Family-run Dots instrumental in tuition – St Pancras Way shop nominated for Camden Unsung Music Hero award

Thursday, 3rd March 2011


Published: 03 March 2011

IT is one of Camden’s hidden gems: an independent music shop, tucked away in the residential backstreets of Camden Town, boasting all the charm of a family-run corner store.

Dots – the Camden Music Shop, at the north end of St Pancras Way, is cluttered with musical instruments and piles of rare sheet music. Guitars hanging in the window and the entrance steps are painted black and white like piano keys.

Now, professional French horn musician Dot Fraser, who has run the business for 13 years with her trombone-playing husband Noel, has been nominated for an Unsung Music Hero award – the prize scheme organised by Camden Mayor and part-time ukulele player Cllr Jonathan Simpson. 

Supported by the New Journal and other sponsors, the awards recognise those who have helped protect and maintain the borough’s world famous musical heritage.

Ms Fraser said: “I have no idea who nominated me. It’s a lovely surprise. I think Camden is the most astonishing place to be in terms of music. We have the most innovative and experimental music department in the education authority. In terms of gigging musicians, every band on the road to success works through Camden’s venues. There’s nowhere better.”

She described herself as “part detective” for her work bringing together young Camden musicians with specialist tutors and “hunting for music that people are looking to find”. She said she spent a lot of her time “steering people in the right direction” by finding tutors for young musicians or professional players for major events – including one private party with a former American president.

She recalled: “A lady was asking for our help in finding a professional pianist for a Thanks-giving celebration. It was only after the event that we found out that the Clintons were in attendance.”

Ms Fraser said she was “constantly staggered” by her range of customers, adding: “We get a fantastic mix, which represents Camden’s lively and vibrant music scene.  Often, there’ll be a local busker standing next to a famous musician and a bunch of kids who come in after school.”

Ms Fraser stocks new and second-hand instruments, offers a rental service and specialist repairs.

She said: “We’re lucky to have Luke Woodhead, Europe’s leading French horn repairer working from our shop every week. We also have a strings and woodwind repairers that come to our workshop. It’s a thriving service, and brings a lot of people to us, because instruments need a lot of care.”

She said: “When we opened, Camden didn’t have a general music shop that could offer something for everybody. There’s always been a healthy group of specialist music shops in Camden, but responding to a wide range of customer demands has always been our priority.”

The awards evening will take place on March 28 at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm, and will not cost a penny of public money to produce due to sponsorship from Bulldog, King’s Cross Central and Apollo.

 Cllr Simpson said: “Camden has some of the most famous music shops in the country such as the many stores on ‘Tin Pan Alley’ in Denmark Street. The staff are always incredibly helpful with advice and encouragement to people interested in taking up music. I recently brought a ukulele from Dots in the hope of being able to strum a tune in the future. 

“Our music shops enable so many of us to follow our musical dreams.”

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