When I attended college, everyone remarked about how odd it was that a native Floridian would choose to attend school in the New York ’burbs. To this day, I still live just outside the Big Apple, but I return at least once a year to my beloved hometown: Daytona Beach FL.

The city occupies a place in the hearts of bikers and racing enthusiasts. In addition, Daytona Beach, quite notably, was the hometown of quintessential southern rock band the Allman Brothers. Those factors combine to give the city a bit of a lowbrow vibe.

Nonetheless, Daytona Beach also has some cultural chops that are quite serious. It is home to the Museum of Arts and Sciences (MOAS), which has been called one of the southeast’s best art museums. And, although retirees flock to the area’s giant new mega-developments, artists of every stripe have quietly restored the architecturally significant homes of Daytona Beach’s center city.

On the music front, the Daytona Beach Symphony Society has created a robust seasonal arts program, attracting orchestras, operas and dance companies, as well as other notable music groups from around the world.

With all that in mind, my two teenage children and I recently visited Daytona Beach to spend time with family, to frolic at the beach, to visit nearby theme parks…and to shop around for a student trumpet.

I discovered that the area is quite a haven for guitar retailers, but it has somewhat fewer establishments that sell band instruments. Nevertheless, all four of the stores I visited turned out to be solid choices.

Total Entertainment
501 W. International Speedway Blvd.
Daytona Beach FL 32114

Total Entertainment occupies a capacious building in an older, commercial part of Daytona Beach. It’s right next to the Florida East Coast Railroad tracks, and it’s just down the street from the entrance to Bethune-Cookman University (BCU). That historically black institution was founded in 1904 by Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune as a secondary school for girls, and it became a four-year college in 1941. BCU is also home to the award-winning, 300-member Wildcats marching band.

If shopping for musical instruments, high school and college students alike will find a great selection at Total Entertainment. Inside, the store consists of a maze of rooms devoted to specific musical interests; there is an entire room devoted to drums and percussion, for instance, as well as a private performance space.

I spoke to a woman who is the store’s resident expert in band instruments. The business carries a wide variety of new and pre-owned trumpets. All used equipment has been reconditioned to near-mint condition. I noticed a Holton T602 on display for $796, should a student or parent wish to purchase the instrument outright. The rent-to-own price was slightly higher at $884.

As someone who deals almost exclusively with beginning musicians and students, the woman strongly counseled against purchasing a trumpet—or any other instrument, for that matter—for a student who is just starting out. I learned that, to rent, new instruments run about $30 per month, whereas pre-owned instruments are a bit less…around $23.

“I strongly suggest a beginner choose our rental program instead,” she emphasized. She pointed out that, although the trumpet is a popular choice among band students—boys, in particular—students often don’t like their first instrument choice, and they later want to switch to something else. The rental program offers that flexibility, and the cumulative monthly charges are still credited toward an instrument purchase. “Plenty of other things can happen,” the woman elaborated. “Kids lose things all the time, and instruments are stolen.”

The purchase of a trumpet might be appropriate for a more advanced student or for a collegian who played in high school and who wants to continue. When students buy their own instruments, that equipment becomes their property; it’s for keeps. The decision of whether to buy is one that parents and student musicians must weigh carefully.

Brass & Reed Music Center
675 Mason Ave. 
Daytona Beach FL 32117

“This is a good horn,” the Owner of Brass & Reed Music Center told me, while holding up a pre-owned Hunter 6418 trumpet that was listed for $300. “It has been played by professional trumpeters, all of whom have remarked about how well it plays. It’s a great deal for either a student or a pro, and I won’t have it for very long.”

The gentleman’s shop has occupied the same storefront in a modest, older part of Daytona Beach since the mid-1970s. That makes his the oldest music store of the four that I visited. His store is unusual in other respects, as well. It is, for example, the smallest of the four; it’s also the only one where I dealt directly with the Owner.

The decades that the man has spent in the music business—he took over the store from his parents—are immediately evident. That includes offering a decidedly different set of advice. He generally rents instruments only to professional musicians who’ve come to town to play in a nightclub and who didn’t want to haul their equipment along. Or, conversely, he rents to local musicians who are traveling by plane somewhere and who don’t want to subject their own instruments to transportation damage.

“Buying any instrument is way, way better than renting,” he stressed. “Because, when you rent, the final cost is always based on the full retail price of a new instrument…even when you rent a used instrument.”

For demonstration purposes, the man held up a used Hunter trumpet that he was still reworking. He intended to sell it for $150, and he knew there would be plenty of takers at that price. That same instrument might fetch $350 in a store that rents horns by the month, he explained to me.

Many of the instruments that come into Brass & Reed Music Center are out of production. Notwithstanding that, the Owner is able to restore practically all of them, often “borrowing” parts like finger buttons and mouthpieces from less-intact instruments.

Brass & Reed has a long history of serving schools in the area. “This time of year, I always sell everything I have,” the man said, waving to his collection of horns, reed instruments and drums. [Note: My visit took place in August.] And that includes selling the priciest trumpet the man had in his store during my visit: a pre-owned Bach Stradivarius, listed for $1,200.

Yancey Music Center
601 S. Yonge St.
Ormond Beach FL 32174

Yancey Music Center has been located for several decades in a quiet shopping center on S. Yonge St., which is what US 1 is called in Ormond Beach FL. It’s in an older, established part of town that used to be known as Rio Vista. It sits next to a furniture store, a yoga and dance studio, and a cow-themed restaurant that’s called Heffer’s Kountry Cafe, where you might grab a bite to eat as you sort through your instrument options.

