Canadian Music Trade - April-May 2022 - Page 17

By Andrew Leyenhorst

Supplier Spotlight

Counterpoint Musical Services

When George Ullmann founded Counterpoint Musical Services in 1994 , he did so to fill a crucial gap in the Canadian MI market – a distributor dedicated to band and orchestral instruments and accessories . Today , this goal is still the driving force behind the company , whose core brands include Stentor orchestral string instruments , Austria ’ s Thomastik-Infeld strings , Germany ’ s Pirastro strings , BG France accessories and Bam cases , Spain ’ s Alhambra Guitars , Harpsicle Harps from the U . S ., and of course , Legere Reeds and Kun shoulder rests , which are made here in Canada .

“ Counterpoint has grown since 1994 but maintained our core focus on serving primarily the band and orchestral segment of the market ,” says Counterpoint General Manager Kathleen Stokholm . And while lines such as Alhambra Guitars and Harpsicle Harps demonstrate some diversity , Stokholm reiterates that the orchestral and band marketplace is the core of the company ’ s business ; and with nearly 600 clients “ from the largest chains of music stores to luthiers to independent shops ,” evidently , it ’ s a segment that ’ s alive and well . Of course , the company ’ s ongoing growth is something they ’ ve yielded for themselves rather than having it bestowed upon them , thanks to their personalized and customer-friendly approach , which includes no minimum orders . “ We strive to maintain a personal connection with our customers and find ways to help them help their customers ,” Stokholm explains .
Those personal connections are pretty easy to grow and maintain organically , as the company is actually quite small with fewer than 10 employees . Aside from herself and President Adam Berlin , who bought the company from Ullmann in 2011 , Stokholm details the roster : “ We have Gary Nixon , our main customer service representative , with many years of experience in music retail , and Nicole Cusi , our fantastic web and IT specialist , who has totally revamped our website and digital marketing . We also have two detail-oriented warehouse staff , Derek Cassidy and Chris Bauld , who take care of a wide range of receiving and inventory control issues , as well as shipping to all points across Canada .”
In terms of her own role with the company , she explains that it ’ s changed a lot over the years , beginning 16 years ago packing orders when her daughter was in kindergarten . “ I learned the business from George and gradually took on the accounting , purchasing , advertising , and other roles over the years . The challenges vary day-to-day in a small business such as ours ; however , personally , I would say adapting to the rapidly-changing landscape of digital commerce and all that entails has been an ongoing challenge but also very rewarding when you see the impact it has on being able to meet the demands of our customers .” Demands that Stokholm very much understands , as she herself is a lifelong musician .
“ I have been a musician my entire life ,” she states . “ Starting with piano lessons at a young age , finding the flute and cello in school band and eventually pursuing post-secondary performance degrees in flute . I spent many years involved in church music , which also led me to be an organist and choir director for several years . My early experiences working for a music store in B . C . while getting my master ’ s degree at UBC provided a great foundation to move back into the music industry [ when I joined ] George at Counterpoint .”
Counterpoint General Manager Kathleen Stokholm
Now , as a distributor largely focused on the band and orchestra sector , Counterpoint ’ s business was obviously affected by the pandemic – but luckily , being such a small company , they were able to adapt and push forward , according to Stokholm . “ As with most businesses , the pandemic has kept us on our toes . We were fortunate to be able to keep most of our staff working , either from home , or distanced in the warehouse , throughout the various lockdowns . A recent investment in new software , web development , and digital marketing enabled us to shift to work-from-home and back to in-person easily . This new infrastructure will also hold us in good stead going forward .”
And speaking of going forward , Stokholm is optimistic about what ’ s to come , and rightfully so . Counterpoint is a thriving distributor that ’ s staked its claim in a nebulous market for nearly 30 years by capturing an essential , high-end sector , and capitalizing with personable , genuine service .
“ As we all hope that this is the ending stage of the pandemic , I am excited to see live music flourish again in Canada ,” she concludes . “ School music programs need to resume so kids can enjoy all the benefits that a music education provides . We hope to continue to find new and interesting product lines to support Canadian musicians and to grow the company as we have done over the past few decades .”
Andrew Leyenhorst is a Consulting Editor at Canadian Music Trade .