Founded by brothers and music educators: Dan and Bill Palen. The company was founded upon music education and serves the education community today as one of its primary focuses. PMC accomplishes this by serving school music programs, teaching music lessons, selling high-quality instruments at family-friendly prices and by the sponsorship of many festivals and competitions in the area. Even though the company has grown a great deal over the years, Palen Music Center still holds true to their core principals of treating customers like family, maintaining a family-friendly, expert staff; and by giving them a great price- ALWAYS. The Palen family is still actively involved each day, along with their incredible team members, in the serving of their customers.
It all started when Dan and Bill Palen, brothers and successful music educators, decided to pool their life savings and buy Will James Music Service that had been a music business in downtown Springfield, Missouri since the early 1900s. Dan and Bill wanted to give back and help other music educators succeed. They had a passion for helping kids. Dan and Bill believed that music was an important part of the education of all kids and went about furthering this belief everyday.
The work was hard and the hours long. The profit was slim. After their first full year in business they made a grand total of $20,000 in sales, not even enough to cover expenses. In fact, it was so tight that Dan Palen continued his day job as the Head Director for Southwest Missouri State University during the day and worked nights at Palen Music Center. Dan and Bill agreed to share Dan’s teaching salary if it came to that in order to support their families while they pursued this crazy dream.
After several years of hard work and desperation, momentum was found and Palen Music Center began to grow. The store expanded and was moved multiple times in downtown Springfield until they settled on buying the old Arthur Murray Dance Studio on Walnut Street- right next to the Lander’s Theatre. This relocation would provide them enough room for years to come for a full repair facility, a showroom, offices, and music-lesson studios.
Many wonderful people gave of themselves when they worked at Palen Music Center back then. The 60s and 70s brought some amazing, wonderful family members that helped them grow. People like: Dan’s wife, Sue. Bill’s wife, Betty. Mrs. Lucas, John and Cathy Eubanks, Gary and Zoila Speer, Virginia Miller, Bob and Janet Hopkins, and so many more.
When the 80s rolled around, Bill Palen decided that he still had a desire to go back to his passion, which was teaching kids. It was sad for Dan to lose his brother Bill at Palen Music Center. Bill knew it was important to follow his heart so in 1982, Dan bought Bill’s portion of Palen Music Center. Being a family business, Dan and Sue’s boy’s: Brett, Danny and Brad helped in little ways, even at a young age. It was no surprise that as they grew older they became more actively involved during the summers and weekends when they weren’t in school, doing anything from teaching music lessons to cleaning up old horns. In 1983, Dan, Brett and Danny helped to expand the business to include guitars, keyboards and amplification to go along with a thriving music education business.
Brett attended the University of Arkansas and received his degree in music education. Brett was a successful band director after graduation and later became a full-time employee at Palen Music Center in 1986. Danny attended Berklee College of Music in Boston and received his degree in Electronic Music and Jazz Composition. Danny determined that the life of a touring musician was not as appealing as the family business so he was offered full-time opportunity in 1988. Palen Music Center continued to grow at a fast pace, so much so that they began to outgrow their downtown facility. Dan purchased a lot on the south side of Springfield and began to plan the new Palen Music Center.
Dan worked, planned and saved for the new PMC. He wanted it to be a premier destination for families to come and be able to take their music as far as they would like to go. During this same time Dan was the president of associations like NASMD and on the NAMM Board. He shared his vision of this store with others and they thought he was crazy. The size he was talking about was something that had not ever been done, especially in the midwest. If you ever knew Dan, you knew he was stubborn. He didn’t listen and by November 1990, Palen Music Center was moving into their new state-of-the-art facility, dubbed by industry magazines “The Taj Mahal of Music Stores”.
The 90s were a time of great growth for Palen Music Center. The family and team were working hard and making a difference. It was rewarding work. As the mid 90s rolled around Dan, Brett and Danny knew they had to move towards computers and away from cash registers and hand-written invoices, Dan Palen, Sr. said, “I don’t feel like leading anymore. I’m sure as heck not going to follow anyone so I think I’ll just get out of the way.” And he did. The summer of 1996 was the last time Dan, Sr. worked at Palen Music Center. At that time, Brett Palen was promoted to company president and Danny Palen to vice president. Brad Palen, who had recently graduated from Southwest Missouri State University with a degree in business, was also part of Palen Music Center and an integral part in their move to a computer-based Point-of-Sale system.
The business kept on growing and times were great. So much so that Brett decided it was time to grow and take the Palen Music Center message to other areas. After some market research, Columbia, Missouri was chosen and the plans were made. In late 1998, Palen Music Center Columbia was open and headed by Brad Palen.
Much has happened since then. Palen Music Center is still growing as a company with over 100 team members. They have locations in Springfield, MO; Columbia, MO; Joplin, MO; Liberty, MO; Broken Arrow, OK; and also Oklahoma City, OK. Brett Palen is now the company CEO and Chairman. Dan Palen, Jr is the Managing Director and Vice Chairman. Eric Matzat is the company President along with an amazing, dedicated team that is like family. Brad Palen decided to go back to school at Washington University to earn his MBA. Upon his graduation Brad was sought out by the Wal-Mart Corporation and is now a Senior Director for them in Bentonville, AR. In 2011, Palen Music Center was voted Independent Music Dealer of the Year for the USA. Some of the longtime family members that helped them get there are: Bob Hopkins, Casey Tillman, Wayne Blades, Paul Carson, Kevin Flannery, Michael Clutter, Ken Crisp, Zach Houser and many, many more.
Most recently, in March of 2013, Palen Music Center lost founder Dan Palen at the age of 77. Dan loved Palen Music Center and Dan loved family. It has been a tough loss but through it there was also joy in knowing that Dan was able to see Palen Music Center reach its 50-Year Anniversary.
It is awesome to see how the vision [and some might even say foolishness of two brothers brought about something like this and has had such an impact on the lives of kids, families and musicians all over the country. The legacy moves forward. Today, more than ever, it’s about family. Palen Music Center loves kids, families and musicians. Not only is the Golden Rule a cornerstone principle in their company but they believe in putting their money to use for good.
Palen Music Center invests greatly in music education. They provide multiple support programs to enhance the efforts of the many wonderful music educators in their communities. These programs indirectly or directly benefit the children in our school systems.
Some of the ways that Palen Music Center backs up their why, “IT’S ABOUT FAMILY”, is by building churches in Brazil in cooperation with Christian Missions Unlimited. Team members at Palen Music Center volunteer their time and make the trip to be a part of this awesome experience that touches the lives of so many in need. Palen Music Center pays all of the expenses for their travel and the project. There are other charities that they are actively involved in: Convoy of Hope, Pregnancy Care Center, Victory Mission, Compassion International, Compassion International Future Leaders, Crosslines Mobile Food Pantry and many other food pantries in their local communities. At Palen Music Center, it’s about family. We thank you for being a part of our family for over 50 years. We are blessed to serve you!