Instrument repair shop hits fast tempo ahead of back to school rush

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – At Southeastern Musical Services on 9th Avenue in Huntsville, it’s been a busy summer. Bill Deiss, owner and technician, said since school ended last year they have repaired more than 1500 instruments.

Summer is their busiest time because it’s when families and bands from all over come to the shop for their repair needs during the break.

“The band directors will bring in their stuff, the kids will bring in their stuff to be repaired,” said Deiss. “We do everything from minor repair, maintenance issues, to full-on restorations and rebuilds of brass and woodwind band instruments, and we also do string instruments; violins, violas, cellos, and bass’.”

Inside, you’ll find the technicians hard at work.

“Anything you see in a band or orchestra, we can fix here,” Deiss explained.

He showed us the facilities from the chemical room where finish can be stripped, to the area he calls the “boneyard” where the shop holds old band instruments to use as a form of junkyard to repair older pieces.

They’re nearing the decrescendo as school is set to begin and band practices resume. The floor in the front of the shop is full of cases for instruments repaired and ready for pick-up.

Deiss said theirs is a “dying” trade, but one that’s an art and real craft. This shop in Huntsville sees business from around the globe.

“We’re one of about just a half a dozen shops in the nation that can do all of the repairs,” he said. “We get instruments shipped in all over the country. We do work for other music stores, we do work for colleges, military bands, professionals and beginners.” He said they’ve even fixed instruments from Israel.

It can take many man-hours to get the brass to shine like new, or restore an old violin. But they do it for the love of the music to be made, and the people who can coax it out of worn-out brass and strings. For that, it’s worth going the extra octave.

“It feels good to know that we can contribute to the music industry in some minor way,” Deiss said. “That we are able to help kids continue on in the band programs, and many of them go on and get scholarships and play professionally or semi-professionally. We’ll have people who come back that, they rented their first horn from us. They bought their first horn from us.”

Deiss said he went to school to be a band director, but he decided that wasn’t for him. As the son of a musician and artist and an engineer, he put both his parents’ worlds together in the shop.

They’ll stay busy, even when the school crowd dies down.

“We sell and we rent. We have a lot of horns that we own and restore and make available for sale or rent. You can buy a good quality, name brand instrument,” he explained. “There’s not a lot of people who are doing this… Even when it’s slow, we still have lots of work.”