About West Music
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, six 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 (above the current Airliner). 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.
In 1978 West Music was awarded the exclusive importation rights of Miyazawa Flutes from Japan to the United States; the original relationship with Miyazawa began primarily thanks to Pearl’s expertise in flute design and production. A new division of West Music, Miyazawa Flutes USA, was established to distribute this outstanding professional flute on a national level. Pearl discontinued the limited production of P.L. West flutes, and all flute manufacturing was transferred to Japan.
Steve West’s passion for elementary music education led to the formation of the West Music Music Education Catalog Department in 1980. What began as a 12 page black-and-white catalog evolved into the current full color, 170-plus page catalog that is sent to schools, universities, and churches throughout the United States and abroad. Also in 1980, Pearl West stepped down as President of West Music. He retained his position as Chairman of the Board of Directors and devoted his time to the development of Miyazawa Flutes USA. Steve West was named CEO of West Music.
In 1984, West Music expanded operations to Cedar Rapids. In 1988, Westco, a separate import/export wholesale company was created to help establish a dealer organization on a national level. In addition to the importation of flutes from Japan, West Music & Westco began importing and distributing professional piccolos from Germany, guitars from Spain, percussion instruments from Mexico, China, and Germany, and ethnic instruments from Africa.
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.
1995 saw the beginning of West Music Music Therapy services, a division of West Music focused on using music to address the physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals of all ages. A strong partnership with the University of Iowa Music Therapy program allowed West Music to develop a program that has expanded to include over 13 therapists in 2011. This program has also further fulfilled West Music’s goal of "enriching all people’s lives through the participation in music."
The West Music website launch in 1996 coincided with extensive technology upgrades, linking stores together online and greatly enhancing efficiency and communication. West Music continued to expand with the establishment of the Percussion Source in 1996, providing products for symphonic and concert percussionists nationwide.
Sadly, on January 27, 1999, company founder Pearl West passed away after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. His vision for creating an outstanding, reliable music store, repair center, lesson studio, and international instrument distributor continued under the leadership of his son, Stephen West.
In 2005, utilizing experiences in Early Childhood education, West Music introduced a new line of children’s exploratory instruments, Sounds Like Fun. In 2006, a 40,000 square foot Fulfillment Center was built in west Coralville. The Fulfillment Center has been the a major pillar in the continued growth and development of West Music’s local, national, and international business, providing a central hub where West Music can continue to offer customers enhanced care and delivery service. 2006 also saw further emphasis on branding and customer experience, with many of the regional stores remodeling to reflect West Music’s focus on customers experiencing the power of making music.
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.
In 2010, in a natural progression from the company’s beginning as manufacturer of P.L. West Flutes, West Music became the North American distributor of Trevor James Flutes. The Trevor James line was complementary to West Music’s background in flutes and provided a strong intermediate flute to North America.
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!