Inside, the store is spacious, well appointed and logically laid out. Although an entire aqua-blue wall is occupied by both acoustic and electric guitars, the somewhat-smaller band instrument section is certainly easy to find.

A staff member—a Miami FL native—greeted us immediately upon entering the store. He guided us to the back wall, where band instruments were arrayed. Ormond Beach is a notably affluent town that feeds into both Mainland High School and Seabreeze High School, both of which have marching bands. Accordingly, you might assume that the well-heeled parents who live there would prefer to purchase new instruments for their budding musical prodigies.

“Actually,” the man said, “our rentals are quite popular, because the customer is covered for the normal wear and tear that a student is likely to put an instrument through.” Collisions with other students are a common “occupational hazard” for marching band students. Apart from learning how to play and stay in sync with the other 150-odd kids in the band, students spend countless hours learning the complex choreography that looks great during, say, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or the Rose Bowl Parade. Those are both events during which area bands have marched.

“Kids are constantly turning the wrong way and hitting each other’s instruments,” the man noted. In some cases, they drop them altogether, causing damage that must be repaired. With an instrument rental, that service is on the house.

“Of course, we don’t cover instrument abuse, such as leaving your instrument on your bed and later sitting on it, or driving over it with a car,” the salesman hastened to add. In the student band world, such things happen all the time, he assured me.

I was told that a good choice for a beginner is the Yamaha YTR-200AD, which could be purchased outright for $853.50. The rent-to-own price was $1,136, with each month’s $35 fee being credited toward that. For an excellent, lower-cost alternative, the man recommended a used trumpet that Yancey Music Center was offering for $250. All the store’s used instruments had been reconditioned and repaired to “like-new” condition, I was assured.

Music & Arts
1673 WP Ball Blvd.
Sanford FL 32771

Early this year, NASCAR cut the ribbon on the rebuilt Daytona International Speedway. Although that was just in time for crowds of racing enthusiasts to arrive for February’s Daytona 500, work continues across the boulevard on a swanky new shopping, entertainment and lodging complex called One Daytona. The nationwide music chain Guitar Center was one of the retail tenants to sign a lease.

When it opens next year, the outlet will offer sales and rentals of band instruments. Until then, however, residents have to drive to Music & Arts in Sanford FL, near the Seminole Town Center mall. It’s an easy 25-minute drive west on I-4, and it’s easy to access from the freeway.

As an alternative, you could head up A1A to Z Music in Flagler Beach FL, but getting to Sanford is usually quicker. The Music & Arts in Sanford is sizable, well equipped and well organized. The youngish salesman who helped me dispensed plenty of helpful, patient advice about trumpets, as well as offering the pros/cons of both buying and renting instruments.

“All our band instruments are rent-to-own,” he explained. That essentially means all the monthly rental cost is credited toward the eventual purchase of an instrument, should a student or a family wish to purchase it later. You can return an instrument at any time, and the store provides any necessary repairs.

Trumpets rent for $20 per month; new customers pay just a dollar per month for the first two months. The store offers a wide selection of new merchandise. The lowest-priced trumpet I saw was a model by Verve, a Music & Arts house brand, which was retailing for $600.

For beginners, the salesman recommended either the Bundy BTR-300, which was on sale for $504, or the Bach TR300H2, which was selling for $833. “The good thing about the Bach trumpet is that it comes with a mouthpiece,” the man noted. Although the Bundy model was less expensive, it would require a mouthpiece that was purchased separately.

Other models on display cost considerably more. I spotted a Yamaha YTR-2330 retailing for $1,200, as well as a Jupiter model.

The Sale

Budding musicians are well served in the Daytona Beach area. All five public high schools boast well-developed music programs, including a feature that, in many places, has ended up on the chopping block: marching band. The area’s middle schools, too, have well-developed programs for band instruction.

Likewise, student musicians and their parents have an extensive and diverse array of retailers from which to select an instrument to suit their needs. Each of the four retailers is quite distinct. They are not cookie-cutter retailers and, judging by my encounters with members of the sales staff, each store has managed quite well in recruiting folks with musical acumen.

Summing it all up, a shopper won’t go wrong by visiting any of the four stores. Brass & Reed Music Center was my favorite, and it was the only one of the four remaining from when I, myself, attended high school multiple decades ago. The musical expertise imparted by the Owner is something you’re unlikely to encounter in any other musical instrument store anywhere.

Turning to Total Entertainment, I appreciated the saleswoman’s candor about the cons of purchasing an instrument for a kid who might abandon it within six months. I entered the store with the primary aim of investigating the purchase of a trumpet. Renting one was a secondary concern, but the woman was quite convincing in arguing the merits of renting instead.

I usually enter a chain establishment, such as Music & Arts, with a healthy dose of skepticism, expecting to meet young, corporate employees who might move on to something completely different in a year or two. To my surprise, the young man was both articulate and knowledgeable about the trumpets his store carried, and he seemed to exude a passion for music. He also informed me about the imminent opening of a sister store right in Daytona Beach—something a commissioned salesperson ordinarily might not do.

On balance, however, Yancey Music Center seemed the best of the four stores. The store provides impressive expertise and attentive service. The salesman gave me a rundown of the hazards and damage that musical instruments might encounter, including a few I hadn’t imagined. He also presented a variety of new and pre-owned instruments. The store is sizable, it’s well appointed and the rental prices seemed fair. And, for a store located in an affluent town, the purchase price of the instruments was in line with the others.

A final note: All four retailers receive excellent online ratings from sites like Yahoo and Yelp. In summary, then, if you live in the Daytona Beach area and you need a musical instrument for a student, you’ll be well served by any of the stores.

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