Just as with any business, there is a history. Where it all started, how it started and how it became who they are today. Long before the first "Welcome to Cooper Music" ever chimed the ears of a piano buyer, the history of the Cooper Family began. For the next few months, I will share with you, every Friday a special blog, containing the history of the Cooper family and creation of Cooper Music. We hope that you enjoy reading as Cooper Music is brought to life with memories.

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Born 1857 in Bristol, England, in 1871 the 14 year old Johnathon Cooper was sent to live with his aunt Louisa in Wales. After the early death of his father, his mother Mary James Cooper and her sister Louisa James Howell Turner agreed it would be better if he lived with Louisa who would be more able to look after Johnathon.  Widow Mary’s husband had been a merchant-draper in woolen and linen goods. His addictive influence on Johnathon and the family was not acceptable to Widow Mary, especially on Johnathon. He was moving about Bristol city woolen and linen trades as Bristol Jack, errand messenger, a life style Mary feared. The decision to move Johnathon turned out to be a most propitious life style for a young man destined years later to be a founder of Cooper Music.

Selina Howell: Was born in 1860 on Rhondda Road, Llanonno Township, Glamorgan County, Wales. Selina’s birth father Lott Howell, an agricultural laborer, sadly also died early, an alcoholic. Her mother Louisa remarried neighbor William Turner. Louisa Howell Turner knew her diminutive red haired daughter (13) Selina was a strong willed talented young girl. Her stepfather William Turner, a coal  mine timekeeper foreman, was kind but equally strong willed. Selina was required to carry out her work duties, even sent out at night to tend the railway switch. However, Louisa and husband William were rearing Selina in a religious and Welsh culture that was a positive and valuable education. When Johnathon arrived from Bristol England in 1871 he too found expanding horizons under the guiding positive influence of Louisa and William Turner.

This was a period of cultural and religious affirmation in England. During this revival chapels Christdelphian Churchwere being built every week in Wales. There were hundreds of chapels seating thousands of people in the Rhondda Valley home of Louisa and her family. They were involved in many social activities. There were chapel choirs, bands, drama and poetry groups, local and district competitions known as eisteddfodau (eisteddfods).  The estedfod can be traced back to 1176 when the first one was held. There were grand gatherings to which were invited poets and musicians from all over Wales. Titles were awarded to the best poet and musician, a tradition that prevails to this day. There were also yearly “Walks and Processions” and singing festivals called Gymanfa Gani (Gamanfigany). The chapel and Louisa’s and William’s, Christdelphian Church held strict beliefs. With heavy involvement in the Religious and Temperance Movement, teenagers Selina and Johnathon made a life- long abstinent and religious commitment. Dressed in their Sunday best, Welsh chapel and Church were the highlights in the drab, foreboding coal mine life of Selina and Johnathon.

Johnathon Cooper (14) was expected to go to work as any young Welsh boy in his working class. Mine foreman and stepfather William Turner helped him start, leading ponies and mules in the mine. By the time Johnathon was twenty, over six feet tall, he had grown to be a strong, experienced, and skilled coal miner. By 1879 in America the booming coal mining industry, short of experienced men, was actively recruiting in Wales, offering double the pay and free steamship passage. Johnathon and Selina announced two life-changing decisions: Together they were going to America and as husband and wife!



Dispensers of Happiness Since 1906

To some people, a job is something that pays the bills. However, to Blake and Jolie Cooper the job is more; it’s their life. Blake and sister Jolie are the fourth generation of Coopers to own and operate Cooper Music, one of America’s largest and most respected piano retailers.

It’s only logical that music would be more than a job for this generation. Blake, who was a bass player and singer in numerous rock bands in his youth, began working at age ten when the family store was in New Kensington, Pennsylvania. At that time Cooper Music sold virtually everything music related. Blake, who became company president in 1991, recalled  “We did it all then. Whatever ever was hot we sold; guitars, organs, bongo drums, it was all there. We offered everything musical.” Blake recalls sitting in the boiler room of the Cooper building cleaning horns upon their return from rent while Jolie designed and painted store interiors after school. Not exactly glamorous work, they admit, but it showed them how to care for customers… and how owners must be ready to perform any job. That goes with the territory.

