Langley resident Keegan Harshman says the coolest thing about being raised by a music instructor was being able to play whatever instrument he wanted, more or less.
Now Harshman, 25, is ecstatic to be able to provide that same experience to his own infant son, Jazper. The only thing is, his son will grow up in his father’s music store.
“I’m excited about having my son grow up in a music store, because being able to try most instruments was the coolest thing to me as a kid,” Harshman said. “I want to give him a similar experience I was lucky to have.”
After years of living in San Luis Obispo, Calif., and traveling through South America and Europe, Harshman recently returned to the island to raise his child and open his own music store, Blue Sound Music. Harshman’s store, located on 101 First Street in downtown Langley, sells local CDs, stringed, reed and percussion instruments and offers a series of lessons and workshops. Returning with Blue Sound Music is full circle for him, as he will now serve the South Whidbey music scene that he was so long a part of. His father, Chris Harshman, is the South Whidbey High School band director.
The move to downtown Langley comes only months after the long-serving Joe’s Island Music closed its brick and mortar shop in December. Joe’s opened its doors in 1987.
For half a year, South Whidbey musicians had to make the trek up to Oak Harbor or over to the mainland if they needed to rent an instrument or replace a string. Joe’s Island music continues as a business, although it has pivoted to focus on vintage guitars and refurbishing projects, according to its website. The music store-shaped void left behind by Joe’s departure left local musicians in a predicament. That is, until Harshman’s homecoming.
“Keegan is filling a need since Joe’s closed,” Lorinda Kay, Langley Main Street Association program manager said.
“Once Joe’s Music closed its doors, we immediately felt the impact,” Chris Harshman said. “Families were left with choosing between a ferry ride or traveling over 30 miles to get the supplies they needed.”
Utilizing his varied talents and interest in sharing music with others, Harshman is aiming to offer more than the retail side. Harshman says he plans to kick start a Brazilian samba school in the near future, while bass lessons and marimba classes currently operate out of his storefront. He’d also like to see his space become somewhat of a musician community center. Blue Sound Music has a stage for performances, and he’s eager to invite other musicians to host workshops in his store.
Harshman says in bringing a music store back to Langley, he’s aiming to supplement the local music industry rather than step on any toes. Prior to opening Blue Sound Music, Harshman said he reached out to other instructors — including those at Joe’s Island Music — to see what is already offered on South Whidbey. Seeing as there wasn’t a place to buy or rent saxophones, ukuleles, gear and world music equipment, he found a way to offer local musicians something different.
“Ideally, I’d like to be known as the person to call for music equipment that people can’t find on the island,” Harshman said. “I’d also like to work with the different schools here to know what equipment the students need for class.”
In the grand scheme of things, Harshman says he returned to Whidbey to help foster the island’s young musical talent, as well as raise a family. He’s hoping his store can help make music accessible to kids of all backgrounds, and dreams of starting a nonprofit from his shop that provides lessons and rentals for underserved youth.
That’s far into the future, so he remains focused on filling the void left behind by Joe’s Island Music and empowering local musicians in the meantime.
“I feel personally responsible for improving the music scene here, for offering instruments that kids need and helping musicians find a way to make money through their music,” Harshman said. “I want to be that go to guy that can help the music scene here grow even more.”