For Mark Coleman of Ampersound, music is more than just music

Mark Coleman strums a ukulele at Ampersound, his music store in Saranac Lake. (Photo provided by Ken Youngblood)

What odds would you give for a brick-and-mortar music store to survive for more than a year in a city today? How about in an isolated Adirondack town of 5,000 people? 

Saranac Lake’s Mark Coleman opened his music shop in 1989. Saranac Lake is more than just another town; it is a community of people who care about each other. And Mark is one of the most caring people you will ever meet. And for Mark, music is more than just music. He has kept his doors open for over 30 years because he believes music is a magical medium for bringing people together sharing what they love.

I have heard stories from as far away as Tupper, little old ladies who trust Mark like no other to set up a new stereo. Me, I have my own story to tell. It is the story of a 2-year-old girl in Ohio named Akalpreet, which in Punjabi means “immortal love” — how, for the love of music, she danced her way through her 2s. Long before 3, thigh muscles promised an athlete in the years to come … all for the love of music. Akalpreet would dance as long as the music played. Her grandmother would have to pull her from a reel at the county fair. Her grandfather would sing nursery rhymes to her, and her godfather gifted her a piano keyboard so her little soft feet could dance on and make music.

As her third birthday came closer and closer, interest in dance and music seemed in the grandfather’s mind to be on the wane. He knew who to turn to because, for as long as he can remember, Mark has been casting music’s seed far beyond his store in Saranac Lake at 52 Main. How, the grandfather asked, do we encourage a 3-year-old’s love of music? What’s the right instrument?

 “Any she can get her hands on,” Mark counseled. “What’s important is keeping a musical instrument in her hands. A kazoo, anything.” But what Mark thought best for a child that age might be a ukulele. He went through the motions of a girl as young as Akalpreet, showing how well the body would fit to her small body, and the frets the reach of her small arm, the four strings the fingers. The grandfather knew he had come to the right place, and he was impressed that Mark steered him away from a display of quality instruments to the front window, where the perfect one sold for less than $40. “You don’t want plastic, but she’d like this because the wood is painted a bright color.”

Mark took another 20 minutes tuning the bright pink uke, all the while making suggestions about how to introduce Akalpreet to the strings. How, unlike a guitar, a ukulele is strumed where the neck meets the body. When the grandfather asked Mark if he could set aside the ukulele, Mark said he’d seal it in a box — kids love opening boxes.

Yeah, over 30 years sharing his love of music, that is why folks from the greater Tri-Lakes area keep dropping by Ampersound on 52 Main — a place always about music, but always about so much more that makes this town such a special place.

Ken Youngblood lives in Saranac Lake.

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