Featured Music: Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Sessions Music owner John Zaskoda gets his students to keep the beat as he keeps an eye on the goods.
Stealing the Show

The area’s only independent music store for rockers, Sessions Music slowly recovers from a robbery.


Almost a year ago, when Sessions Music first opened on White Settlement Road, owner John Zaskoda and a rotating cast of his music instructors would stand outside their door and watch doves circle and dive. The birds belonged to a business across the street that rented them for ceremonies like weddings and graduations. Earlier this summer, a pair of hawks descended on the area and slowly destroyed the doves and the rental business. Looking back, this affront to peace may have been an omen Zaskoda should have heeded.

In November, Zaskoda arrived at work one morning to discover that he had been robbed. “I put the key in, and the door just opened,” he recalled. “I walked in and noticed two huge speakers were gone. When I glanced up, I thought the guitar hanger had fallen.”

Worse, two days earlier, Zaskoda, a local muso who’s played with The Merchants and singer-songwriter Scott Copeland, had relocated all of his personal gear from his house to the shop. Another local working musician, John Shook (Top Secret, Jasper Stone), had his stuff there too. Everything had been taken, effectively rendering both men unemployable.

A suspect has been identified, but Zaskoda is still unsure how or when he’ll see his property again. “There are two ways I can get my stuff back,” Zaskoda said. “I can go to the pawn shop and buy it back at cost, or I can wait for a property retrieval hearing, but I have to prove [the property] is mine,” which isn’t easy, he said.

Scenesters have pitched in. Thanks to an equipment loan from Graham Richardson, Wreck Room bartender and bassist for defunct rockers Woodeye, Shook was able to resume playing almost immediately after the break-in. And Rock Camp-USA Fort Worth co-director Lee Allen organized two fund-raisers, both at the Wreck, and raised several hundred dollars in donations.

Zaskoda said, “It’s amazing how many people offered help. In the scene, you meet everybody, but you don’t know if they are an acquaintance or a friend. Everyone’s been nice. This gave me a lot more of an idea that local musicians are aware of each other.”

He’s concentrating on re-stocking his inventory in small increments. For now, the focus is on local musos’ most basic needs: strings, and replacement parts for speakers, and vintage equipment.

Zaskoda, you could also say, saw the setback as a kind of business opportunity. After the robbery, his landlord offered him the much larger space next door at his current rent. Zaskoda took it. He’s remodeled his new digs: painting, installing flooring, and doing repairs. His father, who owns a construction company, contributed, and friends have taken care of the electrical work and plumbing. Sessions redux has a decked-out back room, with monitors, mics, and a new PA system, that local musicians will be able to rent as rehearsal space.

Following the robbery, the primary thing that kept Zaskoda afloat was music lessons. And as someone who used to work for an instrument wholesaler, he sees staying afloat as his mission. “When I was playing a lot and went to music stores, I’d get gouged,” he said. “I had resentment about that — I never got a break. I always work with local musicians, and it’s not always about profit. I know what they’re going through, and it’s hard [for them] to make money.”

In Fort Worth, Sessions is the only independent music store geared toward popular music. Zaskoda also feels he has to stay open, not only for his family (he’s the recent father of twins), but also for the scene that he cares so much about. “I have a responsibility to everyone who walks in that door,” he said.

He has some advice for other members of the local music community. “Get renter’s insurance,” he said. “Get more than you think [you need]. Write down the serial numbers on your instruments, write the description, take pictures front and back, and put this information somewhere safe.”

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