At Florence Luborsky’s place, you never know who might be dropping in. In 1983, when she was managing the Schenectady Van Curler Music Store, legendary comic Red Skelton paid a quick visit.
“We’ve gotten a lot of big names over the years,” said Luborsky, who along with her daughter Rhoda owns and operates the store in the southern end of the Proctors Arcade, just opposite the stage door. “Red Skelton walked in once, and he was so funny. [Classic pianist] André Watts was playing at Proctors once, and he came in and no one recognized him until he kept on asking for his music.”
In October of 2011, when the national touring production of “La Cage Aux Folles” was at Proctors, it seemed like half the cast walked in, according to Luborsky.
“They all came in costume, probably between sound checks, and it was very exciting,” said Luborsky. “We get that sometimes. Performers will come in and browse around, looking for the music to the show they’re in. We can have a lot of fun in here.”
Schenectady Van Curler Music, formed in 1926 when Otto Yonda opened his store at 203 State St., is a specialty print music retailer carrying a comprehensive inventory, in-house and online, for music lovers of all genres, ages and skill levels. Luborsky began working at the store in 1983, when it had already moved to the arcade, and then purchased the store with her husband in 1984 from Robert Maranville. Along with its initial location, the store had three other State Street addresses and was also on Nott Terrace for a time.
“We cover everything dealing with print music,” said Luborsky, who added, to be clear, that the store does not sell instruments. “We have publishers from all over the world that we deal with, and we have music for every instrument and all the vocals of the major shows, and if we don’t we’ll order it.”
Luborsky is semi-retired these days, coming in on Mondays and Thursdays, while her daughter and store manager Shawn Dawson actually run the place. A Chicago native, Luborsky moved to Schenectady decades ago when her husband, Fred, who passed away three years ago, got a job with General Electric as a research scientist. Rhoda and their two other children all graduated from Linton High School, and when they were all out of the house Florence began taking classes herself at the University at Albany.
“I have two kids with Ph.D.s and one with a master’s,” said Luborsky proudly, “and they all went to the city schools here, which I thought were great. I’m a musician myself and I have taught piano, but after all my children were all in college I went back to school myself and studied music history. I realized it was a necessary step for me, to understand what a musician would be looking for when he came into my store.”
Right up to showtime
Along with individual musicians, the store works to provide sheet music for music teachers, schools and churches. It is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday. They often open on Sunday prior to a show.
“We’re also open any time there’s a big music event at Proctors,” said Luborsky, who actually rents her store space from Proctors. “So we’re always open right up until showtime, and that could be a Saturday or Sunday. We’re always getting people coming to the show who want to stop here and look around.”