downtown Iowa City location moved to its current location in Coralville. The move allowed for greater expansion of all departments, including combo, keyboard, and lesson studios.
West Music had already been well established for 13 years when Pearl West decided to begin representing pianos in 1954. The first brand of piano sold was Wurlitzer then manufactured in DeKalb Illinois along with their famous juke boxes. Some years passed and Pearl became aware of a new name in pianos being introduced in the U.S. In 1962, Pearl West being forward thinking, decided to become one of the first few dealers in the country for this somewhat unknown name….Yamaha….and the rest is history as they say. Yamaha has grown to be one of the most respected highest quality pianos in the world and West Music is proud to have represented them for 50 years! Time passed and West Music has carried most of the top piano brands available throughout the years but in 1997, another milestone occurred for the company as we began to represent arguably the best piano in the world, Steinway & Sons which also includes their Boston and Essex pianos. West Music is very honored to be appointed a Steinway dealer as Steinway is very specific on the rules of quality and service among their limited number of 60 dealers in the country.
Over the next 25 years, new locations were opened throughout Iowa and Illinois, including five locations of Coralville, Cedar Rapids/Marion, Cedar Falls, Ottumwa and Moline. Customer service was further enhanced through remodeling and relocation of these facilities.
West Music has gained a national reputation of quality in the business of retail piano sales as witnessed by the many honors they have received which include:
- 4 Yamaha VIP Retailer Awards for professional representation of Yamaha and exemplary customer service.
- Yamaha Founders Award which recognizes the many years of serving our musical community.
- 4 Steinway Partners in Performance awards, the highest honor bestowed by Steinway & Sons. This award recognizes outstanding performance in areas such as Steinway Concert and Artist programs, product knowledge and customer service. Most important, for exemplifying The Spirit of Steinway that embodies the vision, integrity and spirit of founder Henry E. Steinway.
These awards are possible because of you, our customer, as all of our success is the direct result of our commitment to offer the best instruments and service to make your piano playing experience as rewarding as possible.
2008 was a year of change. Sadly, on June 1, 2008 company co-founder Eleanor West, wife of Pearl and mother to Stephen passed away. Her well-organized efforts as company bookkeeper and mother were important in helping build the family business. In later years, she and Pearl traveled extensively, partly for business, but mostly for their shared pleasure.
On June 1, 2008, Stephen West retired as president of West Music and was named Chairman of the Board. On that same day the Board of Directors named Robin Walenta as the new President and a third generation was brought on to the West Music Executive Team. Ryan West, son of Stephen and Victoria West joined the Company as Senior Vice President. Ryan joined the company to take on management of the IT and Web Development Teams as well as continued development of international partnerships.
Additionally, West Music expanded westward with the opening of the West Music Piano Gallery in Urbandale. The store was founded with a focus on pianos and keyboards, and continues the company’s mission of enriching people’s lives through the participation in music in the Des Moines area with the inclusion of group and individual lesson areas as well as high quality pianos and keyboards.
Over the years, West Music has expanded to include virtually all types of musical instruments, including pianos and keyboards, band and orchestra instruments, guitars and amplifiers, drums and percussion, software, elementary general music materials, early childhood instruments, and music therapy products. West Music is also proud to provide a full array of services with our repair technicians, delivery crew, music therapists, lesson teachers, road representatives, classroom consultants, and customer service consultants, in addition to our sales and administrative staff.
West Music celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2011 and looks forward to the upcoming years as a further opportunity to help people of all walks of life experience the power of making music!