Jon Baltimore Music Company, Inc.
Speaking with Jon Baltimore in his woodwind and brass repair shop is directly engaging with the history of Midtown’s music scene – Baltimore grew up on 48th street working in his father’s shop when “Music Row” was thriving. Jon Baltimore Music remains firmly rooted in the days where jazz legends would play on the street corner, simply having fun with their new instruments. Continuing the tradition that his dad began in 1974, Jon offers quality service in a relaxed, casual atmosphere.
Jon started work at the age of nine, across from the well-known Manny’s music store (now closed) in Rod Baltimore’s music repair shop, where they bought, sold, rented and fixed woodwinds, brass and string instruments. After “buying his father out” in 2001, Jon moved the shop from its original location to 46th Street in 2008. He explained to us that “Over the years, music businesses closed, and 48th just died, but now there is a small rebirth on 46th.” While on 48th, Jon recalls working in the same building as Robert Giardenelli, who specialized in trumpet repair and crafted some of the best brass mouthpieces available. Capitol Records was also in this building and Jon told us how he remembers the days when Frank Sinatra used to come through, on his way up to his label, and hang out with whatever musicians were currently in the store.
Despite the new street, Jon has tried to maintain the same environment that he loved about his father’s shop, the real sense of camaraderie between himself and the musicians. “For a lot of these guys that come in, a repair person is like a doctor,” Jon explained, “They’re relying on you to keep what they care about together.” Over the course of the family business, Jon has counted Ornette Coleman, Chet Baker, Peter Weller, Dizzie Gillespie, Bill Cosby and George Carlin among regular customers, and he still reminisces about Paul McCartney coming the day of a concert in New York to buy a Beatles songbook from him. “I was just so amazed that he was in my shop,” Jon laughed.
As we were looking around, Jon pointed out a few curiosities among his collection. He showed us a French coronet from 1884 that was found sealed between two walls in a Brooklyn brownstone, and a personally-customized saxophone for disabled musicians. His greatest treasure, however, is the mouthpiece of Louis Armstrong, which he proudly displays. Jon Baltimore Music Company felt like a trip to the Mecca of jazz history, a temple to a past time where musicians would, in Jon’s words, “come in, sit around, pick up an instrument and simply hang out.”