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Theater has tools for making music

August 08, 2005|by DON AINES

After driving all night from a festival in New Hampshire, The Bluegrass Brothers of Salem, Va., tuned up their instruments and played for an enthusiastic crowd Sunday afternoon at the Beck & Benedict Hardware Music Theatre.

"A hardware store ... We've been everywhere and done it all," said Connie Dowdy, whose husband, Victor, is one of the brothers in The Bluegrass Brothers.

Although a bit taken aback when she learned the band was booked in a hardware store, she liked the setting and the crowd of about 200 that showed up. For 16 years, music fans and musicians in the Tri-state area have known that Beck & Benedict means more than tools, custom glass work, and lawn and garden supplies.


"We were down on West Main Street when we started the music in 1989," said Dick Boschert of Hagerstown, who owns the store and theater with his wife, Della. Back then, the musicians and fans who showed up for Friday night jam sessions were actually playing and sitting in a hardware store, but that changed when the Boscherts moved to The Barn at 118 Walnut St. in 2000.

"When we moved here, we got the theater area," said Dick Boschert. Beck & Benedict was on Main Street for a century, but previous owners and the Boscherts, who bought the business in 1984, rented the space and had to move when the building was sold, Della said.

The hardware store is now in what was a Van Heusen outlet when the building was part of the Waynesboro Outlet Barn, Della Boschert said. The theater, which is only used for concerts and jam sessions, is across the hall in what was a dress shop owned by her sister, she said.

"Busloads of people used to come up from the cities to shop here," Dick Boschert said of The Barn. On Sunday, the parking lot was nearly full with bluegrass fans rather than bargain hunters.

A recent jam session attracted 35 musicians and 160 fans, Dick Boschert said. Admission for the Friday night sessions is $2, and $10 for the concerts, he said.

Della Boschert said the concerts usually are held once or twice a month on Saturday nights. Sunday's performance was held to accommodate the band.

"We come by Friday nights and for special concerts they have," said Richard Jones of Waynesboro. "You can't get any cheaper entertainment than that."

"I come here for the jams most every week," said Kenny Pugh of Waynesboro, who plays the fiddle and banjo, and also makes instruments. He enjoys the chance to play without the rigors of being in a band.

"I'm getting too old for that," he said.

"It all started with players wanting a place to play," Dick Boschert said. Jam sessions were held in a barn at a rod and gun club in Adams County, Pa., but that venue became unavailable and the musicians needed a new place to get together, he said.

"There's people who follow the music and people who want to play," he said.

During jam sessions, the musicians break into small groups to practice their craft, he said.

The sessions attract musicians seeking an audience, while others just want someone with whom to play music, Dick Boschert said.

"Some can't wait to get on the stage and some people are scared to death of the mike," he said.

"This is a special place. Once they find out about it, they want to come back," he said.

The formula is a mixture of musical camaraderie and appreciative listeners.

"It's just a whole bunch of fun with all that," he said.

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