If you play the clarinet, saxophone, flute or oboe professionally, you know how challenging your instrument can be to play if it is not in proper adjustment.
Your tolerance for it having mechanical issues when it does need service work, as a professional musician, falls more in the ‘annoyance category’ for you, than in the ‘should I be investing my time into continuing to play this instrument’ category. And yet, this exact question for the students you teach and their parents is probably one they actually ask themselves frequently when their instrument is out of adjustment and they don’t know if its them or their instrument.
It’s frustrating for young musicians to not know if their time is being well spent. They expect to invest time and produce a result to demonstrate success playing fairly quickly in our hand to mouth instant gratification society.
Last time I checked, music and arts had more than 50 jobs open for repair technicians in the United States. Every time I ask someone from a different geography where they go to have their instrument adjusted or who they send their school instruments to, the common theme to most of the answers I get are: ‘Well, there is this guy who has worked out of his basement for the last 20 years, who is now 75 years old, who has been helping me and our school out. I just don’t know how much longer they are going to continue.’ Or I hear, ‘Yes, our school representative from XYZ music company comes once a week to pick up repairs but that usually means my students is without their instrument for 2 weeks, sometimes longer.’
The trouble with both of these responses is they indicate we don’t have enough quality woodwind repair technicians who are local enough and readily available to help solve repair challenges on a timely basis. Because woodwind instruments have so many moving parts, it’s not nice to have, but critical to maintain a student’s interest, desire and growth trajectory to have timely repairs and the least amount of downtime without being able to play the instrument they own.
At the most basic level, we entice and encourage students most easily when instruments work properly and are free of mechanical defect that cause students to lose interest or question the reasons for engaging in the activity in the first place. When we do have local resources available for them, and turn around time is hours or a day, not a week or weeks, it’s only natural for students to become more engaged learners and more aware of the mechanical issues their instrument can have and will increase the likelihood of them engaging more—not less—with getting their instrument adjusted timely and as often as needed. It’s also likely to encourage them to practice more because they will be able to see more tangible benefits for their effort with an instrument that works properly.
So why do we simply accept the lack of resources and skills available in our local community for woodwind repairs? Primarily because, sadly, most repair technicians are so busy fixing, they don’t have the time or willingness to give up income to teach, and also because they fear losing business instead of recognizing there is a sea of business out there if only there were more technicians available to encourage people to maintain their instruments properly.
If you are a band director or a private lesson teacher, or a music administrator, we would love to help you improve outcomes in your program or studio through quality repair instructions. We offer 4 levels of classes for clarinet, saxophone and flute as well as a Director Essentials class for all 3.