As a longtime musician residing in the Baltimore area, 35-year-old Ian Goldstein always had one rather critical problem: the shocking lack of stores that sell musical gear.
The obvious solution? Goldstein, along with his brother Brian, decided to establish a music store of his own.
Brothers Music officially opened June 13, 2015 at 2112 N. Charles St., just outside of Charles Village and the Johns Hopkins University Homewood campus.
“I had the idea because I knew there was no other music store in Baltimore,” Goldstein claimed. The only other store he’s aware of in the general region is Ted’s Musicians Shop, which specializes in classical instruments and principally provides for students of the Peabody Institute.
“Apparently, they do have a guitar for sale,” Goldstein chuckled, “but it’s been sitting there for about 20-plus years.”
Although “there’s little repair shops here or there that might also have a guitar for sale,” Goldstein contends that his is the only store where patrons can fully satisfy their basic musical instrument needs, when it comes to guitars, basses and synthesizers.
Brothers also rents turntables for the DJ/electronic musician, and they provide both used and new instruments as well as an arsenal of needful accessories.
Originally from Columbia, Goldstein received his master’s degree in legal and ethical studies from the University of Baltimore in 2014. For the past six years, he’s worked as a government affairs specialist for the National Association of County and City Health Officials in Washington, D.C.
This vocational trajectory followed Goldstein’s nearly decade-long performing as lead singer and guitarist of local rock band Evolve.
According to Goldstein, the group was fairly prominent in the Towson and Annapolis areas in the mid-2000s and enjoyed regular airplay on radio station 105.7, which has changed call signs and formats numerous times over the past two decades.
“I kind of retired from playing in bands,” Goldstein said. “But I’m OK with sitting behind a desk all day if I own a music store: I’m still cool, I’m still cool!”
While living in Washington from 2008 to 2011, the erstwhile rocker would come up to Baltimore every weekend “because it had the best parties, the best concerts and the best music scene” in his opinion.
“To go out to D.C. at night was costing me a fortune, too, so I was never going out there anyway, I wasn’t meeting people, and people weren’t that interesting because all the artists were in Baltimore,” Goldstein added.
He realized that if he moved to Baltimore, his rent and expenses would be far lower than what he was paying in Washington, and he has lived here ever since.
Goldstein took the volatile nationwide reaction to the death of Freddie Gray that some have called the “Baltimore Uprising” of April 2015 as “a call to action” that inspired him to find a way to help the community he’d grown to love so passionately.
“It’s the only outlet I know as far as adding my own contribution,” Goldstein said about doing his part to bolster the struggling midtown economy.
Goldstein firmly believes that opening up independent businesses such as Brothers will continue to revitalize the city and turn Baltimore into more of a central destination spot.
As someone who makes his “bread and butter” through an unrelated full-time job (with brother Brian working full-time as a Baltimore City elementary school teacher), the store has been a way to invest in the community on an almost wholly altruistic level.
The money Goldstein and his brother receive from sales predominantly goes to their one employee (with the brothers working mainly on weekends just to help out when they’re available).
In addition to the regular food and coat drives run through the store, Goldstein also sees Brothers as a productive “safe space” for community youths seeking reprieve from the often rough street life outside.
Goldstein will sometimes work with and mentor young Baltimoreans who come to spend time in the store. He promised one regular habitué that if the boy were to come in and practice electric guitar on a regular basis for four months straight, Goldstein would buy the guitar for him.
“He’s a quiet kid who doesn’t belong on the streets,” Goldstein said. “These are kids who live in public housing, who grow up in dangerous neighborhoods. I’m happy to take those kids in. If you want to learn how to play guitar and you don’t have access to one, I’ll find one for you.
“Other kids come in and are like, ‘Can I play the drums for five minutes?’ ‘Of course you can!’ It’s telling kids it’s OK to come in and shop or just hang out. I’m not going to kick you out.”
Goldstein admits that there are the occasional “punks” who come in and don’t stay long: “We’ve had a couple of those, but they know they’re not going to get away with anything while we’re there.”
There’s a direct connection for Goldstein’s philanthropic mindset with his Jewish heritage, he revealed.
“I celebrate Judaism as a race and a culture more than as a religion,” Goldstein said. “I think that Jews have always had an interest in inner cities … and not just as landlords. I understand people are born into those difficult situations and can’t always get out of them.”
Goldstein went on to say that whether he’s teaching kids who come in to play instruments or occasionally taking them to baseball games and dinners, his primary mission is to prove to them that “if you play the game, follow the rules, put your head down and go to school and graduate, you can do exactly what I’m doing. I try to instill that in every kid I come across.
“I think this does have a correlation to Judaism as far as having empathy for others.”