Pearce Nitta and Faculty Mentor: David Brown, College of Fine Arts and Communications
In the world of performing arts, instruments often malfunction, preventing the performer from
playing the instrument. This malfunction can be a simple fix that the performer may know how
to fix, but more often than not, these damages to the instrument can only be fixed by a technician
with sufficient training. Over the past year, I have studied the art of instrument repair, focusing
most of my time on brass instruments. The techniques and skills I have learned have grown
tremendously over this time and I have been able to employ these abilities to many of my
pursuits outside of the repair shop that I learned them in.
In March of 2017, my coworker and I started our projects learning instrument repair at
Summerhays Music in Murray, UT. Our first day was spent learning the layout of the facilities
and watching a small repair be performed by Frank Calhoun, head repair technician at
Summerhays, Murray. It was also at this time that we set forth a timeline and plan for our time
learning instrument repair. Every week after, for 12 weeks, we traveled to the shop and spent
several hours with a repair technician, shadowing their work, and then attempting a similar
repair. During this time, I learned from Frank Calhoun and Jeff Robers, brass repair technician.
My work began with simple brass instruments, like the trombone and trumpet, and as the weeks
passed, we began moving towards bigger and more complex instruments like the French horn
and tuba. Frank Calhoun and Jeff Robers taught me skills to get the instruments in proper
working order. I learned how to do a chemical flush of an instrument, how to perform dent work,
how to burnish, how to align valves, how to resize slides, how to patch leaks, how to buff, how
to sight slides, how to replate parts, how to properly solder, and more. After my time with
Summerhays, I was able to apply these skills towards BYU instruments. Most instruments to
receive repair belonged to the BYU marching band, where movement frequently help instrument
damages to occur. I was also given the opportunity to present some quick fixes to the brass
workshop class at BYU (Music 373). This class is composed of future music educators, learning
how brass instruments function. Throughout the project’s time, I had been keeping notes and
records of my work. At BYU, I take record of any instrument that has been through repair and
what repair was done. At Summerhays, I would write down the techniques, and then later
transfer them to a computer file. With these files, I hope that future brass specialists of the BYU
Instrument Office can learn this craft and help to keep BYU’s instruments in working order.
One of the main impacts that was left with BYU was the lowering of repair costs this past year.
In 2016, 47 instruments were taken into repair. In 2017, that number lowered to 18 due to work I
was able to perform on the instruments. Average repair costs range from $20-$200, which means
that this training has saved BYU anywhere from $580 to $5,800 this year alone. My training was
also utilized at Battalion Drum and Bugle Corps, a local independent marching band group that
tours around the US in the summer. While on staff there, I acted as a repair technician for
instruments that broke while on the road. I was also offered a part-time position doing repair
work at Summerhays, Murray after my training period. Here I was able to further improve my
abilities as I continued to repair instruments.
I hope to continue to improve my skills as I move into my professional career. Though I have
gained much in this time period, I could still learn more. I plan to continue this project in 2018,
continuing to work with the instruments of BYU and Battalion Drum and Bugle Corps. I also
anticipate passing on these skills in the near future where I work. The BYU Instrument Office
will hire a new brass specialist in the coming months in anticipation of my graduation. Our
overlap time will be a time of training, and included in this training will be repair. I will also
encourage the future specialist to seek out professional training. After my graduation in K-12
Instrumental Music Education, I anticipate gaining employment in a middle or high school as a
band director. In this field there will be more instruments to fix. In the years to come, this project
will help to save money and time for BYU and future organizations impacted by this project.