Feel-Good Friday: Music Artisans Are a Dying Breed; One Town Honors Its Local Instrument Repairman

AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic

This week's Feel-Good Friday is about the art of music and the art of repair. There is a power to giving music, whether it be through song, instrumentation, or maintaining and restoring instruments.

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I love documentaries, and the well-done ones, whether feature or short, are hard to come by. I happened upon a really well done one, which won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short. Directed by Kris Bowers and Ben Proudfoot, "The Last Repair Shop" tells the story of the heroes in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) who provide music and music maintenance to student instruments. The LAUSD shop has been in operation since 1959, and LAUSD is one of the few remaining school districts in the entire nation that does this. Hence, the title. 

The documentary featured only four of the 12 technicians who maintain and repair the more than 130,000 musical instruments used by LAUSD students at no charge to them. Apparently, some good does come out of LAUSD, and this documentary proves this. The documentary is only 39 minutes and was last airing on Disney Plus. I happened to catch it on YouTube, but now that it has won an Oscar and is getting press, it's probably found paid distribution. Good on them:

In 2022, I wrote about The Feel Good Tour, a group of musicians who work to gather and give musical instruments to school children and districts, particularly those who have been devastated by natural disasters. Founders Bill Hudson and Al Coffey are celebrating 19 years of doing this and are still going strong! Check out their Facebook page for more information on their work, and the next place where they will be spreading the gift of music. 

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Instrument repair, especially piano tuning, is a dying art. The average age of piano tuners is between 50 and 90 years old. According to Australian piano tuner David Kinney, "it takes 10 years to learn how to tune a piano, and 20 years to master it.” With our attention-deficit and on-the-spectrum young people, it's not a profession that they gravitate towards, which is a shame. 

My last piano tuner apprenticed under a master tuner, built his own business, and trained his son to do the same. But these apprentice opportunities are rare, and in no small part due to the internet, many of the schools that facilitated this learning are no longer in existence. This is why community instrument repair places like Musicare Musical Instrument Service Center are so important. Dave Sevy is a master repairman and the owner, and he turns 90 years old on Sunday. So, for 70 years, he has been pouring his expertise and care into the instruments of the people of Idaho Falls, ID. A member of the community felt this milestone year--and his many years of service--deserved special recognition.

This June 30th, Dave will be celebrating his 90th birthday, marking over 70 years of dedicated service in the field of musical instrument repair. His passion and expertise have made a significant impact on our community, helping countless students, teachers, and musicians keep their instruments in top condition and contributing to the vibrant musical culture in our area.

I believe his story is a testament to the power of dedication, skill, and love for one’s craft. Sharing his legacy would not only be a wonderful birthday gift but also an inspiration to many in our community.

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From the video below, Mr. Sevy told correspondent Nate Eaton that he has probably fixed "hundreds of thousands" of instruments in his many years in business. You cannot help but smile thinking about the care, expertise, and joy he has given to the instruments of generations of musicians and music lovers. 

Which reminds me: My little spinet piano made it all the way across the country and has not yet been tuned. Time to locate my local community artisan and show my appreciation by letting him or her give exceptional love and care to my instrument.  

 

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