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Meet Eric Van der Veer Varner of TrevCo-Varner Music in Lake Worth

Today we’d like to introduce you to Eric Van der Veer Varner.

Eric, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I am a musician and have been performing professionally with orchestras since high school in Illinois. I studied music at the University of Michigan and did graduate work in Mannheim, Germany. I came back to the United States for a doctoral degree from Michigan and upon graduation, won a job with the Windsor Symphony in Ontario. I was the principal bassoon with the Windsor Symphony for ten years. While playing in Windsor, I also founded the PEN Trio, a small chamber ensemble with oboe, clarinet and bassoon. We have been together since 2010 and tour frequently throughout the United States, Central American, South American and Asia. During that time, I met the founder of TrevCo Music, an online sheet music store specializing in music for double reed instruments (oboe, English horn, bassoon, and contrabassoon). Trevor Cramer, the founder, was looking to retire and wanted to sell his business to someone in the music industry and my name came up through a mutual acquaintance.

We met and something clicked; I agreed to buy his business back in December of 2011, whereupon I flew down to Sarasota, packed all the sheet music up, and drove it up to Michigan, where I was living at the time. The company was re-named TrevCo-Varner Music, with the tagline “The World’s Foremost Purveyor of Fine Sheet Music For Double Reeds”. Two years later, I accepted a job as Professor of Bassoon at the Lynn Conservatory of Music in Boca Raton and moved the entire business back down to Florida. I have been here since the Autumn of 2013, teaching, performing, and running my business.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The biggest struggle was during the initial takeover of the business. Although I was a musician and knew the product very well, I had very little experience in the business side of things. Fortunately, the former owner was on speed dial and he helped a great deal, especially during the first year, when I would call at all hours of the day with random questions. He continues to be a mentor and a friend.

A different sort of struggle has been trying to balance the various aspects of my life as a professional musician. I teach full time at the Lynn Conservatory, I perform with orchestras throughout the state of Florida, I tour internationally with the PEN Trio and I try to keep my business running through all of it. Finding a balance in my professional life is the most difficult aspect of what I do.

Please tell us about TrevCo-Varner Music.
TrevCo-Varner Music is the “World’s Foremost Purveyor of Fine Sheet Music for Double Reeds”. I have an online (exclusively) store that specializes in sheet music for all double reed instruments: oboe, oboe d’amore, English horn, bassoon and contrabassoon. If it is in print, I have it in stock. The majority of my customers are high school and college music students, but I also do business with orchestral musicians, university professors, libraries, the United States Military Bands, as well as many many, amateurs.

Most local brick-and-mortar music stores will have less than twenty titles on hand for oboe and bassoon, whereas I have over 13,000 in my online catalog. Moreover, I have over 13,000 titles in stock, ready to ship out the next day. I do not follow the “as-needed” business model of inventory, because I have learned that when musicians order a piece, they generally want it right away. Thus, I have more inventory on hand than one might think necessary. Many online music stores can take up to three months to ship out titles from foreign publishers; I manage to do it overnight.

The other manner in which I differentiate myself from say, Amazon, is that I have a phone number, and customers can call at any time to ask questions about the music. I frequently get calls for recommendations, suggestions for student recitals, or even calls from customers who try to sing me a line from a piece that they just heard on the radio. I can talk about the differences between various editions and know about new works being written currently. That sort of personal service is not something offered by larger retailers.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I would have invested in library-grade shelving and not going to IKEA!

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Eric Van der Veer Varner

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