In 1906 Jonathan Cooper founded the business, known as Cooper Brothers Inc. A former coalmine carpenter, he utilized his woodworking skills to craft and sell pump organs. Then, year-by-year, new products (including pianos) and services (such as restoring them) were added. The growth of Cooper Music always had been evolutionary; creating a solid foundation that carried the company through good times and bad. Economic changes in the industrial north coupled with great business opportunities in the south brought the company to Atlanta.

Even today that ability to change with the times has served Cooper Music well. For instance, Blake Cooper attributes his company’s current success to a decision in the early 1990s to pull back from mall stores of the 1970s and ’80s, and place renewed emphasis on pianos, organs, as well as teaching programs such as Music and Wellness.

Why the shift? “Actually, the company always has done well with its piano business,” Cooper explains. “Even during the Great Depression and World War II, when new instruments were rare or nonexistent, our restoration business really began to grow. Most people didn’t have the money for a new piano… even if they could have found one. Restoring the piano you already had was the alternative.”

The art of restoring superbly crafted antique pianos still holds a special place at Cooper Music, now the Southeast’s largest piano restorer. “I love those old pianos” says Cooper! “They are unparalleled in detail and quality craftsmanship. It’s an incredible feeling to see those amazing instruments come back to life.”

Blake Cooper, seeing how the business had changed, knew that a shift in product strategy was needed if Cooper Music was to grow. That’s when he consolidated the company’s operations, folding the mall stores into one 10,000 square-foot superstore with three showrooms, a rental department and concert hall. There are numerous studios for group and private music lessons. Soon to come were branch Music and Wellness teaching studios.

“The main reason this century old company has survived has been our family’s willingness to change” says Cooper. “I guess it’s a family tradition that started with my grandfather, who in the north, used to sell boats in the summer when the music business slowed down. We’ve always been able to tighten our belts when necessary.”

Today consumers can browse through a huge inventory of new, used, and restored pianos, as well as digital pianos and church organs. With about 30 brands on hand, Cooper Music is the exclusive dealer for displaying the largest selection of pianos and organs in the Southeast.

A shining star of Cooper Music’s game plan is the Cooper Music Rental Program, which Cooper expanded shortly after taking the company helm. This program allows people to rent any piano they like and try it out at home, for a monthly fee as low as $25.

“With the pace and changes in lifestyle, we find people have increased the desire for life’s finer things…including pianos,” says Cooper. “This program makes that desire affordable. Research has proven the value of music in childhood brain development. The Cooper Rental Program is ideal for parents who want to give their child an opportunity to play the piano before leaping into a major investment. Later, if a customer decides to buy the instrument, rental fees can be applied toward the purchase. There is no purchase obligation or time limits.”

Another exciting addition to the Cooper program is Cooper’s Lowrey Organ Center, group lessons for seniors who enjoy music. Attracting hundreds of seniors each week, the adult music and wellness keyboard classes grow in popularity. In addition to an enjoyable… and life-enhancing hobby, participants can make new friends with galas that include pot luck dinners and a musical programs.

“Music is therapeutic for all kinds of physical and mental ailments,” says Cooper  “It makes life worth living for many people, including myself.” That’s part of the reason why Cooper shares this healing gift by donating pianos and organs to area churches and retirement homes.

Cooper Music also provides customers with services and policies such as free in-home tunings, free in home concert, money back guarantees, service satisfaction, and free exchange within 30 days to ensure their complete satisfaction. Cooper’s philosophy is “Follow a simple creed for doing business: customers first, employees second, and myself last.”

This “customer first” philosophy seems to be working. The company’s annual sales soared from $2.2 million to $6.1 million between 1993 and 2003. And most of the company’s business comes from referrals. Why do people take the time to tell their friends and family about Cooper Music Company? Blake Cooper believes it’s because the company has maintained the personal attention people expect from a family-owned business. ” People deal with our employees a lot of the time, but they also know they can always talk to a Cooper family member as well.”

Third generation, David Cooper and his wife, Jean, still keep a hand in the business as consultants. Blake’s sister, Jolie, is the CFO. Moreover, company president Blake makes himself available to talk to his customers whenever they have a problem or question. The Coopers may not know everyone in the city by name-as they did in western Pennsylvania, but they still believe in treating customers like old friends… like part of the family.