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Mohawk Valley

Trumpet player gets silenced by Walmart

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Trumpet player gets silenced by Walmart
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The holidays bring with them the sounds of the season. For one North Country Walmart, that sound was provided by Robert Gibbs. Gibbs has always played the trumpet while collecting donations. But as our Barry Wygel tells us, because of a new policy, he's been silenced.

POTSDAM, N.Y. -- For Robert Gibbs, a retired music professor from the Crane School of Music, it's a tradition.

"I'm going to say 15 years," said Robert Gibbs, a Salvation Army bell ringer.

That's how long he has been playing trumpet while collecting for the Salvation Army. When the new Walmart came to Potsdam he took his act there, where he drew large crowds. That was until Thursday.

"I was playing for maybe 10 to 15 minutes and this young guy started waving at me saying 'stop stop.' So I said 'What's going on?' He said 'you can't do that!'," said Gibbs.

Gibbs was eventually told by the store manager that he could not play anymore outside of the store. Gibbs said there has never been an issue before.

"There never has been. I'm sure there would be no complaints, because people like to hear it," said Gibbs.

Walmart instituted a new national policy that prohibits bell ringers from using musical instruments.

Walmart says they don't deal with these issues on a case by case basis. This is a result of a national policy that Walmart came up with in conjunction with the Salvation Army.

"Some retailers appreciate having music, others find it a distraction. There are a variety of different approaches to how it is," said Major Donald Hostetler of the Salvation Army.

Both the Salvation Army and Gibbs say that more money gets donated when the bell ringer is performing.

"When we are able to do fairly good comparisons to same locations, same times as from when there is live music as to when there is not, almost universally music on the kettles is appreciated by those passing by and encourages giving," said Hostetler.

For Gibbs, he says his trumpet playing attracts a lot of children to donate.

"But I'm surprised that children, little kids come up with their pennies, and high school kids, junior high kids and they all give. They are very generous. I'm amazed at the generosity of the people," said Gibbs.

Gibbs doesn't know where he will be moving his performance to, but he vows to keep playing to support the Salvation Army.

This is not an isolated case. Another performer outside the Massena Walmart was told he could not use a boom box while collecting donations. He has since taken his act to the Massena Price Chopper. ClientIP:, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP