The Ellis Music Story

Making the World a More Musical Place

Richard Ellis

Ellis Music Company dates back to 1946, when company founder Richard (Dick) Ellis began acquiring instruments for his own students, who lived in rural communities miles from the nearest music store. The modest business that he began eventually expanded to become the region's most trusted source for instrument rentals, sales, and repair services.

Dick Ellis’s ambition, beginning around the 5th grade, was to play baritone sax in a big band. He grew up in South Royalton, Vermont, attending the town's public school. He did his homework in front of the family’s Atwater Kent radio while listening to big band music. As a high school sophomore, he organized a five-piece dance band, in which he played alto and tenor sax and did most of the arranging. That band performed regularly at local grange halls and other venues. Though he desired a career in music, the high school guidance counselor advised against it, saying it wasn’t possible to make a living through music in Vermont. He subsequently attended the University of Vermont, taking courses in engineering. Dick worked for a brief time as an engineer but quickly realized that his passion for music was not being satisfied.

In the 1940s, Dick spent a year in the Big Band music scene, touring as the baritone sax player for Mal Hallett’s big band before enrolling at New England Conservatory as a brass major so he could improve his skills and become a teacher. Dick faced a difficult choice when Gene Krupa called from Hollywood with an offer to join his band and tour the country, but the decision he made to remain closer to home turned out to be momentous for his musical legacy.


combined bandsOne of the massed bands comprised of musicians from the various schools in which Dick taught music.


Dick began teaching private music lessons in central Vermont and started bands in South Royalton, Randolph, Rochester, and Bethel. During his public school teaching years, he led what may have been Vermont’s first dance band in 1951, and later, in 1967, put together a stage band called the “Young Vermonters”, comprised of students from the four schools in which he taught. The Young Vermonters performed for the state music educators' convention, the UVM Summer Music Session, and Governor Dean Davis’ Inaugural Ball. Music from the Young Vermonters was later loaned to the Vermont Jazz Ensemble when that group was getting started.

In order to provide his students with affordable instruments, Dick began renting instruments, originally for as little as $1 a week. Eventually, music educator colleagues began asking for instruments and supplies for their students, which led to the founding of Ellis Music Company.

Dick and Polly Ellis 2001Dick's wife of 65 years, Polly, helped keep the books and his children worked in the family business too, which was operated out of his home until 1988, when Ellis Music Company moved into its current 7,200-square-foot facility on Route 107 near the Bethel/Royalton town line. Dick was president of Ellis Music Company from its founding in 1946 until his retirement in 1989. At that point, day-to-day operation of the business was passed on to three of Dick's children - David, Marti, and Joan - though Dick continued to be involved with the company, helping out each year during the busy season, until he passed away in 2015.

Dick Ellis with Robert PrestonDick was well known throughout Vermont as an active musician. For over 50 years he led “The Keynotes”, a six-piece combo specializing in big band music whose members played a combined total of 22 different instruments. He played saxophone as a regular or substitute in most of the region's swing bands. And he conducted the South Royalton Town Band for 71 years. (The South Royalton Town Band appears in and played music for the 1980 version of "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg" starring Robert Preston.) In 2001, the Vermont Music Educators Association presented a special recognition award to Dick for his lifelong contributions to music education in the region.

Today, with a staff of approximately twenty employees, Ellis Music Company continues to operate under the direction of the Ellis family, adhering to its founding principle: supporting music in the region by providing high quality affordable instruments, reliable repairs, and personalized service.

Watch a video clip of a 2010 interview of Ellis Music's founder conducted by NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants):

The advertisement below was published in September 1959 in the first edition of "Vermont Music News", the official publication of the Vermont Music Educators Association.

Old Ellis Music Advertisement


Ellis Music strives to provide the best possible service. Your feedback is important. Please contact us directly (by phone or email) with any concerns so that we may have an opportunity to address them. If you wish to share your experience, we invite customers to consider writing a brief, honest Google review of Ellis Music (Google account sign-in required). Anyone, regardless of whether or not they have a Google account can submit a testimonial for possible inclusion on this page.

