CBA News

This Bluegrass Life - "Mandolin Cafe"


Hey mandophiles, this column may be of more interest to you than to non-believers. But what the heck, there are often things of interest to those who are not interested until they dive in and get some kind of interest out of what they think is not interesting. Happens to me almost every day.

The "Mandolin  Café" is a website that has been around for over twenty years. Many of you know about it, frequent it, use it, and spend countless seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and/or years diving into the various categories it offers. Categories like "Classifieds," "Forum," "News," "Learn/Listen," and more. But how did it happen? How did the Mandolin Café arrive on planet earth? How on earth was it born?

Enter Scott Tichenor. Scott is the creator and administrator of the Mandolin Café. This past January (2017) he was attending the annual NAMM (National Association of Musical Merchants) event in Anaheim, California. After the event was over, Scott was waiting for his airplane flight home, and while he was at LAX (airport) I caught up with him and asked Scott to share a little history of the Mandolin Café. So here it goes, in Scott's own words.

"I started playing mandolin in 1978, a few years out of college, while simultaneously employed in a number of IT related jobs. That combination turned out to be a good background for running a large website. After a pretty good foray into bluegrass I started branching out into other styles of music: jazz, celtic, choro, classical, whatever I could get my hands on. I love it all.

In the early 1990's when the world wide web came along, I knew as soon as I saw web sites built around various hobbies and music styles that I wanted to build one about the mandolin. My wife and I attended a Mac World Conference in Boston in 1993, and there was but one single book at the entire show with instructions on how to build a web site. I bought it, read it cover to cover twice, began building the Mandolin Café, and never looked back.

By the time version one of the Mandolin Café launched on Nov 18, 1995, my good friend Dan Beimborn, who now administers the Cafe's dedicated server (he lives in England now, but is originally from Milwaukee), had already built 'The Mandolin Page,' which was the first mandolin website on the Internet.  The Mandolin Café became the second. Dan eventually dropped his site, and was part of the early Internet boom in California. We lost touch for years, but reconnected when I was having trouble configuring one of the Cafe's early forums. By that time he had married an English girl and moved near Norwich, England, the far eastern side of the country.

Over the years my interest was in building a comprehensive site that would be of interest not only to musicians, but builders, instrument collectors and historians, retailers and the people that administer camps, workshops and clinics. In short, anything related to the mandolin received fair consideration.  And over the years the site has really coalesced around a few central themes: a community forum, a Classifieds that is currently running between 1,100 and 1,200 ads, a News and Interview area, a builder database and large collections of music, either in digital or written form. There is much more but probably no need to list it all. Due to the forum and all of the information there, I think it's safe to say it's the largest collection of mandolin related information on the planet, and it grows day in and day out.

The site is my sole day job, and my wife serves as a part-time graphic artist. Dan Beimborn is our system administrator, and does some advanced programming. Ted Eschliman of Lincoln, Nebraska is the forum's chief moderator and overseer. Ted is a good friend, whose opinion and friendship I deeply value. Mike Edgerton is a part-time employee in New Jersey, who handles forum registrations, and also volunteers as a forum moderator, along with Jamie Stanek who is based in Pennsylvania.

Part of our story includes the fact that we're a strong supporter of the CBA Kids Instrument Lending Library."

Thanks to Scott Tichenor for providing this overview of the Mandolin Café. I often find myself at the Café for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The sights, sounds, and chatting are delicious. Yes, the "food" there is great. But the take-home is amazing.

Many mandolin players are what they are today because of the Café. Which begs the question, "If Scott Tichenor hadn't been born, would the Mandolin Café be in existence today?" If not Scott, would it have been David Grisman, Ricky Skaggs, Chris Thile, Sierra Hull, or somebody new on the horizon? The answer my friend, is.... 

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