Telling Alaska’s Story: Anchorage music store The Horn Doctor has been part of community for nearly 40 years

Published: Jan. 17, 2022 at 5:09 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Learning to play an instrument isn’t always easy, but it certainly has its rewards, according to Barbara Kagerer. Kagerer and her husband John own The Horn Doctor, an Anchorage music store that’s offered sales, rentals and repairs since 1984.

“They learn that if they stick with it enough, that they’re going to achieve, and that they’re going to learn that they can do it, and so that makes me happy,” she said.

The store, located in a former post office building on Ingra Street, stocks sheet music, band and orchestra supplies, as well as instruments of every kind. Kagerer said their success comes from focusing on three things: integrity, community and family.

“I always tell our employees, when they’re new and they come in, I say, ‘for better or for worse, at some point in time, I’m going to treat you like family,’” she said.

That also seems to be how they treat their customers, even new ones.

“We have to create a relationship, that’s important,” Kagerer said. “You know, we don’t just say ‘hi, how can we help you?’ It’s, ‘what do you play? What do you like to play, what do your kids like to play?’”

While Barbara is most often found in the front of the store, her husband John is usually busy in the back with repairs. John Kagerer is the “Horn Doctor.” A man who, in his long career, has been able to fix just about anything.

“On any instrument it’s probably a five-year learning curve before you really get to where you can do regular, consistent, quality work,” he said.

John Kagerer counts 40,000 customers in his database. They run the gamut from school children to professionals.

“That’s been our biggest thing, is making sure kids have good quality instruments to play. That’s why we’ve been successful is because our main thing over price, over any kind of competitive thing ... is people can come here can get a quality instrument,” he said. “... People in the symphony, people in the community concert band, you know, all around the state relay on us to keep their stuff going.”

Kagerer said, no matter how diverse, music is a way to build community.

“Music, people have to understand, is the international language,” he said. “You can speak any language in the whole world and music, you can communicate with.”

That’s why Barbara Kagerer seems to delight in introducing people to their first instruments.

“That’s my favorite job, you know besides connecting people, is encouraging people to start, no matter what their age is,” she said.

Kagerer said it’s never too late to start a life-long love of music.

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