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

Australia Knights Prince Philip, Sparking National Outrage

Abbott's surprise reintroduction of knights and dames in the country's honors system last year drew criticism that he was out of touch with national sentiment More

SAG Award Boosts 'Birdman' Oscar Hopes

Individual acting Oscars appear to be sewn up: SAG awards went to artists who won Golden Globes: Julianne Moore, Eddie Redmayne, Patricia Arquette, J.K. Simmons More

Katy Perry Lights Way for Super Bowl's Girl Power Moment

Pop star's selection to headline US football championship's halftime show extends NFL's trend of selecting artists who appeal to younger viewers 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.
Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sidesi
X
June Soh
January 23, 2015 10:03 PM
The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid