NEW ORLEANS -- Mike Corrigan, who calls himself the Horn Doctor, has been coming to New Orleans since 2006 once or twice a year from Kansas, with his workshop in a trailer to fix musical instruments for free.
It all started after Hurricane Katrina. He saw what was happening here and wanted to help. Even though he had never been to New Orleans, he loved the music here and thought we might need him.
“So my initial thought was to come down here and help these older musicians that make a living for their families,” he said. “That first trip I came down I didn’t know what I was getting into and just decided to drive a mobile repair shop, and I figured I’d drive it down here and help these guys out.”
Corrigan said he offered the repairs for free. That led to more trips to New Orleans and eventually a relationship with the Tipitina's Foundation’s Instruments a Comin' program.
Over the years the foundation has donated thousands of musical instruments to kids here and now around the world.
But many of the instruments they get need repairs.
“We’ve gotten used instruments for years and years, and the problem always is, how do we get them ready to be redistributed to schools so the kids can pick it up and play it right then and there?” said Emily Menard of the Tipitina’s Foundation.
Corrigan has been training some folks in New Orleans to repair instruments, including the Rebirth Brass Band’s Stafford Agee.
The problem, though, is where to make repairs. Corrigan couldn't get here very often, and it was expensive bringing down his trailer shop from Kansas where he runs a business repairing and making musical instruments.
Once again the Tipitina's Foundation stepped in. The foundation was looking into the possibility of opening their own instrument repair shop, and that’s just what they're doing in collaboration with the Horn Doctor, in the building that houses the Tipitina's Foundation.
There will be a place for woodwind repairs, and in a larger area, a place to fix brass instruments.
“The most important thing for me is that this city will have a musical instrument repair shop, right here,” Corrigan said. “And it’ll grow. It’s going to be a work in progress. So it’s going to be really excited to see where this play will be in a year.”
And when this place is up and running, the foundation says it will help them get more instruments into the hands of kids.
“It will. Now that we have this capability, when we get a used instrument in, we can bring it down to their repair office, and they can fix it up for us, and we can get it right out to a school. Many of these instruments it’ll be just a turnaround time of a week of being able to get them out there,” Menard said.
And for schools like Pierre Capdau, which have gotten most of their instruments from this program, this is an answer to a dream.
“Because everyone waits on the Horn Doctor to come down,” said Lawrence Rollins, band director of the Capdau Charter School. “They call Tipitina’s wanting to know when Mike is coming down.”
Well now Corrigan will be able to come more often, and Agee has learned a lot from the Horn Doctor and is ready to pick up the slack when Corrigan is not here.
“Ultimately I love coming down here once or twice a year, but the fact that Tipitina’s is facilitating an actual shop to help Stafford get started and be a platform for me to come down and continue Stafford’s training and possibly train new technicians to serve this awesome musical community, that is priceless,” Corrigan said.
And that is music to everyone’s ears.