Brass master

Ed Luce

Photo By Josh Indar

Ed Luce owns and operates North Woodwinds, a brass and woodwind instrument repair service on E. Fifth Avenue in Chico. He’s owned the shop since 1983, but prior to that he worked at music shops in Cupertino and Chico and also repaired instruments for Chico State. His shop handles everything from oboes to French horns to bassoons and whatever else you blow into to make sound. We found at him in his shop grooving to classic rock while he overhauled a saxophone.

How did you get into this business?

It’s a long story. My family was into music when I was a kid, and I grew up thinking I wanted to be in music in some capacity but I didn’t know what. So I learned how to play guitar like most people do, I guess. I was living in San Diego at the time, and a friend of mine said there was going to be a guitar repair class—it was an R.O.P. class, and I thought, ‘Well, that might be fun.’ We went down there to check it out, and it turned out to be band instruments. I just thought [I’d] check it out—if it’s music it’s got to be interesting. It was cool, you know. I took the class for two years at night, never thinking I was going to do anything with it. I was a music major in San Diego, and I moved up to the Bay Area and needed a job. So I called up a music store, and the first place I called gave me a job.

You play these things too?

Yeah. I play all the instruments. I’m not really a performer, though. I can play chromatic scales to make sure all the instruments are tight, make sure they’re playing well.

What’s a common reason people need their instrument repaired?

People drop them, people sit on them. You know, horns get really old like this one (holds up a sax). This is actually a school instrument from Colusa. Thirteen-year-olds can be pretty rough on them.

Do you have any really cool instruments hanging around?

Yeah [opens a case]. This is a 1924 King Saxello, and it’s got this interesting shape. It’s a soprano saxophone, and it’s gold plated. A beautiful horn. It’s unique because it’s got this upturned bell.

This is almost like an ancient art.

It is. It’s like 19th-century technology because it’s all about metal. There’s no electronics involved.