palm beach polo and country club Elmira group given music collection
Former Elmira resident donates extensive jazz record collection to Twin Tier Jazz Society, which will be sold to support the society’s scholarship fund
The music collection former Elmiran Irv Meltzner donated to the Twin Tiers Jazz Society includes albums by Billie Holiday, Errol Garner, Maynard Ferguson and many others.(Photo: G. JEFFREY AARON / STAFF PHOTO)Story HighlightsVintage jazz record sale to fund local jazz society scholarship fundDonated record collection includes LPs, CDs and cassettes all shipped or driven from FloridaCollection includes music by Billie Holiday, Errol Garner, Maynard Ferguson and many others
When Irv Meltzner and Donna Kerr Nowlan were growing up around Elmira back in the 1950s, they shared a common love for jazz.
“It was nothing for him to drive to Syracuse or Rochester to see the jazz greats perform. He would even go abroad,” Kerr Nowlan said of her now deceased high school classmate. “Irv kept a strong interest in the performers. He liked to hear new people and then he started collecting their records.”
Meltzner’s family owned the former Richard’s clothing store in downtown Elmira. In 1954, they moved to Florida, where Meltzner eventually started a clothing manufacturing business in Hollywood, Fla.
“But we still kept in touch,” Kerr Nowlan said. “Our parents didn’t understand. He was Jewish and I wasn’t, but we were close jazz friends. I liked progressive and swing, but Irv liked it all.”
Although Meltzner was busy with his clothing business, he never lost his love for jazz. And over the years, he compiled a rather impressive collection of record albums by his favorite jazz musicians. Meanwhile, Kerr Nowlan stayed close to the genre by joining and eventually becoming the co coordinator of the Twin Tier Jazz Society. However, Meltzner’s new wife admitted she didn’t share his love for jazz music.
“He wound up marrying someone who is tone deaf and can’t tell a trumpet from a piano,” Skibinski Meltzner, his widow, said from her home in Bradenton, Fla. “But he had his collection before we met. It was something that relaxed him and I’ve always said that when I die, I wanted to come back as one of his records because of the loving way he treated them.”
Skibinski Meltzner said it was her husband’s habit to buy an LP and only play it once. To preserve the quality of the recording,
he would transfer music to cassette tapes and, later, to CDs.
“I lost a lot of closet space because of his records,” Skibinski Meltzner said.
Meltzner’s record collection eventually grew to more than 500 LPs some of the 78 rpm variety and an untold number of CDs and cassettes. And after his death in November 2013, the question became what to do with them all.
Meltzner had already decided he wanted to donate his collection to Kerr Nowlan and the jazz society. So, Skibinski Meltzner went through the albums and kept the ones by artists she was familiar with. And following her late husband’s wishes, the rest of the collection was donated to the Twin Tiers Jazz Society.
Shipping the cassettes and CDs was a rather simple matter and Kerr Nowlan started receiving the cassettes and CDs last fall.
“They’d come packed in boxes,” she said. “I haven’t counted them all but I had to stash them all over my house in dining room chairs, under tables, everywhere.”
Skibinski Meltzner said she still has about 200 CDs and 150 cassettes in her Florida home that she plans to send to Elmira to the jazz society, which plans to sell them as a fund raiser.
The albums, however, required a bit more care and were driven up from Florida by an Elmira woman who was wintering in St. Petersburg.
“Her instructions were to store them upright and not to leave them in the car, where they might get overheated and warp,” Kerr Nowlan said.
When the albums arrived, they were stored at Twin Tier Imaging Systems un Elmira, which is owned by George Skillman, the jazz society’s other co coordinator. Skillman went through some of the boxes, selected and played a few of the LPs.
Included in the boxes was a copy of “Goldmine’s 2000 Jazz Album Price Guide” with the albums Meltzner owned all circled inside the book. According to a note that came with the guide, the collection was valued at $5,192 in July 2006.
“They were all in good condition,” Skillman said. “I borrowed a few from Donna to see what we had and I was very impressed. They were all clean and in very good shape.”
Skillman also discovered something else when the collection was moved to Kerr Nowlan’s former nursery school on Elmira’s College Avenue the boxed albums were heavy and difficult to move. The boxes of music will be stored at the former nursery school while the jazz society figures out how the sell them.
The proceeds of the sale will go to fund the jazz society’s youth scholarship program and also to Meals on Wheels of Chemung County.
The jazz society wants to make sure the albums are valued and priced correctly before a sale is held.
“We know the albums are worth a lot of money but I know that in Elmira, we’re not going to get top dollar,” said Kerr Nowlan. “But we have to raise the money somehow.”