Posted by: Abby Rhodes | February 26, 2010

Walker gets instruments into shipping shape

The WIU Wind Ensemble doesn’t depart for Brazil for another two weeks, but Chad Walker is already packing.  And the School of Music’s instrument repair technician has much more than a suitcase and his baritone saxophone to worry about.  Walker will spend the next two weeks packing fifteen to twenty large boxes with flutes, clarinets, trumpets, and an array of other horns sent from repair shops and schools around the country as part of the Wind Ensemble’s instrument donation program.

This is just the latest, and most complicated, step of a process that has been keeping Walker busy since December when the instruments started arriving in his Simpkins Hall shop.  He’s been working overtime to bring many of the instruments from pieces to playing order and when it’s all said and done, he expects about 60 will be repaired, packed, shipped, and placed in the hands of a young Brazilian by a WIU student.

Walker works on a clarinet in his Simpkins Hall repair shop

The instruments came to Walker in varying degrees of disrepair, but he says all of them will last a lifetime if they’re cared for properly.  Flutes make up the greatest number of donations at 17, but the collection includes many instruments difficult to procure in Brazil.  While the School of Music may be spending nearly what these used instruments are worth just to revive them and ship them to the southern hemisphere, WIU Director of Bands Mike Fansler says the cost doesn’t compare to what Brazilians would have to pay to get these instruments on their own.  “These instruments just aren’t available there, and if you do find them, they’re in worse condition than what we’re taking and likely cost two or three times their worth,” Fansler said.

Walker will spend 100-200 hours working on Brazil-bound instruments

Looking through the stacks of boxes and horns yet to be repaired, one would expect Walker to feel overwhelmed, but instead he’s all smiles and says he’s anxious to see the boxes go, one by one.  “It will all be out the door next Friday,” Walker said, and noted that the United States Post Office’s online service has been a tremendous time and money saver for the School of Music.  “I’ve been able to do everything online.  I pre-pay for the shipping and print the labels so I just have to walk them into the post office and drop them off.  I don’t even have to stand in line,” Walker said.  His minivan, which is typically crowded with his four children, will come in handy in the next two weeks as he makes repeated trips to the downtown post office.

Boxes of repaired instruments to be shipped

Walker’s duties extend beyond the donated instruments.  He’s also responsible for the maintenance and repair of all the Wind Ensemble members’ horns, and has been weighing and measuring each instrument case to ensure seamless travel among all the buses and planes that will transport the musicians and their equipment to Brazil, around Brazil, and back home to Macomb.

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