Tim Durst started his musical life as the last-chair trumpet in the Richland Center High School band.
Before his next school year, Durst’s band instructor suggested he switch to French horn. Durst became the first chair French horn player.
The switch, along with his ability to fix things, got him into business selling and servicing musical instruments.
Blue Note Music, 70 N. Oak St., Platteville, will celebrate its 10th anniversary with 20 percent off store items and prize drawings Thursday through Saturday.
Durst came from a Richland County farm family and, as he describes it, “I’ve always been just immersed in music since birth. There was always music in our house. I couldn’t imagine growing up without being surrounded by music. All the people I’ve ever hung out with have been involved in music. It’s great to put original ideas on paper and get that out.”
Durst didn’t find his trumpet experience so great.
“There was a horn shortage in the high school,” he said. “I was the last-chair trumpet in the band, and I didn’t care much for it.”
After the switch, he became the first chair of four French horn players.
“It’s really amazing how well kids will do when they’re on the right instrument,” he said.
Durst attended UW–Platteville majoring in music, when “during my junior year, I got to wondhow you fix instruments.”
The answer was the Band Instrument Repair program at Minnesota State College — Southeast Technical in Red Wing, Minn. Durst completed the program, then completed his music performance degree at UW–Platteville, specializing on French horn and piano, though “I play everything to some extent. I have to be able to play them well enough to see if it works.”
The biggest part of his business is instrument repair.
“I’ve always been mechanically inclined, and as a performing musician you don’t get a whole lot of opportunity,” he said. “It’s just fun to help kids out. — they come in here sad, and they leave happy.”
Durst estimates he has “probably around 20 [school] districts who are regular customers, and there are several more where I do occasional work.” His clientele goes as far north and east as the Wisconsin Dells school district — “over the summer they’ll drop off a car load of instruments.”
There are more instrument brands today, some of which make better products than others.
“There’s a lot of cheaper instruments being made overseas,” said Durst. “Some of them are pretty decent, and some are what we call ISOs — Instrument Shaped Objects. There still are a lot of vintage instruments that are every bit as good as those made today.”
Instruments can be the victims of ordinary wear and tear, but they can also be the victims of larger objects that land upon them … or objects that end up inside them.
“The fun ones are when people get stuff stuck in instruments,” said Durst, listing a beret stuck inside a tuba and a bottle of valve oil — “I had to disassemble a euphonium to take it out.”
Durst sells mostly used instruments: “It’s such a small store, and it’s a huge investment to be an authorized retailer for the big brands.”
Blue Note recently became an authorized retailer of Oscar Schmidt and the revived Electra brand of guitars. Durst also gives music lessons.
Blue Note has been on Oak Street for six years after its first four years as a home-based business. The owner of the building, Randy Grimes, suggested Durst move in to the vacant space while Durst was helping him furnish his restaurant, Chicago’s Best.
Walk into the store, and the music you hear will depend on which of Durst’s two part-time employees are working.
“I like pretty much everything” except for “modern country,” he said, counting himself a particular fan of Eric Clapton and Eddie Van Halen.