Exploring Albany's inglorious past and dubious future

John Keal’s Modern Music

John Keal’s Modern Music has had a long history as an Albany merchant. Keal opened his  music studio in 1930 at 315 Central Avenue. At first it was just a place where he could teach saxophone, but soon he added reeds and instrument accessories to the shop. As his business grew, he added band instruments, phonographs, and records. Keal moved a number of times to keep up with the store’s growth: 54 Columbia Street (1934), 86 North Pearl (1936), 540 Broadway (1938), finally settling down in the 1940’s to a spacious shop at 116 State Street. Along the way the band instrument business was dropped, and Modern Music became primarily a phonograph and record shop. Modern Music downsized a bit in the early 1950’s, moving to 12 South Pearl.

john keal

As the 1960’s rolled around, John Keal decided to get back into the band business, his first love. He dropped the phonograph records and moved his shop to a tiny space at 22 Central Avenue. A lot of us local musicians remember that little shop, jammed with strings and mutes and reeds and percussion and brass instruments. By and large, teen bands would congregate at Hilton’s, but Keal’s remained a great place for the missing piece of hardware, drumsticks, or a set of strings. Despite its diminutive size, John Keal’s pretty much cornered the lucrative school band market. His son (also John Keal) joined the business, and in 1976 changed the name to John Keal Music Company, Inc. Nine years later, in 1985, they moved to their present location at 819 Livingston Ave. Keal Sr. Has since retired, but John Jr. and wife Pat have kept John Keal Music alive into its eighth decade.

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