A Matter of Maintenance

Good quality musical instruments are durable and with regular servicing, good repairs and parts availability, should last many years, whether with the original owner or passing through the hands of multiple players. That all sounds simple, but we’re hearing about challenges and we need to know more.

One of the frustrations we’ve heard about most is a shortage of skilled repairers, across most instruments. There’s little training out there, and building a career as a musical instrument technician is rarely promoted. Proposals for an apprenticeship standard are under discussion. It’s one thing offering purely ‘on the job’ training, but the ability to gain a tangible qualification makes any learning more attractive.

There needs to be engagement from retailers and manufacturers for implementation to be possible. We understand that resources are tight in the current climate, and it’s a question of whether sufficient businesses have the capacity and desire to take this on. We’ve been asked, as the trade association for musical instrument retailers and manufacturers in the UK, to provide some feedback on the proposals.

Of course, giving customers faith in the longevity of the instruments you make and sell is one of the big things that will bring them back to your shop or brand at upgrade time. That can also feed into good quality secondhand stock – a huge positive in a climate of squeezed margins.

LADA (LA Development Associates) and Arts Council England have worked with a group of trailblazers to draft the standard, broadly defining the role and the responsibilities associated with it, as well as some indication of the time splits between on the job and taught elements.

The draft summarises the job role as follows:

“Musical Instrument Maintenance and Repair Technicians know and understand the type of instruments they work on for example brass instruments, although initially they will work across a range of instruments using specialists where required to support activities.”

“They communicate with customers and other stakeholders to organise maintenance and repair plans, discuss broken instruments, understand adaptations required and respond to requests for advice regarding instruments. They may also find, liaise and build relationships with suppliers of materials”

The proposal is for a 2-year apprenticeship, with training extending to skills such as identifying ways in which instruments can be adapted for players with disabilities, discussing alternative options when repair is not viable and focusing on sustainable practices.

Matt has the full draft document and is able to share it. If you have an interest in this and feel you may be able to have any input, however small, please get in touch with him so you can offer your thoughts.

Parts supply was significantly affected during the lockdown periods of 2021-22, and information from some MIA members appears to indicate that it hasn’t entirely recovered, with waiting times for some items remaining longer than is ideal. We’d like to hear your experiences of this, whether retailer, distributor or manufacturer, so that we can open a conversation about where things might be getting caught up and how any potential improvements could be achieved. Please email Matt with any information you’d like to offer on this topic.

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