Meet Your Merchant: SoundCheck is a hub for musicians
SoundCheck Music Center
671 Maltman Drive, Grass Valley
Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Bill Lapham can’t remember a time when he wasn’t surrounded by music. While growing up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, his dad, uncles and cousins were all musicians, and his grandfather played professionally. When he was eight, Lapham signed up for guitar lessons so he could take part in family jam sessions.
By the time he was 13 he’d already formed a band with friends and landed gigs at nearby junior high school dances.
“When it comes to music, I always had the fire in the belly,” he said. “I was a Rolling Stones guy — and Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf — you know, the blues.”
Despite his obvious talent, Lapham always considered music a hobby. When he was 18 he moved to Reno to work construction during the building boom, but always played gigs on the side.
“Music for the thrills, construction for the bills,” he said, with a laugh. “I never really tried to make it big.”
When Lapham moved to Nevada County in 1997, he was pleasantly surprised by the number of resident musicians. He quickly became well-known as a rock, country and blues guitarist and a wiz at repairing ailing guitars and amplifiers.
“For years my best friend kept telling me that with all my knowledge I should open a music store — I told him, ‘No — that’s crazy,’” Lapham chuckled. “But he finally talked me into it.”
On July 1 of 2006, Lapham opened the doors of SoundCheck Music Center in Grass Valley.
“My vision was a guitar store that offered lessons, repairs and instruments,” he said. “With so many musicians in the area, there was clearly a need. I wanted to provide local musicians a place to find the tools that keep them rockin’ and also a place to connect with the other wonderful musicians in Nevada County.”
Now in its 10th year, SoundCheck’s 1,500-square-foot store on Maltman Drive has become a hub of music-related activity. A sampling of items for sale include guitars, basses, amplifiers, keyboards, PA systems, drum sticks, guitar strings, picks, special orders and much, much more.
Common repair services include guitars, basses, mandolins, ukuleles, keyboards, drums, and tube amplifiers. In recent years, SoundCheck’s repair shop has grown to include tough repair jobs on the likes of effects pedals, stomp boxes, microphones, mixing boards, recording equipment, power amps and home stereo systems. In addition to his love for returning musical instruments to their former glory, Lapham also jokes that he can also mend broken hearts — he’s just that good.
Another key to SoundCheck’s success is the variety of music lessons offered — the store has five lesson rooms and is home to five highly accomplished teachers, some of whom play professionally. John Basa teaches drums; Jim Wright teaches guitar and vocals; Denise “Nici” Van Kriedt teacher violin, mandolin and piano; Kenny Steele teaches bass, guitar, piano and vocals; and Rose-May Mickelson teaches viola, violin, guitar and piano.
SoundCheck’s guitar tech Brian Smith says the best part of his job is when people come in, sit down on one of the bar stools, pull out their instruments and spontaneously play together.
“I also love talking with the young students who hang out after their lessons,” he said. “They’re amazingly talented — it gives me hope for humanity. We work closely with the youth organization NEO, taking part in raffles and offering them a discount. Quite a few of the NEO kids take lessons here.”
While Lapham says he reminds Smith daily that he is the better guitar player of the two, Smith asserts that it all evens out, because he’s better looking.
Humor, expertise and camaraderie among musicians is what brings so many through the doors of SoundCheck, said Lapham.
“By far the most rewarding part about this business has been the customers — more often than not they turn into friends,” he said. “In fact, for the past 10 years my closest friends all started out as customers.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.
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