Below is a collection of customer comments received over the years...


Shelburne, Vt.

During my 31 years of teaching instrumental music in Vermont schools, the Ellis Music Company has been the most dependable, supportive, and reliable music store with which to deal.... Ellis Music is a major contributor to why so many music programs throughout Vermont have succeeded in introducing, nurturing and training young musicians. They have been this music teacher's 'best friend.'


Lebanon, N.H.

Thanks... Whether it was our first trombone, repairs, new parts, or our upgrade to “professional” level, you’ve been there to provide guidance we needed.


Ferrisburgh, Vt.

I have been playing flute for 35 years; I own a top end Gemeinhardt open hole model. The Gemeinhardt you sent for my daughter, a beginner, is fabulous! The tone quality is great and the key action is perfect... I am so impressed by this instrument I am seriously considering taking it to a rehearsal tonight and leaving mine at home!


Randolph, Vt.

When I came in the technician explained the minimum that would need to be done to bring my flute back to health, and also took the time to explain how a complete refurbishing could actually save me money if I was really going to get into playing the flute again. Her expertise and attitude greatly impressed me. There was no pressure, and I knew I was getting an honest appraisal.


West Rutland, Vt.

You are all amazing! We placed the order on Sunday and it arrived on Tuesday! Thanks again for the awesome customer service... very hard to find such great service anymore, however your company is always top notch.


Clarendon, Vt.

...Thank you for getting instruments to us so soon, especially realizing the number of schools you service! I want you to know that Glendon delivers a spectacular demonstration and really gets the students excited to learn to play an instrument! I also want to compliment whomever is responsible for the 'class act' commercial I see on WCAX in the morning while listening to the news! It makes me proud to do my work with such a reputable organization!


Newport, N.H.

Wanted to thank you for your support for the arts and music programs for all the youth you service. Hope my great-grandchildren will have the same opportunities.


Charlotte, Vt.

Lisa and I want you to know how much we appreciate the fine work you performed on our 1930+/- Selmer clarinet. It has never looked or played better in my memory. We also appreciate your excellent service, including the prompt estimate and picking up and returning the instrument to Charlotte.


Columbia, N.H.

Just a quick note to indicate how pleased I am with the work recently done on my euphonium. It plays and looks like a brand new instrument, slides and valves now move beautifully, and I couldn't be more satisfied. Thank you so much.


Brandon, Vt.

Thank you for 34 years of excellent service! It's been a pleasure to work with all of you.


Shelburne, Vt.

Leave it to the Ellis Music Repair Shop to make horns from 1946 and 1957 play better than horns made in 2012. Jon Ranney took the "fight" out of my horns, now I can divert that energy and thought into making music!


Colchester, Vt.

Thank you so much for your generous support of the Vermont Youth Orchestra Association and your sponsorship of the Music Day Camp!


Perkinsville, Vt.

Thank you so much for your kind help with our rentals. Ellis Music has been in my life since the 1970s and your business continues with strong integrity. What a pleasure!


Bakersfield, Vt.

Thank you ... for the generous scholarship you awarded me last spring. The greatest thing a person can do is to spread and endorse the art of music. Your company has been doing it since before I can remember! Thank you for helping me on my way to do the same.


Burlington, Vt.

I want to thank all of you for the support that you so graciously extend to all the music educators that you serve; I seriously doubt that there is another music company that gives each customer the individual attention that you all so willingly give us, and always with a smile!.... Music education is alive and well in Vermont, and the Ellis Music Company is at the core of much of that success!


Norwich, Vt.

Just want everyone to know that the tenor sax repair guy at Ellis is a wizard! I was expecting to leave my horn for a week in order to have it fixed. He did it while I waited and then proceeded to knock out all the little dings and adjust the keys so it plays better than it did when I first got it.


Lebanon, N.H.

I have had few contacts with your company so far but all have been just excellent. You are true professionals as well as very friendly, knowledgeable people.


Bethlehem, N.H.

