To avoid going to lessons as a preteen, Mark Williamson tried destroying his violin. His father, a music educator in Richardson ISD, took the violin to a local luthier and learned how to repair it that weekend.
“And Monday morning, he went to his lessons,” said Andre Yanniello, one of four current partners at Williamson Music 1st, laughing as he retold the store’s origin story.
Williamson Violin Shop was run out of the Williamson family’s garage from 1965-80, when the company moved to the first of the Plano location’s three buildings.
Williamson Music 1st in Plano now serves as the warehouse for eight company stores. The location is responsible for all inventory, rental reservations and online orders, which Yanniello oversees. He also helps add to Williamson’s online lesson system, which is largely targeted at beginners.
“This is the only industry that we can think of where you’re required to pick up a [$1,000]-to-$2,000 piece of equipment for a class, and you receive no instruction manual for it,” Yanniello said. “And we thought that was kind of odd, so we were trying to solve that problem and give the added value.”
Those who purchase or rent instruments receive a free year of online instruction. If students wish to continue studying their instrument or want more challenging instruction, they can sign up for in-person instruction.
“When you’re starting a new student, my goal is that they fall in love with music and that they want to continue it through their life,” Yanniello said. “We’re trying to establish ourselves as a trusted source of quality education, not just to be a retailer in people’s minds.”
Yanniello began repairing instruments in 2008 after eight years in the army band. He joined forces with Ray Gore in 2013, creating Music 1st in Frisco. The company later merged with Williamson Music, creating Williamson Music 1st in 2015.