Guitar Lesson Turns into Decade-Long Family Affair at Canby Music

Chris O’Neil remembers the moment like it was yesterday. He and his wife, Brenda, and their children, Melissa and Matthew, were in downtown Canby doing a bit of shopping. They found their way to Canby Music, at its original location on Northwest 1st Avenue.

While his more musical family members were looking around, Chris started chatting with the owner, Brian Haines, and asked in a sort of offhand way if he thought he could teach him the guitar. He’ll never forget the response.

“No hesitation, no pause, just ‘Of course I can,’” Chris recalls. “I wanted to learn because I was always envious of those who could play the guitar and sing. And I love to sing, but I never thought it was possible for me to learn guitar.”

Haines knew otherwise. They did a few lessons, and before he knew it, Chris was playing his first song: “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by the late, great John Denver.

“I almost started to cry because it was such a shock,” Chris remembers with a chuckle. “I really didn’t think I could do it. And it was one of the most amazing experiences I ever had besides the birth of my kids and my grandkids.”

The O’Neil family: (front row, L to R) Shea, Brenda, Mackenzie. (Back row, L to R) Melissa, Chris, Cyan, Matthew. Photo by Tyler Francke.

Thus began a friendship that has spanned a decade or more, involving multiple generations of both the O’Neil and Haines families.

“Brian’s not just a friend; Brian’s our family,” Chris says. “It’s like this store is our home, too. And we love his family; we’ve been over to his house, played music over there. I’ve always told my friends: Brian is a dream maker. He’s helped make my dreams possible, things I never thought I would be able to do, bucket list things — now, I’ve done them.”

Three generations of the O’Neil family take lessons at Canby Music, covering a wide array of instruments — including guitar, ukulele, flute, violin, drums and saxophone — as well as different songs, genres and musical styles. Every Wednesday night, the family comes together at Canby Music for a group lesson and jam session.

“A half-hour lesson can turn into a little bit more because we have so much fun,” Chris explains. “We start telling stories — sometimes until we cry. It’s one of the most special experiences; it’s just the best. It’s where I recharge for the rest of the week.

“People say, ‘Oh, I can hardly wait for the weekend.’ For me, it’s Wednesday night. That’s my favorite night of the week.”

His son, Matthew, is now grown with children of his own — and they’re keeping the tradition alive.

Canby Music owner Brian Haines plays with Melissa O’Neil, her niece Mackenzie and her mother, Brenda, on “ukulele night.” Photo by Tyler Francke.

“I enjoy the opportunities that coming to the store have afforded myself and my family,” Matthew says. “And I enjoy the early childhood opportunities that my children will have: their development at a young age through music, a way to express themselves through various mediums, and the way they are able to branch out and challenge themselves is not easily replaced.”

The journey has also been remarkable and impactful on Haines — a rare gem in his experience as a business owner, musician and teacher.

“I think it’s really neat because I learn things too,” he explains. “We’ve played so many songs and I’ve been exposed to so many new artists and new songs that even I may not have heard or experienced before. I’ve gained great friends out of it, and it’s just been a real blessing.”

Canby Music offers a wide variety of instruments for sale or rent, as well as repairs, accessories and lessons with friendly, knowledgeable teachers (including vocal). The store is located at 590 NW 1st Ave. in Canby. For more information, call 503-263-2263 or visit

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