How to Keep your School-owned Instruments in Top Condition

As a band director, you know that having quality instruments can make a huge difference in the success of students in your program. Keeping school-owned instruments in top condition can be a challenge.

This post is the first in a two-part series and we’re starting with instrument repair because it’s the time of the year to be taking care of maintenance and overhauls. In August we will be publishing the second part that will go over instrument maintenance and how to be sure your students do their part. This article is about how the school can do it’s part to keep school-owned instruments in top condition.

1. Educate students and parents about the financial investment the school district makes in the band program and how much work is involved in overhauling and repairing instruments. Watch this video and consider showing it to your students and parents.

2. Have instruments repaired and overhauled on a consistent basis. In order to extend instrument life as far as possible, instruments should have consistent maintenance and overhauls.

According to the NAMM Foundation, a sample schedule might be:

Instrument                         Should have a complete overhaul every

Flute                                            4 years
Oboe/Bassoon                           5 years
Clarinet                                       4 years
Bass Clarinet                             5 years
Saxophone                                 5 years
Cornet/Trumpet                      10 years
French Horn                             10 years
Trombone                                  10 years
Baritone                                     10 years
Tuba/Sousaphone                   10 years
Drums                                        10 years

This is obviously a general guideline and will vary greatly depending on the quality, care and use of the instruments. This link from the NAMM website provides access to a download of a guide that contains the above chart and other useful information.

3. Work with your administration to develop a long term plan for instrument replacement. All band programs should have a plan in place for how often instruments are replaced. Instruments are not made to last forever. Purchasing good quality instruments to start with and taking care of them can greatly extend their life, but they will eventually need to be replaced. Here’s a link on the NAMM foundation website that gives information about Preparing an Instrument Replacement Plan.

4. Partner with an excellent quality repair facility for overhauls to be sure your investment in your instruments is maintained at the highest level.  Questions to ask a repair facility would be:
– What kind of experience do your technicians have?
– Do you have an apprenticeship system in place to train new technicians?
– Do you use special techniques that set you apart?
– Do you have a satisfaction guarantee?
– How do I receive an estimate?
– Have you received any recognitions that set you apart?
– Do you have references I can contact to verify the quality of your work?
– Many repair facilities outsource overhauls to China which can greatly increase repair time and decrease quality. Ask if overhauls are done completely in house.

Special thanks to N-Tune Music & Sound, a nationally recognized instrument repair facility with 3 locations in Texas, for providing this article. N-Tune Music & Sound is a business partner for BandDirectorsTalkShop.com and supports music education and band directors in many ways. Their dedication to student musicians and music educators is unmatched, as is their instrument repair quality and customer service.

At N-Tune Music and Sound we have over 200 years of hands on experience with a crew of young technicians learning from the master technicians everyday.

There are many shops that perform some degree of service that they call an overhaul. But N-Tune Music and Sound is the only shop that we know of that understands the proper application of lacquer and the use of an oven to cure the lacquer correctly on brass instruments. N-Tune Music and Sound utilizes dust proof rooms and specialized spray guns for application before the oven.

N-Tune Music and Sound stands behind every instrument we overhaul. Ultimately, we aren’t finished with an instrument until the school or individual having the instrument overhauled or serviced is satisfied. Talk with anyone who has had instruments overhauled at our facility about the amount of budget money saved on overhauls versus the cost of new instruments. (We are happy to provide references upon request.) Our reputation has been forged over years of doing overhauls the right way and standing behind each instrument. N-Tune Music and Sound has been a NAMM Top 100 Dealer for five consecutive years.

N-Tune Music and Sound has a published retail overhaul price list. Directors, administrators or dealers interested in overhaul service should contact N-Tune Music and Sound at repair@ntunemusic.com. We also have a booth each year at the Texas Music Educators Association convention in San Antonio, Texas.

Related Reading:
Storing School Instruments Correctly (to avoid costly repairs)
An Open Letter to Band Parents Regarding Step-Up Instruments
Emergency Instrument Repair Kit (Top Items to Include)

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