Niche Biz: Instrument Repair

Kai Ryssdal: Lord knows New Orleans has been through enough in the seven years since Hurricane Katrina hit. The city’s always had its spirit, though. And music — the brass band, specifically– is a huge part of that.

Woe be to those, however, whose instruments need repair. Because believe it or not, New Orleans doesn’t have a whole lot of people who fix broken horns, as Keith O’Brien reports.

Keith O’Brien: On a recent afternoon at Edna Karr High School, across the Mississippi River from the French Quarter, students were getting tuned up on their baritones and trumpets. The horns today were working, for the most part. But the instruments at Edna Karr, and other public high schools in New Orleans, are often old, dented, and used, says Edna Karr’s band director, Christopher Herrerro.

Christopher Herrerro: Last year we had instances where instruments just fell apart. Baritone horns would just break in half just because of use. And we had to piece them together with duct tape until we had a repair man to fix them, which is unfortunate.

Especially unfortunate because, in New Orleans, repair men, almost inexplicably, are hard to find. Or at least they were until recently. Stafford Agee is best known as the trombonist for the Grammy Award-winning Rebirth Brass Band. But six months ago, he picked up a different instrument: a soddering torch. And some other tools as well.

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