An interview with Jay Gemmill
creator and sole proprietor of the Ontario Flute Centre
When was the Ontario Flute Centre founded?
1991. I originally started out repairing, selling flutes both new and used, and selling accessories and flute-related novelties. I found that I could not compete in sales with the big stores and decided to concentrate on what I do best: repair.
How long have you been a band instrument repair technician?
Where did you study band instrument repair?
I studied at the Allied Supply Inc. School for Band Instrument Repair in Elkhorn Wisconsin.
Do you have any specializations?
I specialize in flute and piccolo repair and restorations. I am Straubinger certified, Muramatsu Lotus system certified, and am also qualified to work on professional oboes, clarinets, saxophones, and bassoons.
What are the challenges in band instrument repair? The joys?
The biggest challenge is to do my best work all the time, without compromise. This is a source of great satisfaction. Refining my repair techniques, discovering new and/or better or faster ways of accomplishing the results I desire, is a source of joy as well.
Do you have a mission statement? Why do you do what you do?
Satisfying customers is my number one mission. I must also satisfy myself by doing work I am proud of on every repair. I love working with my hands and I enjoy interacting with my customers.
Why should people come to you? What do the big chain stores lack that you can provide?
I offer consistent quality repairs at reasonable prices. Large music stores must add the cost of their overhead and profit to the cost of labor. This increases the cost of the repair, substantially. I have low overhead costs, and charge only the labor. Many technicians can pad and adjust instruments well, but few are really good at mechanical repairs [dent work, soldering, brazing, unbinding keys, etc.] while maintaining a high cosmetic standard. A repair that works perfectly but is unattractive is unacceptable to me. I try to show respect for the craftsmen and artisans who manufactured the instruments by accepting their standards as a minimum, and try to exceed them whenever possible.
What are your policies? Do you warrantee your work?
A comprehensive price list is not practical on a website, therefore, people should call for a general quote, contingent on an inspection for a more accurate, free estimate. I reserve the right to exceed estimates by no more than 20% without contacting the customer with an explanation and obtain approval.
I warrantee the fine adjustments for 90 days and all the mechanical work for one year.
Do you have any tips or tricks on instrument care? How often would you say that maintenance should happen?
The best way to determine the condition of a flute is to have it inspected every year. If the instrument is performing to your satisfaction, it will still need a periodic "Clean, Oil, and Adjust" based on how much the instrument is played. If you play about 5 hours a day, the instrument will need a COA about once a year. 3 hours a day, about every two years. 1 hour a day, about every 3 years.
Do you have any brand preferences when searching for a new or used instrument?
All the major instrument makers produce wonderful products. The instruments vary from maker to maker in order to appeal to niches in the market. There is no best flute. The best flute is the one that suites you and your playing best.