Unique Music Store Brings Ancient Instrument Back To Life – And It Sounds Sweet : St. Louis Ocarina store causes resurgence of portable, affordable wind pipe, and carries ocarinas in a myriad of models fit for the whole family

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The ocarina has a 12,000-year-old history that reaches across the globe from ancient China to Mesoamerica to 19th Century Italy. In the First and Second World Wars, ocarinas were popular with soldiers because of the instrument’s size and durability. In the last fifty years, though, the small and versatile flute fell into obscurity.

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I found out that they have gained popularity in Asia and are often taught to children in elementary schools in place of the recorder because they are small, inexpensive, fun to play, and easier on the ears.

Even music enthusiast and St. Louis School of Music violinist Dennis Yeh was not familiar with the palm-sized wind instrument when he saw them being sold and played in the outdoor markets of Taiwan. He instantly became enamored with them.

"When we returned from our trip, I called a few friends and asked them about the ocarina," Yeh, a teacher and the school's director, said. "I found out that they have gained popularity in Asia and are often taught to children in elementary schools in place of the recorder because they are small, inexpensive, fun to play, and easier on the ears."

In 2005, as a retail offshoot to the school, Yeh and his colleagues opened the first ocarina store in the United States. Three years later, the instrument is finally seeing a resurgence in popularity and the St. Louis Ocarina store has become the ocarina industry leader this side of the Pacific.

"We didn't know it would grow to this point – we've come a long way," Yeh said, "but the fact that the instrument still inspires people doesn't surprise me. It has persevered through history because it is sturdy and small, because it can be made out of so many materials, and because of its enchanting sound."

The store sells ocarinas made of clay, ceramics, and plastic – so that people of all ages can afford an ocarina, from beginners to professionals to collectors. In addition, the store sells ocarina sheet music, carrying bags, CDs, and method books. Staffed with music teachers, the store ensures that customers can always have their questions answered expertly or sign up for ocarina lessons.

"We have a very large selection of ocarinas, from one-of-a-kind instruments made by artisans to more economical plastic versions that are optimal for kids," Yeh said. "The ocarina is a very democratic instrument – we believe that anyone can play the ocarina, so our store carries ocarinas that fit everyone's needs."

To learn more about ocarinas or to browse the store's selections, please visit http://www.stlocarina.com.

About the St. Louis School of Music

The St. Louis School of Music offers violin, viola, flute and piano lessons as well as group ocarina classes to students of all ages and experience levels. In addition to traditional classical music lessons, the school has an active Suzuki program for children as young as three and a fiddle program for students interested in folk fiddling styles. The privately owned and operated school was established in 2004 to offer lessons to students throughout West County and the greater St. Louis area.

For more information on the school and its offerings, please visit http://www.stlschoolofmusic.com.

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