The sweet sound of small business

As the 2010/2011 school year begins, new business Tiller Strings combines local teaching, quality stringed instruments, and microfinance to serve the next generation of local musicians. Tiller Strings, operating out of Harrisonburg, Virginia opened in July of this year. Owned and operated by Virginia native and longtime musician, Megan Tiller, Tiller Strings offers a local option for the purchase and rental of quality stringed instruments and accessories. Tiller, originally from Salem, has been a resident of the Shenandoah Valley for almost eight years, six of which she has spent as a Suzuki violin instructor at Eastern Mennonite University’s Preparatory Music Program.

In her six years of teaching at the Preparatory Music Program, Tiller began to recognize a need for a local option for purchasing, renting, and maintaining stringed instruments. Hundreds of strings students were being directed to purchase instruments, music, and accessories online from companies sourced too far away to ever achieve consistent and reliable customer service. Tiller states, “as a teacher, I know the quality of the instrument can make such a difference in the student’s experience, but finding good quality and affordable instruments within driving

distance of Harrisonburg was impossible.” Understanding the value of face-to-face, experienced service, and in an effort to help connect her students and their families to existing local options, Tiller has now dedicated herself to filling this void in the greater Harrisonburg area.

Tiller Strings specializes in violins, violas, cellos, and string basses, all for purchase or rental and also offers bows, strings and other accessories, a wide variety of books and music including Suzuki method materials, as well as access to quality local instrument repair. Targeting the teacher/student market in the Harrisonburg area, Tiller Strings provides a high-quality, face-to-face purchasing opportunity from a knowledgeable source which will only offer “teacher approved” instrument outfits and materials to suit all ages and levels of experience.

Tiller Strings prides itself in connecting with and utilizing outstanding local luthiers and will also provide a venue through which interested buyers may purchase local Virginian and regionally crafted instruments, including guitars, mandolins, banjos, dulcimers, and more. Tiller hails from a variety of musical traditions and seeks to provide products that will meet the needs of a diverse clientele and serve to strengthen a local network of musicians, luthiers, teachers, and students in the musically rich Shenandoah Valley.

Tiller Strings launched in July of 2010 with a start-up business loan from the Staunton Creative Community Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to enriching communities both culturally and economically by supporting and funding local entrepreneurs.

Tiller sums up her experience with local microlending with enthusiasm: “I simply would never have been able to do this, not without their help and advice and patience! They explained everything and were with me for every step, and for someone with no prior business experience. … I just couldn’t have done it without them.”

Edited by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at

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