Kara Barnard and Jeffery Russell
“a cool thing”
by Bill Weaver
“Somebody had to do it,” says Kara Barnard of her decision to open a music store in Nashville after the recent closing of Mountain Made Music. “There are too many musicians in this town to not have a hub like this. I see this as a central office for all the musicians in Brown County.”
Weed Patch Music Company is located in a roomy, airy shop on Old School Way directly east of the courthouse. It features hand-crafted stringed instruments—dulcimers, banjos, guitars, mandolins, fiddles, harps, ukuleles, as well as books and accessories. “My goal is to get instrument makers, luthiers, to give me one or two pieces at a time,” she says. “I can cater to the tourist that comes in town, who wants a good guitar for ninety bucks, but I also want this to be an opportunity to sample custom made guitars you won’t ever see again. It’s a big goal but I think I can do it.
“There is probably not another dulcimer shop in the country where you can see the variety of what I’ve got on the wall,” she continues. Besides William Berg’s Mountain Made dulcimers, those of local maker Grant Eversoll will be featured, along with the well regarded Arkansas Mountain Dulcimers of McSpadden, and the hammered dulcimers of Rick Thum. There are also a number of rare finds on consignment, including a Blue Lion dulcimer.
Co-owner Jeffery Russell can be seen building his banjos in-house every Sunday. Doug Doss makes flutes, John Kay mouth bows, and Dan Speer creates the harps. “He does beautiful work” Kara says. “His harps are expensive but you’re not going to see anything like them anywhere else.” To top things off there is a lending library of music training videos.
Barnard sees the store as an essential place for Brown County music, a place for, “every little thing that any musician here in Brown County does, whether they’ve written books, recorded CDs, built instruments—I want everybody to know that they have a place. The more we have locally going on, the better the vibe’s going to be.”
Kara still feels overwhelmed by the community support shown for the store. “From making the decision to opening day was three weeks, which is insane. I’ll never do that to myself again,” she says. “The amount of things that had to be done every day was staggering. What really thrilled me is how everybody really helped. Everybody went beyond.
“We’ve got an incredible community here. Folks were singing as they helped move the instruments! I got teary-eyed. I didn’t want anyone to see me but it was Brown County at its finest. People are very passionate about their music. They’ve been given a gift and want to give back. It brought out the best in everybody in this town. They are good people. Really good people.”
Kara has plans for what the store can be. “I get excited over all this stuff,” she says. “I wake up in the middle of the night with ideas. We’ve got all kinds of workshops going on and a good open space here. I want to cater to everybody.” They’ve already begun dulcimer and guitar workshops and plan free fiddle and banjo jams in March. “I intend to work some stuff up for mandolin players,” she says. “There are all these instrumental communities in Brown County, there’s no reason why this store can’t accommodate everyone. Even the ukuleles need to be tapped into.
“I want to have a luthier gathering once a year,” she continues. “We’ve got luthiers in the state of Indiana who have done this all their lives. Imagine if you had a roomful of these guys and then invited younger people to come in and listen. It could be a very cool thing.”
She’s pleased to see young musicians coming into her store. “I’ve got this Les Paul electric guitar on consignment and they’ve all been in to try it. There are a ton of kids here in town that play and are pretty good so I had this idea that we needed to form a club, The Weed Patch Shredder Club. Once a month they can bring in their electric guitars and amps and we’ll have a workshop. We don’t want them to feel that they’re surrounded by a bunch of old acoustic players all the time—I started out playing in a Heavy Metal band!” she grins. “They’re playing the same stuff I used to.
“I would have given anything, at thirteen, if there had been a place in my little town where I could have gone. The kids playing electric guitars today, they’re going to be the banjo and dulcimer players in thirty years,” she laughs. “Whether they realize it or not.
“Music is what has made me a better human being. Every time you have to negotiate something in life, if you liken it to something musical it’s a lot easier. All the people who have come to me for lessons, we work out songs together and you can see how it shifts their lives just enough to make things manageable. I’ve had senior citizens come to me that think that they could never play an instrument, particularly women, who say, ‘My entire family played but my Dad told me that I never had it.’ We put an instrument in their hands and all of a sudden they realize that they do have it. That sort of stuff gives me chill-bumps. If I can do something with this store, facilitate people discovering that thing, I’m doing the right thing. It’s something I feel really good about doing.”
Weed Patch Music Company is located on Old School Way, across from the east side of the courthouse. Their phone number is 812-988-1180. Hours are from 10:00 to 5:00 on Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday, 10:00 to 6:00 on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. They are closed on Tuesdays. “We want people to understand that we’re a regular music store they can count on,” she says. “If Robbie Bowden runs over here at 4 o’clock because he needs guitar strings I’m going to be open.”