At the Center of the World
How World of Music continues to pull the Erie music community together
By: Nick Warren
There have been a few places claiming to be the "center of the world": a roadside pyramid in Felicity, Calif.; a spot in the southwest Atlantic Ocean (per some map projections); Çorum, Turkey (according to Google Maps); the inside of the Earth's core (if you insist on being literal about things); or an unincorporated township near Warren, Ohio. For the music community in Erie, the answer to that is clear: the showroom floor of World of Music.
Like any center, there's a force of gravity at work here.
For decades, musicians have been flocking to this store. One step inside World of Music (or WOM, as it's known), and it's pretty obvious why it's such a hub — especially if you fancy yourself as a guitarist. With its walls lined with scores of guitars from electric guitar-makers like Fender, Gibson, Ibanez, and
Founded by local jazz saxophonist Dick Bulling in 1954, it was passed on to his daughters Laura Jacoboski and Linda McLaughlin, who later brought on her husband Mike as a partner. Mike and Linda's daughter, Amanda has worked at the store for years, too. In addition to being a true family business, it's been a part of nearly every local musician's journey as well. There are countless people who bought their first instrument
As everyone knows, there's a fine line when you're shopping. Sometimes you are looking for something directly, and sometimes you just want to browse. For gear junkies, it's usually the latter. Sure, for most stops, one can find a reasonable excuse: a pack of strings, a pair of drumsticks, or a replacement cable. But while you're checking in, you simply must check to see if they have any other items you might be interested in. Oftentimes, music store employees are drawn as condescending elitists or self-involved basket cases (check out Karen Kilgariff's "Chelsea Guitars" and the opening scene in Mike Judge's Extract for respective examples). As someone who often meanderingly browses, I'm always eased by the staff's easygoing approach, whether I know them or not.
At this time, it's probably helpful if things get a little personal. I suffer from a mild-to-moderate gear addiction, known to message board frequenters as Gear Acquisition Syndrome (or GAS). I currently own about a dozen instruments, half of which are electric guitars (in the Fender Jazzmaster or Jaguar "offset" style), with more than a dozen effects pedals, a few amplifiers
Oh, what lessons we grow to learn throughout the years.
"In terms of teaching, I'd say that we have one of the best teaching staffs of any store that I've ever worked at," confessed Zack Orr. Starting at the store in the late 1990s, Orr went on to the Berklee College of
Over the decades, the store has continued to thrive, being one of the relatively few large-scale, independent music stores in the nation. "There actually are not many 'mom and pop' music stores left in the country, as a result of the chains," Orr explained. Barely any of those run at the scope of WOM, with exceptions being metropolitan-centered wonderlands like the Chicago Music Exchange, Orr notes. "To have one this big in Erie is pretty amazing." That means that they can have personal agency over what they stock, and not be forced to push new and often ill-advised products (Gibson's Henry Juszkiewicz-era guitars, we're looking at you). However, co-owner Linda McLaughlin explained they "keep up to date on the current trends and popular products." Noting the store's staff, competitive pricing, and large inventory, she is also quick to highlight that "the fact that you can come in and try out our instruments and choose between several to find the right sound and fit is the main thing that sets us apart from our online competitors."
Percussionist Steve Barone started teaching at WOM in
Making music can be a deeply personal experience. It's also something that's inherently collaborative — no matter how solo you want to go — at some level of the musical process. Working together, musicians are able to learn, grow, and thrive. To World of Music, that's a pretty catchy tune.