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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid