11225 San Pablo Avenue, Duane and Joanne Wong, Duane and Joanne Wong owners of Music Works, El Cerrito, guitars sold at Music Works, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, Kawai piano, Music Works on San Pablo in El Cerrito, pianist, piano, playing piano, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, ukeleles sold at Music Works, word press, wordpress.com, you tube

Music Works: An El Cerrito Mom and Pop Charmer is worth a visit

A quaint music shop with decorative window dressing caught my eye during a walk from Del Norte Bart to a Mosier Avenue copy center. A red wooden treble clef, like the swirl of a barber shop icon, wooed me across the street for a closer look.

My curiosity was rewarded by reams of ukeleles hanging on hooks in neat and appealing rows. It was a perfect opportunity for a photo shoot.

Enter a hospitable store host named “Carlo Lacsina” and I bubbled over with questions.

“How did this establishment thrive with so many ukeleles?” (properly pronounced “OO-ka-le-luhs?” in Hawaiian)

I said, “YOU KA LAY LEE” like a foreigner, barely hiding my flush of embarrassment.

Once corrected, I would not make the same mistake.

From my conversation with Carlo, I gathered that Music Works was a resilient business in a competitive climate of instrument establishments. Swarming with Yukes or “OOKS,” not to mention guitars, it had managed to survive the recession.

Corporate heavyweight, Guitar Center located just a half-mile or so down the busy street wasn’t as fortunate. It hadn’t much clout or appeal and subsequently closed.

But Ifshin’s, the violin specialty shop on Fairmont near the El Cerrito Plaza was one of those places doing well in hard times.

For the record books, Music Works owners, Joanne and Duane “Pudgy” Wong boasted a thirty-year stay at a former San Pablo location, and 25 at its most recent one at 11225 San Pablo Avenue. (cross streets, Cypress and Portrero) Within easy reach of the “new” Safeway, it was an outflow of El Cerrito commerce and government.

In fact, if you walked a few blocks south, you’d pass City Hall, the DMV and Police Headquarters.


A Store where a Picture was worth a Thousand Words

Panning around Music Works with my Sony Cybershot digital, I captured its colorful environment.

With a glut of ukeleles of every shape, size and form fueling the psychedelic imagination, store proprietors had still reserved space for piano instructional materials and sheet music. (Hooray for a piano blog tie-in!)

Add in a petite room that housed a Kawai console for piano lessons, and the triad of ukeleles, piano books and instruction was COMPLETE.

(Music Works also offered percussion classes. With its snazzy display of drum sets mounted high and advertised instrument rentals, the place was percolating with rhythm)

So If you happen to be in the neighborhood, visit this unique ukelele plus hub and enjoy a splash of color. While you’re at it, don’t forget to take advantage of a 10% teacher discount on all music purchases.


A fine ukelele player:

3 thoughts on “Music Works: An El Cerrito Mom and Pop Charmer is worth a visit”

  1. What a great blog, you really capture the spirit of the place. I know kids who take all kinds of music lessons there, and they (and their parents love it). Hats off to the owners.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.