Woodwind Repairmen Roundtable

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Also available as a podcast.

Expert woodwind repairmen are among the most important professional associations for any performing artist. They often are the difference between having a good performance or a great one and allow us to achieve our potential. In this video, we examine the careers and artistry of four of the most respected woodwind repair technicians in the business—Mark Jacobi, Bill Singer, Tomoji Hirakata & Tony Salimbene. For anyone pursuing a career in woodwind performance, these repairmen should be familiar names. They come together here for the first time to share their insights and secrets in an inspiring roundtable discussion of their profession.

I met Mark Jacobi in the early 1980s while I was studying with Ron Reuben of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Mark demands absolute perfection in his clarinet repairs and has the patience of Job when an instrument is in his possession. His repairs always stand the test of time—you know that when you get a horn back from him it is playing at its maximum. He maintains a sense of calm when repairing an instrument, no matter how severe the damage to the horn or difficult the task at hand. The other unique thing about his approach to repairing is that when you book an appointment that day is yours—you and your instrument(s) are his total focus. I’ve never had a bad experience with any of Mark’s work in the 30+ years I’ve been bringing him my clarinets. In addition, Mark is a very humble person. He defines the term “master technician.”

Bill Singer has been a premiere New York-based saxophone repairman for over 25 years. He loves the saxophone and it’s reflected in his work. His desire to constantly seek ways to maximize any horn’s resonance allows his customers to have total trust with his repairs. I have worked with Bill since 1992 and have recommended him to every one of my students. He treats each one of them with the same respect as he affords the top pros. His knowledge and love of older saxophones is particularly helpful to the many saxophonists who come to his shop from all over the country. He also seems to have a photographic memory of any repair he’s done on a horn. He can recall the work he did on a particular horn 10 or more years ago and when a pad was last changed—astonishing!

The Woodwind/Brasswind opened its New York flagship store in 1999. Unfortunately, it closed several years later but perhaps the store’s greatest service was introducing Tomoji Hirakata to the woodwind community as its woodwind repair technician. I met Tomoji that first year and have always loved and respected his meticulous and exacting work. He has the rare gift of being able to work on any woodwind with equal artistry and an ability to concentrate on the job at hand for hours without a break. He loves all types of music and is therefore comfortable working with top-flight symphony players, jazz artists, or commercial musicians on any of the woodwinds. He’s a throwback to the days of the multi-dimensional New York woodwind repairmen like Nick Engleman, Herb Kleeman and Saul Fromkin.

Tony Salimbene has been active in the New York metropolitan area as a woodwind repair specialist for close to 30 years. I first met Tony when he worked at Roberto’s Winds in midtown Manhattan. There were several times when I had emergency repairs needed and he was always willing to make time to help me out. He did beautiful work and that has led me to work with him on a more regular basis in recent years at his own shop in Nutley, NJ. He creates a warm and welcoming atmosphere in his shop and his repairs are excellent. Music is always on in his shop and you leave with a feeling of enjoyment—always the goal when having your instruments adjusted.

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L to R: Ed Joffe, Bill Singer, Mark Jacobi, Tony Salimbene, Tomoji Hirakata