My husband and I wanted to take a minute and thank you for all that you have done and for all that you will continue to do for families like ours... By offering the service that you do, you've allowed our children to learn, love, and appreciate music.


Swanzey, N.H.

We had the most pleasant experience at Ellis Music today. My son needed an intermediate trumpet and [the sales representative] was so great accommodating him to make sure the trumpet as well as the mouthpiece would be a good fit. All of the staff who worked with us were kind, patient, and knowledgeable. Thank you!


Stowe, Vt.

My family LOVES Ellis Music! The ease and convenience of renting your instruments through the school program has been wonderful. You have introduced the world of music to my three children in a way I could not, and it has had an enormous positive impact on their lives!


Harrisville, N.H.

THANK YOU to whoever worked on my flute! It hasn't played like this for a long time — I knew that low C was there somewhere!


Northfield, Vt.

I am very appreciative of the people of Ellis Music. I am always treated warmly and professionally. The repairs and care for my 1970's vintage bugles has been first-rate!


Vergennes, Vt.

Online rental was super easy! Called to confirm my rental and the folks at the store were very helpful. My saxophone was shipped almost immediately after I ordered it and came very well packaged and brand spankin' new! Look forward to working with them in the future. Highly recommend their services.


Burlington, Vt.

I've sent several of my personal horns to be worked on, as well as those of many students. I can think of no other place in the region to get the level of professional service that I've received.


Woodstock, Vt.

You guys are awesome craftspeople and an absolute model company totally centered on the customer needs. You should be a case study for all business schools!


Ravena, N.Y.

Their repair department is awesome! Jonathan and his team are the only people that I’ve ever had work on my bassoon the 20 years I’ve had it. It’s well worth the 6-hour round trip drive for drop off and pick up.


Hinsdale, N.H.

Ellis has now overhauled and cleaned three symphonic tenor trombones for me recently. They performed excellent work at a reasonable price. Their brass repair man, Gordon, did an excellent job rolling out dents and improving slide performance on all three trombones. I highly recommend their services.


Granville, N.Y.

We rented and later purchased a Yamaha student model alto saxophone for our oldest daughter. As a music major, it is now necessary to upgrade her instrument to a professional model. She had the opportunity to try out two different models, and was able to ask questions and find the alto sax that was best for her. Everyone we spoke to yesterday was extremely helpful and took the time to listen to her concerns and help her find the saxophone best for her. It’s well worth the drive for us to go there.


South Burlington, Vt.

Just want to give a big thanks to Jon Ranney for the excellent work he performed on my vintage alto and soprano saxophones. His honest appraisal and repair work was spot on. My horns feel and sound as good as ever. And the reasonable price and prompt delivery was a definite plus. I highly recommend the folks at Ellis!!


Bristol, Vt.

Excellent work. Fixed issues on my tenor that have been plaguing me for years. Friendly communicative repair techs. My horn now plays beautifully. Very reasonable price.


Topsham, Vt.

You are a master at your work! Both flutes are like new, even the cases, and I appreciate your skill at restoring and refurbishing them, especially the Emerson alto, which once again is a joy to play thanks to you.


Salisbury, Vt.

I am just writing to tell you how thrilled I am with the fixes you did on the trumpet that we just had at your shop. I have had that trumpet since I was in 3rd grade and have taken it around the country with me, from Maine to California, and back to the east again.. and it obviously showed as it was rather road weary.... I continued to hold onto it even though I thought I had seen its last days of playing music. When my twelve-year-old son asked if he could play trumpet this year, I kind of half laughed at him when he asked if he could take my trumpet in to the music teacher and see if it was something he could use. I was brought to tears with how beautiful it returned to me from you guys.... It means a lot more than I even knew it would to be able to hear it played. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.


Fairfax, Vt.

I've been using Ellis Music myself and have recommended them to my students for the past 30+ years and will continue to do so. They are a family owned and run business; good, honest people that do their best to satisfy their customers. They also have an excellent repair shop!


Barre, Vt.

You guys are wonderful! Friendly, knowledgeable, and Seth did some amazing work to restore my clarinet to playable! Keep up the good work!

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