The Mesa Public Schools (Mesa, Arizona) Instrument Repair Shop opened in the fall of the 2011 – 2012 school year and since then, has made a positive impact on the district’s Music Program. Mesa Public Schools is comprised of fifty-seven elementary, twelve junior high and six comprehensive senior high schools, plus choice and success schools and programs with enrollment at approximately 64,000 students. Standards are high for we are continuously involved in the pursuit of excellence in the Music Program.
Previously, instrument repairs were conducted through a bid process with outside vendors. Due to the high volume of instruments, this required four different vendors, which resulted in numerous issues (e.g., incomplete work, slow turn-around time). This expensive process depleted the repair budget each year and created many obstacles for both the teachers and their students.
In spite of the excellent band and orchestra instruction at the district’s schools, student progress was impeded, leading to teacher frustration. Wisely, District administrators approved the proposal for an in-house repair shop and repurposed a large junior high school wood and metal shop facility.
Since opening, more than 4,000 instruments have been repaired. Those same repairs, if completed through an outside vendor, would have cost the District well over $250,000.00. Previously, approximately 1300 instruments were repaired each year. The number of repairs has increased substantially, while at the same time, decreasing the anxiety level regarding repair service.
The District repair technician, Mark Stephens, has restored many instruments that were previously deemed not repairable and others that were put aside in teachers’ backrooms due to their dilapidated condition. Returning these instruments to service has resulted in more students having instruments in their hands.
Today, not only are immediate repairs taken care of properly and efficiently, we also have the ability to do preventative maintenance. A preventative maintenance program conducted through outside vendors would have cost an additional $40,000 dollars per year, which would have never been possible. However, today, district-owned instruments are cleaned, sanitized and maintained regularly, which has resulted in better playability, higher quality sound and much-improved appearance for the stage and field.
As an added benefit, the music teachers are able to talk directly with the repair technician and explain predictive or noticeable instrument problems. When needed, he repairs instruments while they wait (e.g., emergency repair for a concert). Teachers are also encouraged to attend mini-repair clinics in which they learn how to make minor adjustments or simple repairs in the classroom. Typically, two or three in-services of this type are held each year.
My original vision for the shop included providing repair services to area districts and creating a training facility for those interested in learning the trade. We are anticipating that we will be able to branch out in the near future and help surrounding districts with their needs and begin an apprentice program. We want to be service-oriented, not only toward our own staff and students, but also to others. Our primary goal is to provide excellent instrument repairs while working as a team to offer the very best music education for the students of Mesa Public Schools.
Author Ruth Argabright serves as District Music Education Coordinator for Mesa Public Schools. If you have questions or are interested in looking into the possibility of opening an in-house instrument repair shop, feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.