When the student becomes the teacher - and the teacher becomes the student
At a place like Minnesota State College Southeast, you expect the students to learn from their instructors. But the tables were turned last summer when Band Instrument Repair (BIR) instructor John Huth traveled to Kansas City to learn how to make brass instrument bells from his former student, Mike Corrigan.
After graduating in 2000, Mike founded two band instrument businesses in the Kansas City area: BAC Music Center for retail and repair and B.A.C. (Best American Craftsman) for instrument manufacturing.
"Mike imports artist and student level instruments, but he is quickly advancing as a sought-after builder of custom trombones and trumpets," says John. "He is preserving many hand-building techniques that are being lost to mass production. He has an enviable historic instrument collection and is constantly expanding his knowledge of instrument making."
While repair technicians remove bell dents, it is unusual for a technician to make a bell from scratch; the tooling and skills are specialized to manufacturing. Bells are made by forming a flat sheet of brass into a rough shape, joining the edges with brazing, and then final-forming the brass while it spins rapidly on a lathe.
"Just like a violin, how a brass instrument is made plays a huge role in its performance," John. "It has always been a goal for me to learn to make brass instrument bells and Mike enthusiastically agreed to work with me. Another one of our grads, Matt Simianar, also helped teach me bell making."
In addition to Matt, Mike Corrigan currently employs Red Wing grads Eric Rempe, Kristy Filippini, Ethan Sherman, and Darrel Wilson. John says it was great to connect with BIR grads in the workplace. "Darrel Wilson showed me the art of engraving, a skill he has developed since he started working for BAC. His incredible work can be seen on BAC's Facebook page and website."
John is proud to note Mike's advocacy for musicians. After Hurricane Katrina, Mike equipped a van with repair tools and took it to New Orleans to repair instruments for free. He has been back multiple times and was honored with the key to the city. He promotes his own city, locating his business near the heart of Kansas City's historic jazz district. And he's an active member of MSC Southeast's Band Instrument Repair Advisory Committee.
"It was so exciting for me to see the student become the teacher and the teacher become the student," John concludes. "I was so lucky to have gone to Kansas City to learn from Mike and his staff. He is as generous and kind as it gets."