At Encore Music, Brian Trapani was in high demand. As a co-owner of one of the largest music stores Pasco County, he had to spend some of his time managing the business. But usually he was with customers he had befriended in nearly 20 years working there, local musicians who wanted him to repair their guitars, lend them equipment, or just share a bit of Beatles trivia.
"There were people when I first started working here who wanted to deal with no one but Brian, not only because he fixed guitars better than anyone, but because he knew (the answer to) any question they could come up with," said Tom Orgass, Trapani's cousin, who works at Encore.
Now it's Trapani's family who needs help. He died suddenly of a blood clot Feb. 18, at age 34, leaving a wife, Kristen, and a baby, Sadie, now 8-months-old.
So the Tampa Bay area musicians who called Trapani a teacher, brother, friend or even friend of a friend are banding together to honor Trapani in what they believe is the only natural way: a benefit concert they are calling Brian's Encore.
The concert's lead organizer is Rick Stoots, a singer and bass player for the country and classic rock band Wiley Fox, whose lead guitarist bought his first guitar from Trapani.
Bands from Tampa to St. Petersburg to Hernando County agreed to pitch in, turning the concert into an all-day event at the Karl Reef. Between the $3 entrance fee, donations, silent auction and sale of T-shirts, Stoots said the concert could raise as much as $10,000 for Sadie and Kristen, a teacher at Trinity Oaks Elementary.
With a new house in Hudson to pay for and the store to keep afloat amid a struggling economy, Brian and Kristen Trapani had canceled their life insurance policies last year, thinking they were both young and healthy. Now both the family and the store are learning to cope without him. Encore's guitar technician and guitar teacher have combined to repair guitars in his stead, using his cramped work bench in the back of the store.
But it's impossible to replace Brian Trapani's combination of expertise and generosity, his family and friends said. Trapani received his first guitar from Encore as a child, started working at the store when he was 15, and bought the business with his brother Mike and another partner when he was 23.
"If you have a guitar in Pasco County, he probably worked on it at one time or sold it to you," Orgass said. "He was always eager to teach. He didn't just want to show you on your way, he wanted to show you how to do it."
It was that kind of service that drew guitarists around Pasco back to Encore again and again. Not only would Trapani — whose family called him "Captain Happy" for the smile he always wore — lend musicians whatever they needed, he played and sang alongside them in bands including the '80s dance music groups Retromatic and Martha Quinn.
"It's a real touchy thing to let someone mess with your guitar, but I didn't have a problem trusting it with Brian," said Mark Shane, a guitarist for the Spring Hill-based Trunk Band.
So when word spread that Stoots was looking for groups to support Brian Trapani, the responses came right away.
"We play benefits for people we don't know constantly, but we know this guy," Shane said. "I'm just proud that they would consider me."
There was no hesitation for Dale Dennis of the '80s dance rock band Category 5ive, either. "I stopped into Encore Music and I told his brother, if you guys ever do anything like that, we definitely want to be involved with it," Dennis, a guitarist, said.
Wiley Fox will play after the Encore Tribute Band, which will feature Brian Trapani's sister Dana, his brother Mike and his cousin Tom playing some of Brian's favorite songs. Dana Trapani still sings in the music studio her brothers built in the back yard of their parents' house when Brian was 18. Every time she sings or hears the songs her brother loved to play, she is reminded of what her family — and the local music community — have lost.
"There'll be good memories to think about, then the reality of it sets in," she said. On Saturday, she added, "all of us will find ourselves looking for Brian."