Paul Heimann, Musical Craftsman
The Art of Repairing & Restoring Brass and Woodwind Instruments
Who doesn’t appreciate the foot-tapping syncopated rhythm of saxophone super-stars like Charlie Parker and John Coltrane, or the smooth sultry contemporary sound of Dave Cos and Kenny G. The saxophone adds a unique thrill to everything
from jazz and blues to the classics.
But just as a high-end luxury car like the Jaguar needs an expert mechanic to keep the motor purring, the sax needs someone with the ability and the talent to keep the tone and the tenor just right.
Paul Heimann is the guy behind the scenes with the magic hands and the musical ear. His email says it all – firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s a master craftsman who has perfected the art of repairing and restoring brass and woodwind band instruments.
“What I do is really a dying art,” says Paul. “There are a lot of hobbyists out there, but not a lot of professionals. It takes a long time to become an expert at this type of craft.”
That’s part of the reason Paul is passionate about what he does – he enjoys the idea of pursuing a unique art form. It’s also an ideal way to blend his an innate mechanical ability to fix things and his love of music.
Paul specializes in preventive maintenance and repair for the sax , clarinet and other woodwind instruments, as well as for brass instruments like the trumpet and trombone.
He also buys previously owned instruments and gives them new life by rebuilding and restoring them to “like-new” condition. Many of those instruments are for sale or rent. His customers come from all over the country.
“I love taking an instrument apart and putting it back to together again in mint condition,” says Paul. “It is one of the most rewarding things I do. I never get tired of it. “
In addition to cleaning, polishing and oiling, he replaces the pads on woodwind instruments; takes the dents out of brass instruments, and puts the polish back on the lacquer. It’s much harder than it sounds. For example, each key on the saxophone has a spring to keep the key open or closed. If a spring breaks, it has to be replaced. Nimble fingers are definitely a requirement.
Not surprisingly, Paul is not only a master at repairing instruments, he also enjoys playing them.
“I love music and play the sax, flute, piano and bass guitar,” says Paul. “I think that ability gives me a competitive edge because as a player, I really appreciate the sound of a well-tuned instrument. Every time I tackle a restoration and repair, I want to make sure it is done right because that’s what I would want for myself personally.”
Easy listening jazz is his favorite musical genre. You can hear him perform most Sundays with the Unity Band at First Unity Church in St. Petersburg, Fl., where he adds a little extra flair to the professional-quality music program.
“Music always came easy for me,” says Paul. “There were nine of us growing up and because my dad owned a music store and was a school band director, each of us had to play the piano plus pick one other instrument,” says Paul. “I started playing piano in the second grade and sax in the sixth grade.”
In high school, his father assigned him to the music store’s repair shop, where he learned the basics on the job. Later he completed a 48-week program and graduated from Allied School of Band Instrument Repair, a nationally recognized school in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. Now, some 40 years later, Paul is still dedicated to his trade.
His newest ventures include basic instructional videos for the hobbyists who like to “tinker.” In the videos, he offers a “bird’s eye view” of how to take the instruments apart, make repairs, and then rebuild them.
Paul recently moved to Florida from Arkansas, where he was the “go-to-guy” for local repairs. Each summer, when it came time to tackle the wear and tear on band instruments, Paul was the master craftsman the school districts trusted to get the job done right. “Restoration specialists like myself occupy a very narrow niche in the music field, “ says Paul. “But it’s a vocation that is near and dear to my heart. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”