Lars (Larry) Kirmser was the instructor for my classes at the tech school, between 1984 and 1986. at the time, he was pushing 50 with at least 20 years experience in the musical instrument repair industry. among his vast experience was several years working for one of the top flute manufacturers (emerson deford, maker of the emerson flute, and the deford flute), and he even designed a common flute that is still in use today.
it’s a little difficult, for me, because when i was in his class, everyone called him “Larry”. he didn’t change his name to Lars until after i left the class. one of my favourite examples of this was when a guy named greg (who was a “goof-off, screw-up”, if there ever was one) had just started in the class, and was working, alone, in the “woodwind and guitar” section of the classroom — which was where we kept a lot of equipment that could, literally, tear your hands off if you weren’t careful. i had been working there, with him, until moments before, when i went back to my desk for something. greg was working on the stationary belt sander with a very thin piece of wood… and, as i was turning around, i heard this loud BANG from the wood shop, and greg came out holding his hand, which was bleeding profusely, and shouted “LARRY, I GOT A BOO BOO!!”… greg was carted off to the emergency room and showed up to class the next day with his hand in a bandage… he was carted off to the emergency room more than once, the most serious of which was when we had to move the 50-gallon drum of potassium cyanide, which we used to strip silver plating, from its old, rusty, metal drum to a nice, new, clean, blue plastic drum… and greg tried to start the siphon by mouth… 😒
i was a 30-something with high hopes and a burning desire to learn a trade of which i could make use (as compared with the study i was already doing at the monastery, which was guaranteed to benefit nobody, except — possibly — me…) and i did, for several years. i did musical instrument repair for 5 years, in two different periods, for “The Music Shoppe” in bellingham, and i worked for about a year for “Mellowoods And Music” in friday harbor, which included being “on call” for the friday harbor traditional jazz festival, in 1991. during the time i was in lars’ class, we, as a team, restored an ophecleide that had had an unfortunate encounter with a truck: it had fallen out of the back of the truck, and then the truck had backed over it, flattening it completely… and we also worked on a very strange instrument that larry brought in one day, which he had bought from a pawn shop in downtown seattle. it had been painted neon green, and had a flared bell (which we later determined was from an unfortunate trombone), and had been sitting in the pawn shop display window for 50 years. after stripping off all the paint, and disengaging the unfortunate trombone bell, we discovered that it was, in fact, a heckel-biebrich, stritter system contrabassoon, one of the first 20 or so ever built.
at the time, i was REALLY in to drawing things (as can be seen by the cartoon on the left), and, between 841004 and the end of 1985 or so, i produced technical drawings for at least 7 different instruments i worked on, including a 3-push-rod AND a 4-push-rod bassoon, an oboe, at least 3 different flutes (bundy, gemeinhardt, and emerson), and a holton, rudy wiedoft model alto sax… now that i know lars isn’t going to publish a book with my drawings as illustrations, i MAY break the seal on the original drawings, which have been sealed (as a hedge against piracy) since they were drawn.
i lost contact with him after i graduated and went back to bellingham, and, when i moved back to seattle, finally, he was no longer at the tech school, none of his students were around any longer, and nobody wanted to talk about “it”… i never determined what “it” was, with any detail, although “it” might have had something to do with the FUMTU surrounding another student, dan oberloh, who was supposed to graduate around the time that i did, and was already gearing up to open his own shop, soon after graduating, only at the tech school’s (and larry’s) expense. my recollection was that larry found a whole bunch of “stolen” tools and materials in oberloh’s tool box, although it was undoubtedly a lot more than just that. at this point, he may be a good technician, but as far as i’m concerned, he is unprincipled and unscrupulous, and i would NEVER take my horn to oberloh. i got back in contact with lars a few years ago, when i had my trombone slide rebuilt, of course, i took it to the Music Trader, which is the shop he opened up after the tech school. since then, he has also gotten to know my Conn 2J C tuba, which i inherited from Hokum W. Jeebs.
lars died 230126 in his sleep. i just found out about it yesterday. 😢
damn it! all of my friends are dying! 🤬