Larry Comeau, Band Repairman: An Endangered Species

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Woodwinds and brass–flutes, oboes, tubas, saxophones, clarinets, trumpets, trombones, etc. are precision mechanical instruments that have to be serviced in order to help musicians sound their best.   For the artists who play them, they are both finely-tuned, precious instruments and very personal ones as well.

This all goes for string technicians and luthiers (guitar makers and techs) as well…..for any serious musician your instrument is your personal treasure and you’re invested in it.   For drums, too:  ever notice that drummers travel with their own cymbals, which get fine-tuned by their playing them……

I am an amateur flute player and something went wrong with my silver flute, an old American model.  My teacher, Joe Nazzaretta, now retired after 30 years of teaching Culver City kids music and running the band—recommended his guy,  Larry Comeau.  I braved the 100 degree heat and went to Larry’s shop in the SF Valley.

There he was, in his shop, with a zillion small parts, machines of unknown function, and about every type of brass and woodwind instrument that exists.  There were a million small things:  screws, wires, washers, pins, and other miniscule items of unknown function;  these things are necessary for both students and crucial for guys like Pete Christlieb, Ernie Watts, and all the pro players you hear on the Tonight Show and other TV shows.  Not to mention TV and movie soundtracks.   My teacher is also a studio musician who studied with Joe Henderson and got his MA in clarinet performance from the Manhattan School of Music….  like him, these guys are serious musicians who depend on technicians like Larry to keep their instruments tuned and optimized.

They are very, very important to working musicians.

Acoustic instruments get eclipsed in this world of electronic samplers, drum machines, and electric guitars.  But because of guys like my teacher Joe and repair technicians like Larry Comeau, they’ll never disappear.

Larry found the problem, a broken spring, fixed it and charged me ten bucks.  How sweet is that?   Thank goodness there are techs like Larry around.

Next week I take my vintage vacuum tube amps and preamp in for service with Bob Hovland.  He’s an audio designer (worked at Marantz during their glory years as an audio engineer).   Guys who do this work are also an endangered species.   For people who appreciate really good sound at home,  thank goodness for Bob Hovland.  For us musicians, Larry Comeau.