Classic sheet music, by the thousands, given to help outer East Portland’s needy

See how this gift of more than 3,000 pieces of sheet music, music books, and music textbooks will help Portland Adventist Community Services provide food and medical care to the disadvantaged. It’s a boon to musicians – it’s all for sale, at 1970s prices

These are just three of the thousands of pieces of sheet music now available at the PACS Thrift Store in Gateway.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
At first thought, one probably wouldn’t connect a real estate firm owner, a defunct office-supply company, music, and a charitable organization. But there is a connection – and we think it’s an amazing story. Read on, and discover why …

The name of the one-time giant Pacific Northwest bookseller, stationer, art- and office-supply firm “J. K. Gill”, may be unfamiliar to youngsters or newcomers. In 1921, the firm moved into a custom-built ten-story building, grew to 63 stores in 1990 – and went out of business in 1999, when national “big box” retailers took over.

“At their big downtown store, J.K. Gill had an entire floor of their huge building dedicated to music,” said Fred Sanchez, owner of Realty Brokers at 111th Square on NE Halsey Street.

“They had a pianist on duty who would play sheet music, so customers could get an idea of what it sounded like, if they asked,” Sanchez reminisced. “It was the largest retail outlet for music in the Pacific Northwest before it closed. Music teachers, musicians, and music lovers would come from all over.”

Musician and real estate firm owner, Fred Sanchez, looks at one of the pieces of sheet music that came from the J. K. Gill “music floor”.

Sanchez, a classically-trained concert pianist, and his wife, Ann, made many trips to the “music floor” over the years, he told us, because they continued to teach music while operating Realty Brokers.

“When we heard that J. K. Gill was closing, we asked what they were going to do with the sheet music,” continued Sanchez. “They asked if we wanted to buy it, we said yes. We bought it for less than a dime-on-a-dollar – on the promise we’d take all of it.”

Over the years, the couple sold off, but mostly gave, more than half of the sheet music collection to students who took lessons, and other teachers.

Tim Zollbrecht, Thrift Store manager at Portland Adventist Community Services in the Gateway area, looks over a couple of the more-than-3,000 pieces of sheet music donated to theistore – and, now on sale at original cover prices.

Couple gives collection to PACS
As the couple nears retirement, they considered what to do with the massive collection of music books.

“We have come to appreciate the good community work done by Portland Adventist Community Services, located just west of our company,” Sanchez explained. “Giving their thrift store the sheet music collection just felt like the right thing to do.”

With help from his staff, Tim Zollbrecht, the thrift store manager at Portland Adventist Community Services (PACS), set up the collection in their “glass room” to keep it clean and protected. “Most of it is piano sheet music – but there’s also music for organ, guitar – even a couple books of accordion music. It’s a lot of variety.”

The sale of the sheet music will help fund the primary care medical clinic – it provides free or low-cost care on an appointment basis, Zollbrecht pointed out. “Thrift store sales also support our ‘pantry’ – the largest single-site distributor for the Oregon Food Bank.”

Even though the sheet music is as valuable to a musician as the day it was printed, the thrift store didn’t mark up the price to current-day levels. “We’re selling it at prices actually listed on the music. It’s an incredible deal for anyone looking for sheet music.”

The donation, Zollbrecht confided, gave the volunteers at the thrift store a “boost of confidence. It’s heartening to know that a businessperson, in our own area, believes in what we’re doing. Secondly it provides funding for our mission. And third, we’re able to provide a great benefit to people who enjoy music.”

Merely standing among all this sheet music, Sanchez says, is a heavenly experience.

As we were ready to leave the store, Sanchez added, “We hope that musicians from all over the area can come here and enjoy it. To a musician, just being in this room, with all this music, is like being in heaven.”

The sheet music is available on a first-come, first-served basis, Zollbrecht said.

PACS is located at 11020 N.E. Halsey Street. For more information, see their website: CLICK HERE. Or, call (503) 252-8500.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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