Thursday, October 7, 2010

Where Have I Been?

As you can see, I haven't posted since August. What has happened to me? Since my last post, I have worked countless overtime hours and have done a record amount of repairs. Life in August and September is crazy for us band instrument repair technicians. Everybody wants their instruments done NOW! I, however, can only work one instrument at a time. Before the last instrument is done, another one has come in that "desperately" needs to be repaired.

Work is starting to slow down just a little bit. My to-do pile is down to about 30 instruments. My wife calls these days her "widow days" since I'm gone so much. She has been very busy stocking up our EBay store, Upstate Oddities. Because I have been gone so much, she has had more time to list her items.

Welcome to late summer as a band instrument repair technician.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Who Would Have Ever Thought of That!?

When people find out that I am a professional Band Instrument Repair Technician, they often ask, "How did you ever get started in that?" {pause} "I guess someone has to fix them."
Here is how it all started: When I was in high school, I bought trumpets whenever I found a good deal. By graduation time, I had a stash of 12 trumpets. Then I started to sell them. It was fun and I made some money at it, so I started to expand into other brass and woodwind instruments. I also had many other interests, so there were many other interesting career opportunities. After looking through the entire Yellow Pages, (I figured that the phone book would have almost every imaginable career in it) I had it narrowed down to train engineer, crop duster, or band instrument repair. After prayer and consideration, I decided on band instrument repair because it would be the most conducive career for a good family life. Also, I was already working with instruments and I figured if I could fix them, they could be sold for a better price.
That is how I got started in this very unusual career.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Upstate Oddities

Every career has its good points and every career has its bad points. One of the not so good things about band instrument repair is the pay. I sacrifice money to have an enjoyable job that is also good for my family. To suppliment my income, my wife and I sell things on ebay. I sell musical items under the user name "thebrassandwoodwindshop". My wife and I work together to sell everything else under the name "upstateoddities". We love to go to sales and auctions together. (For the sake of full disclosure, my wife only likes some auctions.) In Upstate Oddities, we have a lot of kitchen gadgets and kids' clothes right now, but it constantly changes. It could be anything; like a grand piano lid, hand pedaled tricycle, 20 by 30 foot stage curtain, lot of 4000 books, paper jogger, etc. I always say that there is never a dull moment in our household.

Monday, August 9, 2010

You Help Me, I Help You

People often wonder about the competition among music stores. You may think that we are all trying to undercut eachother and put the other guy out of business. Sometimes this happens, but more often, music stores try to help eachother.
There are two music stores in my tiny little town of Burnt Hills, New York. We get along fine with eachother. I do mostly repairs of wind instruments. The other store does mostly lessons, accessories, instrument rentals, and guitars. He sometimes brings instruments to me for repair and I sometimes send people to his shop for accessories and music books. There are also four other music stores that I correspond with regularly. They give me a lot of instruments to repair and I send people to them when I cannot meet their needs. We try to help eachother in any way we can.
Rather than trying to beat up the other music stores, it is helpful to everyone to work together. There is plenty of business for everyone and it allows each of us to specialize in one or two things and do them well. It also helps the customer to get better service.
Thank you to all of my fellow music store owners.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I Want to Fix Instruments When I Grow Up

Sometimes people will come into my shop and ask if they, or a son or daughter, should get into band instrument repair or not. BIR (band instrument repair) is a good job, but it is not for everybody, so I procede to ask some questions. Are you patient? Do you have a good mechanical mind? Do you enjoy working with your hands? Are you content to be alone or do you need people around all the time? Are you able to live on near poverty wages? After I ask these and other questions, usually, they have decided for themselves that BIR is not for them. That is okay though, because there are only so many BIR technicians needed in each city. Sometimes someone is still interested. If he is, I am happy to help in whatever way I can. I will tell him about the 5 colleges with BIR courses. Also, an apprenticeship is a good idea in some cases.

The 5 colleges that I know of that have BIR courses:

Souteast technical College in Red Wing, Minnesota (formerly Red Wing Technical College)

Western Iowa Technical College in Souix City, Iowa

Renton technical College in Renton, Washington

Keyano College in McMurray, Alberta

South Thames College in London, England

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Someone Is Looking Out For Us Band Instrument Repair Technicians

It is hard to believe that there is a trade association for Band Instrument Repair, but there is. It is called National Association of Professional Band Instrument Repair Technicians (or NAPBIRT for short). You have to take a deep breath bofore saying it. They have continuing education classes at varios locations around the country and a once a year national conference that is quite well attended. They also send out a magazine called "The Technicom". If you want to find out more about NAPBIRT you can go to their website .

