News / USA

Duo Keeps the Music Playing

Team of two men fixes instruments for Washington DC's Public School system

Charles West (left) and Larry Jernigan have been fixing instruments together for almost 20 years.
Charles West (left) and Larry Jernigan have been fixing instruments together for almost 20 years.
June Soh

Washington, D.C.'s public schools provide students with musical instruments for free. But when something goes wrong with an instrument, there are two people to do the repairs for more than 120 schools.  

Charles West and Larry Jernigan approach their work with a passion.  For both men, it's important that students have a joyful experience with music.

"Actually I love my job," says West. "Sometimes it seems not to be work. But it is work."

"I like the fact that I work around music all day, that my job involves music," adds Jernigan. "It involves the support of music, and it involves the education of music."

The two have worked together for almost 20 years.  This year alone, they estimate they've fixed 450 instruments and tuned about 125 pianos.

"There are two of us here. We do brass, string, woodwind, percussion, piano, and electric keyboard," says West. "If you take it outside, you are talking six, seven different individuals to fix what I just stated."

The two say they specialize in pretty much everything, and have not yet met an instrument they could not fix.

"There are instances when we run across an instrument that is just beyond economical repair," says West. "So we just strip the parts from that and use those parts to give life to other instruments."  

Both men are musicians, and music lovers, so learning to do repairs came naturally.

"I have been a musician all of my life. I am almost 50 now and I have been playing instruments since I was six years old," says West. "I played in an orchestra here in the city. I majored in music in college. I played in an army band."

Jernigan's musical interests are varied. "I was formerly trained in the piano and guitar. The alto sax, the clarinet, and the flute, I picked up while working here."  

In addition to fixing instruments themselves, the two also go to schools to instruct teachers and students on how to make minor repairs of their own, so they don't panic if something happens just before a performance. West believes if children start early and stay involved with music, it enhances other areas of their lives.

"I see that in other kids. I see it in myself. I have seen it hundreds of times and it works," he says. "They learn teamwork. They learn solo work. They learn camaraderie, they learn patience and they learn respect."

But West has concerns about the future of music in the electronic age.

"In this electronic age, this instant age has taken away from the sit down, the patience. There is no patience. And to learn to play an instrument, it takes patience, it takes diligence, it takes time."

Being able to enjoy music on the job is one of the fringe benefits of the job. Both men agree their best rewards are the students' performances, which they often record.

"When I get to go see a concert, or go see one of the bands perform, or the children playing, or the choir singing," Jernigan says, "that is probably the one that gets me the most because we had a big part into making that a success."


You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs