It is hard to determine just how old Gracie Jones might be, and somehow it isn't important. Jones' eyes really penetrate, and you get swept into her dignified, gentle aura, but not in an overly intense way. You just feel that she is genuinely interested in you. It's clear how children would appreciate her manner as an instructor, for indeed Jones is first and foremost a music teacher.
Her love of playing and teaching music, along with a good dose of courage, took her business, Continental Sales and Music Center, out of her basement 32 years ago and onto a choice position along Rainier Avenue South across the street from Safeway. Renovations are about to happen (a lick of paint and even a new name), but the same enthusiasm that propelled Jones into business is still tangible.
So when I asked her "How's business?" she gave a small hoot of laughter, then a pause.
"I wish it were better, especially for the store area," Jones said. "It takes dedication and devotion to make a business grow, and to make it go and you've got to live it. This is one reason why I believe a person must get into a field that he or she loves because no matter where you go, you go to work! Savor each moment!"
The Music Center offers Seattle's South End with piano, guitar, saxophone, harmonica (yes - harmonica and the classes are highly requested!) lessons, sheet music, instruments and repairs.
"It's a service to provide to the community and I enjoy providing that service," Jones asserted.
I asked about the evident changes to the immediate area and whether or not she feels the squeeze tightening about the smaller businesses. Jones seemed undaunted and is a self described optimist. For her, it always circles back to doing the work that one loves; then it is not a chore, but a pleasure.
Our conversation segued into the abundance of fabulous music experiences available to young people here in Seattle. I specifically cited the Garfield Jazz Band, a seemingly mature style of music for people so young.
"Well, it is very emotional isn't it?" Jones noted about the jazz being played at Garfield's nationally renown program. "So it's definitely for young people".
I loved the answer. We talked about the multi-cultural aspect of our district, perfectly reflected in Central Music's customers and the beauty in its variations.
"We have such a variety of people, and music is something we can all relate to," said Jones. "It binds us together."
As I got up to leave, Jones, who all the while was seated at her piano, asked me for a folk song. Notwithstanding my less than wonderful voice, I launched into a song. Jones' talent made me believe I could do it, and she spontaneously picked up the chords and hummed along with me.
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