Friday, July 9, 2010

Please Take a Number... And Wait In Line

It has been a while since I posted. Summer is the BUSY time at my shop. As soon as school is out for the summer, all of the band directors bring in their piles of school instruments that have been played (and often abused) all year. There are 58 instruments on the to-do pile right now. Because they are school instruments, a lot of them are large instruments. It is quite difficult for my poor customers to fit in my shop. Today someone came into my shop with 13 mostly large instruments. We had to move and stack other instruments before we could get his instruments to fit in the shop.
I will have to remember this in April and May when there is not much to do at my shop.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

What Is In Your Instrument Part 2

After writing my last blog post, I remembered two other interesting things that I found in instruments. One time I bought an old C melody saxophone and I later found a wasp nest in it. Thankfully it was vacant. I heard of another one but I did not see it for myself. A community band in the area had a sousaphone with a small corn plant growing out of it.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What Is In Your Instrument?

One question I often am asked is, "What type of things do you find stuck in instruments?" Thankfully, I have never found a dead mouse, although my college instructor did. Other than the normal stuff like swabs, cleaners, and pennies, I really have not found too many things. Once I play tested a saxophone after repairing it, and it sounded terrible. I checked it over again and it was in adjustment and the pads all seated fine, so it should have played. After about a half an hour, I finally found the problem... a snowman eraser inside of the neck. On the repair tag I wrote, "Remove snowman from neck" and I taped the eraser to the repair tag. The best, though, was inside a sousaphone. After much work, I managed to dislodge a drumstick, a feathery plume that was supposed to be on top of a marching band hat, and a school newspaper from 1974. Obviously the bell of the sousaphone doubled as a target.

If you can one up me, please tell me I would love to hear it.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Top 10 Worst Things About Band Instrument Repair

Here is a list of the top 10 worst things about band instrument repair:

10:Summers are very busy... It is hard to get time off in the summer.

9:I will never make very much money... This is really not bad though, because you learn to live on what you make. It makes life more interesting.

8:Occassionally I have to tell parents that their kid is trashing their instrument.

7:Green slime.

1 through 6:There might be some other bad things, but I can not think of them now.

Top 10 Benefits of Band Instrument Repair

Here is the yop 10 list of the benefits of being a band instrument repair technician:

10:Great customers... The vast majority of band people are pleasant to work with.

9:Close to home... Since I own my own business, I can choose where to work which is about 400 feet (120 meters) from home.

8:It is a good conversation starter.... Everyone wants to know more about a peson who makes a living working on instruments.

7:A lot of time to listen to books on CD... Whenever there are not customers in the shop, I can listen to books on CD that I get from the library.

6:Low stress job... usually

5:I get to work with my hands and my brain at the same time.

4:I have a lot of energy when I get home... It does not usually take too muck energy to fix instruments, so when I get home, I am ready to work hard.

3:It does not take a lot of money to run the store.

2:A lot of time with kids... I often take my kids to work with me.

1:A lot of time with my wife... Since I have a 1 minute walk to work and back, I have more time to spend with my wife.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

About Me part 2

I would like to ask for comments and suggestions. Please feel free to make suggestions, but do not be insulted if I do not follow them. I may not be technologically advanced enough to figure out what you are saying. Also, my posts will tend to be short because I am a slow typer.
On monday, I will try to do my first interesting post on "The Top 10 Benefits of Being a Band Insrtument Repair Technician".

Friday, June 25, 2010

About Me

I do not think of my job repairing musical instruments to be exceptionally exciting, however, others seem to. Whenever I tell anyone that I repair musical instruments, they usually act very interested and have more than just the polite obligatory response. To me, it is normal to spend several hours per week taking apart and beating on instruments (well, I do not really beat on them, but it appears that way to others). To most people, my chosen career seems anywhere from odd to highly fascinating; anything but normal.

If you are one of the people who find band instrument repair highly fascinating, please feel free to follow my blog. I have no idea where it will take us, but I guess we will find out.

I know VERY little about computers, so please be kind to me. I am a hands-on mechanical kind of guy and not one of those techno-experts.