Schmitt Music is one of the largest full-service music retailers in the US and it started when a Mr Paul A. Schmitt moved to Minneapolis from New York City, and founded the Schmitt Music Company. By 1941 the business had grown so large new premises were needed and a building was chosen in Downtown, large enough for a warehouse and piano-rebuilding shop.
Fast forward to the 1970's, and things Downtown were starting to need a freshen up, so Paul's son Robert set about having 32 windows on the side of the building bricked up and a huge mural painted across the full façade. The music chosen was Maurice Ravel's "Gaspard de la Nuit.", selected for no other reason that the notes made up an attractive section of sheet music. When the result was revealed Schmitt had world renowned Pianist Van Cliburn play the piece on a Steinway concert grand in front of the new art work, and although the image reached newspapers worldwide it wouldn't be the most famous photo to be taken on the same spot. That would come in along a little later..
In 1977 photographer Robert Whitman was asked to take some promotional pictures of a then unknown Minneapolis musician, one Mr Prince Rogers Nelson.
After being played a demo of what would become Prince's first single Soft & Wet, Whitman agreed to the job and began taking a series of pictures, in his studio, at the home of Prince's then manager and, in what would become an iconic image, out on the streets of Downtown Minneapolis in front of the Schmitt Music Mural.
In a few clicks of Whitman's camera the mural became part of Prince history and an iconic 'Must See' for each and every True Funk Soldier that makes the pilgrimage to Minneapolis
Of all the shots taken that day Robert Whitman would go on to tell the Guardian Newspaper that;
"This is to me the most iconic photo of my collection. It's totally about Prince and Minneapolis; if you are from Minneapolis you will understand the vibe even better. I love the fact that it was shot in landscape format. The cropping is very powerful. The way your eye goes directly to Prince and then the cars, the woman in the back (who didn't move for a long time) and of course the music wall. In the series you will find other expressions that he gave to the camera, but the intensity was all in this one-time shot."
Although the Schmitt Music Company have left the building, the famous mural remains and is often the scene for impromptu photo shoots as visitors try to find just the right spot to stand in, whilst dodging the parking cars!
You can find the mural yourself at the corner of 10th Street and Marquette Ave in Downtown, just a block from The Dakota Jazz Club.