I’ve walked into the store hundreds of times, usually to the sounds of drums pounding in the back room. I’d take a quick look at the inventory of drums, cymbals and hardware on the floor and guitars lining the panel walls, walk past the small glass counter, usually with a pack of gum politely resting on it, toward the rhythmic sound of practicing drums. I’d watch in awe for a bit before making my presence known. Owner Tom Nimmo would swivel his drum chair around and the next hour would fly by, catching up on mutual acquaintances, stories, drum talk and even some drumming thrown in for fun. Oasis Music has become as much of a music haven and spot to speak with one of the friendliest and most knowledgeable local musicians as a place to pick up music merchandise.
Oasis Music, located on 223 Putnam Pike in Johnston, RI, opened in September 1981, a month before Tom’s first son was born. Tom was a teacher at Luca Music, but he knew that he needed to open his own shop to achieve the success he was looking for. “To make a living, you need to be your own boss,” Tom said of his decision to open the store, and his hard work has paid off. He has sold thousands of instruments, taught hundreds of students and been a beacon of advice for many local musicians.
The store is quaint, but has a homey feeling. Tom is always there to greet the customer with a genuine smile. Though he runs a business, Tom unfailingly puts the individual over making a quick buck. His sales pitch is based around what the customer needs, and he usually takes out the catalog he ordered from to show that he is giving an honest deal. Tom is an honest man who runs Oasis Music in an honest way, a refreshing change of pace. “They accidentally took an extra dollar from me,” a reviewer wrote on Google. “I didn’t know and they came running out of the store to give it to me.” This is the perfect description of Tom as a person and Oasis Music as a business.
Unlike a lot of small businesses, Oasis Music survived the two recent recessions. Tom has gone through some tough times, and had some stories about his struggles, though he told them with a positive tone. “People don’t have extra money to spend,” he said. “It’s been six years of recession.” Tom, who at his pinnacle was teaching 40 students drum lessons, is currently at 12, and he has more than one drum set that has gone unsold for a couple years. Tom quickly turned the subject, wanting to talk about what’s going well instead of dwelling on the negative.
Tom says that he is always optimistic and will tell himself that he is going to have a good day. He loves the interaction he has with customers, always joking and making friends, and says his business has survived by word of mouth and constant positive recommendations. Every customer who walks in is always made to feel like they have been there before.
“Last year I stopped by Oasis Music and bought a little practice amp from the same man who sold me my first guitar and amp 20 years ago,” said Anthony George of The Vapo Rubs. “I can’t help but wonder how many bands and musicians got their start at Oasis.”
Currently, Tom has two guitar teachers, John Stanford and Mike Pournier, who he thinks the world of. Though the Oasis Music sign at the pylon has been taken down temporarily, banners promoting $15 guitar lessons have been great promotions for the store because a lot of people come in off the street looking for lessons. “It doesn’t matter if they’re 8 or 58,” Tom said of the people interested in guitar lessons.
As a teacher, Tom is top of the line. He has a laid-back style, but pushes enough to get the best out of his students, many of whom have gone on to make an impact in both local scene, including The Denver Boot, Route .44, The Defectives and The McGunks, just to name a few. Other students have toured the world over and played with legendary musicians, such as Eric Clapton and Barry Manilow.
“All I can say about Tom is, he’s a great teacher who always goes above and beyond to make playing the drums so fun and inspiring,” said Randy Cloutier, a former student. “Overall, I owe a lot to Tom for teaching me the essential skills of drumming, which has allowed me to further my music education and ultimately making my living as a musician. Perhaps the most important skill I learned from Tom, and I’d say it’s required for about 80% of the gigs I play, is knowing how to read music. Without that skill, I would have never been able to work jobs like a show-band musician aboard a cruise ship, big band drummer and a musical theater percussionist, to name a few.”
One of the best parts about a lesson from Tom is that he doesn’t hide the fun he is having. He can’t help but to play along, and he does it all with a smile on his face. He has said on many occasions that he has the best job because he gets to do what he loves all day. He gets to constantly practice, learn from other people and improve as a drummer. Tom is proud of all of his students, past and present. There’s a real family feel to his students, even though many don’t know each other, and their teacher often brags about how well they are doing, both in the drumming world and life in general.
“I always look forward to seeing Tom at Oasis Music where he continues to inspire his students,” Randy said. “Oasis Music’s longevity is no doubt due to Tom being one of the friendliest, and the most generous in this business.”
“It’s been a wonderful experience,” Tom said of Oasis Music. “I’ve met the most wonderful people in the world. That’s the beauty of my store.”
Oasis Music is open Tuesday-Friday 12 pm – 8 pm and Saturday 9 am – 3 pm. You can call Tom at Oasis: 401-231-7440.