American Tune

Mountain Music Parlor

Renee Lauderback sits on the stage at Heritage Hall, a 50-person concert venue adjoining Mountain Music Parlor.

Renee Lauderback sits on the stage at Heritage Hall, a 50-person concert venue adjoining Mountain Music Parlor.


Mountain Music Parlor, 735 S. Center St., painted to accentuate the beams in its Edwardian-era awning and vintage panes in the upstairs windows, is reminiscent of an Appalachian cabin. The regular cast of musicians playing banjos and fiddles on the front porch completes the look. Renee Lauderback opened the store in 2014 with her husband Donald. Since 2015, Mountain Music Parlor has offered folk music lessons in addition to instruments, but Lauderback thinks sometimes people get the wrong idea about her store.

“I don’t know how it came off as a bluegrass school,” she said. “Maybe because I was in a bluegrass band [when we opened], but, no, we encompass all the early folk and traditional music of America.”

Lauderback said that sometimes when people see a banjo or accordion (both types of instruments are sold in the ground floor’s “Folk Shoppe”) they might assume that only a certain type of music is offered at Mountain Music Parlor—think country music or “folk” in the Mumford & Sons sense of the word. Instead, Lauderback said, Mountain Music Parlor serves a loftier purpose.

“Our mission is to teach, preserve and pass on America’s grassroots music,” she said.

Lauderback said Mountain Music Parlor exists as three different entities. The first is a folk music school in the formalized vein of other organizations like the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina or the Swallow Hill Music Organization. As such, Mountain Music Parlor offers private and group classes in instruments like the guitar and fiddle, but also rarer instruments taught within their historical context.

“We don’t have Swallow Hill’s [resources] out here in the West,” Lauderback said. “So, we’re really trying to find and look in any nook and cranny that we can to find these people who have come here, who are raised with it, and they know how to play the clawhammer banjo or the penny whistle or the native American flute.”

Current specialty classes offered at Mountain Music Parlor include instruments like the accordion, or a children’s fiddle choir, as well as ukulele (technically American music, Lauderback notes), harp, Appalachian clogging and mountain dulcimer. Even instruments like the Bodhran—a shallow Celtic drum—while not American in origin, are taught for their historical value and relation to early folk rhythms.

“We’re trying to preserve all of this stuff, and a lot of countries are trying to do that because it’s all disappearing,” Lauderback said.

Mountain Music Parlor’s second facet as a folk instrument store means anyone looking for specialty instruments is likely to find them in either of the stores two showrooms. It’s the Parlor’s third, and most recent, identity as a concert venue that best serves its mission to spread traditional music.

“It’s called a listening room, and it’s a very intimate venue,” Lauderback said. We sell 50 seats and everyone is up close, eye-level view of the artists and that’s what the high end artisans love—the interaction and the engagement with their audience.”

The aptly named Heritage Hall is the result of the Lauderback’s 2014 Kickstarter Campaign, which resulted in the space’s general renovation, and special features like 100-year-old barn wood lining the walls. Heritage Hall is host to many of Mountain Music Parlor’s weekly jam sessions, where musicians of all levels are welcome to play, as well as the store’s seasonal concert series. The Fall series starts in Mid-August, and dates are available at