I was nominated for a national award by Project Equity, an organization that helps businesses transition to employee ownership. Their first-ever EO Inspiration Award is for business owners who converted to worker co-ops prior to 2020. It felt strange to receive this honor, because eight years seems like a couple lifetimes ago. I did not know then that Electric Violin Shop was the first US retail music store to become a worker-owned co-op – it seemed like such a natural (and easy) path for me to retire from retail and give my employees a secure basis to keep the shop going.

The award recipient will be announced in Los Angeles at the EO Equity Summit this week.

I guess the whole point of leaving a legacy is that, if the organization continues to thrive after you leave, you have brought the arc full circle — from wild idea (aka vision), to dipping in one toe, to bringing into full physical manifestation, to the middle period when all the details of running it cannot be handled by one person, to a transition when your team takes over. And it is immensely gratifying when the team keeps your baby going, even expanding the original idea.

I hope one of the other nominees wins this award, because I already feel like a winner because Electric Violin Shop is still serving bowed string players around the world.

On a related note (sorry, not sorry!), I am happy to brag that Bulltown Strutters have now had three successful gigs after me stepping down as Leader. Greg Hames triumphed through his trial by fire at the Shakori Grassroots Festival by leading the parade and stage performances. He even had the courage to program a new tune that they barely rehearsed, and it came off awesome! It feels amazing to be “just” a player in such a powerhouse brass band.


Blaise Kielar received Honorable Mention in the 2022 Alex Albright Creative Nonfiction Prize for an excerpt from his memoir in progress, "Be Heard: The Quiet Kid Who Started the World’s Loudest Violin Shop." He opened Chapel Hill’s first violin shop in 1978 and retired from a music retail career by transitioning Electric Violin Shop into the first worker-owned co-op music store in the United States. He plays jazz violin and clarinet in several bands and leads the Bulltown Strutters, Durham’s community New Orleans brass band.

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