Hello, thanks so much for finding the time to talk; we appreciate you must both be extremely busy. So, how did you both start getting into horn repair?
Luke: I realised towards the end of my studies that playing the horn wouldn’t provide me with the career stability I was looking for, so after graduating, I decided to apply to work at Paxman Musical Instruments in London. As a child, I was always tinkering with models, so it felt like a natural fit to start working on instruments. Having spent so long playing them, it was fascinating to begin to take them to pieces and learn how they really work.
Heidi: I’m originally from Perth and moved over to study at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama. After graduating in 1997, I freelanced professionally as a horn player around London before joining Paxman as a repairer a few years after Luke did. They threw me straight into the deep end — one of the repairers took an old horn off the wall, bashed in the bell with a hammer, and said, “Off you go, remove this!”, which is ultimately the best way to learn how to repair a horn; you need to learn through doing it, not studying it!
So how long after working at Paxman did you conceive the idea of opening your own repair shop?
Luke: I began managing the London Workshop in 2004, so I was in charge of training horn repairers and builders. This experience gave me the idea that one day I could open my own repair shop and just needed the right partner; this came in more ways than one in the form of Heidi when she joined Paxman’s!
Heidi: It was something we always wanted to do pretty early on when we met. Of course, it is essential to highlight that we are a Husband and Wife business partnership, so we take every decision together! In 2009, we decided it was the right time to set up our own company, Woodhead Horns Ltd.
For those readers outside of the UK, I think it is important to stress how successful your company is; you really are THE place to go if you need a horn repaired. How many repairs do you typically have to do in a week?
Luke: It’s really fantastic being so busy, but sometimes it can get hectic! Typically, we may have to repair around 15-30 horns in a week, with various levels of work required. On top of that, we are recognised as a good seller of secondhand horns, all of which need servicing before sale.
Heidi: Yes, it certainly can get pretty chaotic! Mainly operating near home, often with our children around too, but thankfully we have managed to find a good working balance — for now at least (they both laugh).
|Full Interview: Interview with Heidi and Luke Woodhead (Woodhead Horns)