While practicing with the elementary jazz ensemble at McAuliffe Heights at Irving Elementary School, Connor Mosebey accidentally dropped his trumpet and the mouthpiece became stuck.
His instructor, Larry Detwiler, Altoona Area High School band director, told him to take his trumpet to Bandman Rental & Repair at the Meadows Intersection, Duncansville.
Co-owner Doug Stephens quickly resolved the problem.
(Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec)
Doug Stephens repairs a saxophone on April 4 at Bandman Rental & Repair at the Meadows Intersection in Duncansville.
(Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec)
Joel Myers picks a tool to make a repair to an instrument at Bandman Rental & Repair in Duncansville.
"I was amazed that they didn't charge for it. I was astounded that they took such a long-term view of their customer. They were done while we waited and it was as good as new," said Geoff Mosebey of Altoona, Connor's dad. "We won't go anywhere else, that is for sure."
There aren't many people in the area trained to repair band instruments.
Stephens and his brother-in-law, Joel Myers, who opened Bandman six years ago, and Altoona native Mark Chaplin of State College, who has been doing this line of work for 30 years, are among the specialists in the area.
Bandman handles instrument repairs for 22 area schools - including all Blair County schools - as well as Juniata College, St. Francis University, Penn State and Penn State Altoona.
"We are kind of a well-kept secret," said Stephens, who served as band director at Hollidaysburg Area High School from 1995 to 2005.
Detwiler is pleased with Stephens' work.
"Doug was a band director for years. I've had times when it is [the day of] a football game and something happens that morning [to an instrument]. Doug has been in the game and he understands. His big advantage is that he understands - sometimes the instruments don't understand it is a concert day," Detwiler said. "He always says, 'I will do all I possibly can to get it back to you.'"
Chaplin, a 1973 AAHS graduate, does instrument repair work for four music stores - two in Altoona and two in State College. He also does repair work for several school districts such as State College, Bald Eagle Area and Central Mountain.
Both Chaplin and Stephens attended special schools to get the needed training.
Chaplin attended the Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery in Phoenix, Ariz.
"My whole life I have been interested in mechanics and music. I played various instruments and decided to go to school to learn how to build guitars. I figured if you could build them, you could fix them," he said.
Stephens gave up his teaching career and was accepted at Badger State Repair School in Elkhorn, Wis., which only accepts six students per year and is one of only a handful of such schools in the United States.
"It is a self-paced, more of an apprentice-type program. My plan was to come back and set up a shop," Stephens said.
Jay Dell, owner of Treese's Music Store in Hollidaysburg, also has been repairing band instruments for many years.
Dell has been in the instrument repair business since 1973 when he went to work for Elliott Treese, who opened the store in 1952.
"He was the band director at the high school. He needed someone to fix instruments and there was no one to do it," Dell said. "He taught me and I continued to learn over the years.
"We also work on guitars, violins, drums, accordions and antique instruments. You need to find your niche. We've been doing it since 1952. I've been doing it for 40 years and am still doing it."
Ed Strege, Badger State administrator, called musical instrument repair work a craft and said the younger generation seems to steer away from that kind of work.
"It takes three to five years before they become a craftsman at the job. They go here for about a year and go over every woodwind and brass instrument over and over to get good at it. It is all very hands-on," Strege said.
Stephens, who trained Myers how to do the work, said being a music educator was an advantage for him.
"Having been a music educator, I knew how to play them. We have to make sure they play right," Stephens said.
Chaplin called musical instrument repair very specialized work.
"It takes thousands of dollars' worth of specialty tools and years and years of practice. You can't do the work without specialty tools. I have about $20,000 invested in tools," Chaplin said.
Some of the repair work can be time-consuming.
"Sometimes people may complain that I take a couple more days. Anyone who wants to try to repair their instrument on their own is welcome to try it," Chaplin said. "Once they try to do it on their own, they will not complain about coming to me."
Strege said those who complete the course at Badger State won't have trouble finding a job.
"What they find is because of the quality of the school, they find they are in very big demand and we have no problem finding them a job, Strege said. "They can tell me any city in the United States where they would like to go, and I can find them a job. Our job placement is 100 percent and they often have a job within five or 10 minutes. There is a great demand for these kind of jobs."
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.