"Adopt an Instrument"
I admire Mikey Mills' enthusiasm, but this idea, and I hope he will
forgive me, strikes me as unlikely to be successful. It is important
to bring up such ideas, however, because there must be something to do
for the lack of interest in mechanical music today, and perhaps
discussion will lead us to that.
First, if indeed fundraising is the way to go, Kickstarter would be the
wrong place to go, in my opinion. We know that our hobby skews older,
and Kickstarter skews younger. Perhaps, one could say, some interest
might be stimulated on that web site and non-enthusiasts would donate.
The restorations of these instruments are, however, expensive
propositions, frankly costing too much for it to be likely that enough
donations could be solicited on Kickstarter from neophytes or dabblers.
More prudent fundraising might be through individuals established in
the field. Kickstarter campaigns are also rarely successful without
concrete goals and timelines: a speculative campaign without so much
as an agreement from Cedar Fair or any other organization to restore
an instrument if enough was raised would be more likely to attract the
scrutiny or disdain of potential backers than their funds.
Second, Mikey asks rhetorically, "Could a place refuse to accept money
to restore their historic music machines?" You bet your life they
could, for any of several reasons. They may simply be uncomfortable
accepting money from someone who is unknown to them. They may not wish
to have an instrument restored which they may not have money to keep
restored in the future. They may even just be uninterested in
coordinating a project like the restoration of a band organ no matter
whether it is paid for or not.
Mikey writes that "restored music machine always brings in money,"
but this will not seem to be the case to the Cedar Fair people. Those
parks charge an admission fee at the gate and no further charge for
any ride, so while I suppose an argument could be made that a properly
functioning band organ will make patrons happier and they will then
spend more money on concessions or have more favorable reviews for the
park or something like that, the Cedar Fair people could care less
about that that. They would not be so easily convinced that they
should accept a donation to restore a band organ.
Third, Mikey writes of few people going wild about band organs or
similar instruments merely from YouTube videos, for people need to see
"the music roll run and the percussion move." I accept this basic
premise, with the caveat that some YouTube videos do excellently show
exactly how an instrument works and may bee good teaching tools. In
fact, a major problem I have with Mikey's proposal is that it fails to
address how to teach park patrons about the instruments.
I am keenly aware from my work at Glen Echo Park that many patrons are
thoroughly convinced that behind our band organ's case is just a pair
of loudspeakers hooked up to a stereo audio system. Those who know
better than that still often know very little about how the instrument
I created pamphlets and signage to tell of the organ at Glen Echo, and
a window on the back of the organ house makes it easy for the public to
see the roll frames. How would we make certain that the public is
informed about these instruments to be restored? This should be near
the top of the list of priorities given how poorly informed the public
generally is about mechanical music. Our hobby will die if we don't
teach new folks about why they should care.
Fourth, and most basically, it seems incredibly foolish to pay to
have a band organ restored and then turn it back over to a company
which has shown no interest in its maintenance in the past without
having been given any sort of commitment from that company that they
will keep it playing. The best approach is not to come to the table
as a third party with money, restore a band organ, and slip off into
As I see it, the best approach is to kindly and respectfully, but
doggedly, engage in dialogue with the homes of instruments that are no
longer playing, explaining why this should be rectified and why that
rectification would provide benefits to those businesses, and then to
be able to provide technical support when the organ starts to operate.
It is long, tiring work, but I am glad to continue to devote myself
Perhaps an advocacy board could be composed with the purpose of
contacting these businesses and opening dialogues. It is likely that
one of these businesses would allow an individual or group to inspect
their roles given the right motivation, and continuing discussions
could lead to instruments being restored.
I appreciate the frustration caused by many languishing instruments.
It really drives me mad! However, we must adopt more reasoned
approaches if we ever hope to change this.
[ During the summer months TJ Fisher operates and maintains the
[ Dentzel carousel and Wurlitzer band organ at Glen Echo Park in
[ Maryland, see http://www.glenechopark.org/ -- Robbie