If you visited Dale Music in Silver Spring on Monday afternoon, you would have witnessed an extremely polite feeding frenzy. After 64 years in business, it was the venerable sheet music emporium’s final day, and well-mannered customers riffled through Bach and Beethoven and Bryan Adams in search of bargains. Everything was on sale, not just music, but saxophone reeds, valve oil, cello bows, little folding foot rests for would-be Segovias.
“We’re trying to see what we can grab,” said Elizabeth Rice of Takoma Park, who demanded to play the violin after seeing the 1984 movie “Amadeus.” She was 6 at the time.
On Monday, she perused music for a Bach violin concerto as her 4-year-old daughter, Malaika Hyera, begged to be picked up. (“I play the drums,” Malaika said.)
“I used to come here all the time,” said Elizabeth, 36, who grew up playing with the D.C. Youth Orchestra. She still picks up the violin three or four times a week. “It’s kind of like therapy. . . . I’m very sad to see Dale go.”
It’s been going for months, ever since owner Carol Warden, daughter of founders David and Rhoda Burchuk, decided that the business world had changed too much — and that the Georgia Avenue building was pretty valuable.
“I grew up here,” said Carol’s younger sister, Joy Burchuk, as she attempted to find a flute-fingering chart for a customer. “It’s my sibling. I love my sibling dearly, so it’s sad.”
Up near the entrance, a pair of bulletin boards were studded with business cards and photocopied ads: French horn instruction available, harpist for hire, piano repair, classical singer, Lutheran church seeking organist, male “Steve Perry-style” singer looking for band . . .
The sound of a flute floated over from somewhere. The instruments were for sale, too. Carol even had a box full of broken bits — bass bridges, tuning pegs — that she was saving for an artist. Some of Dale Music will live on in cubist collages.
Dale Music is going — is gone — but I like thinking of all the music that was purchased in its final hours. With fingers upon fretboard and lips upon reed, in head voice and chest voice, its sound waves will echo forever.
And at least there’s still Foxes Music.
Foxes Music was opened in 1953 in Falls Church, by a burlesque drummer named Ralph Fox.
“Everybody called him Curly, because he shaved his head,” said Kevin Landes, a current co-owner. Curly’s wife, Dorothy, taught dance lessons.
Curly died about a year or two into the business, Kevin said. “You would have thought [Dorothy] would have turned it into a dance studio. Instead, she expanded the business.”
She was sort of the Katharine Graham of the Northern Virginia music-store world: a widow who ably took over the family business.
Kevin, a sax player, started working at Foxes after graduating from the University of Virginia. Mrs. Fox trained him. She also trained his co-owner, Eric Wagner. The two rose through the ranks and bought Foxes Music seven years ago from the man who bought it from Dorothy Fox.
Kevin is sorry to see Dale Music go. “I want them to survive,” he said. “It’s the big chains that I consider the enemy. I want the independent guys to all stay around.”
It’s hard to predict what the future of printed sheet music will be, though I suppose we all have an idea (especially those of you reading this column on your phones).
“It dwindles yearly,” Kevin said. “Fortunately, Fairfax County and Arlington and Falls Church all have real thriving school music programs.” Foxes has been able to stay afloat because instrument sales and rentals have taken up the slack as sheet music sales have declined.
Kevin said: “I can easily see the day where, instead of a backpack, a student carries an iPad with all his music books on there.”
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