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Eye On | On The Mend — Musically motivated: Musician finds instrument repair fits his lifestyle

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Lance Tigner pulls a flute out of an oven that he made from a mailbox. It has a 100 watt bulb in it and he uses it along with clamps to seat the key cups on a flute so they don’t leak air. He puts the flag up on the mailbox to remind him he is using it. Lance Tigner of On The Mend Musical Instrument Repair. He repairs instruments for individuals and schools across the region out of his home in Sunnyslope.

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Lance Tigner is not a stranger to the Wenatchee Valley but has not been around the area in his present form for very long.

After graduating from Wenatchee High School in the 1970s, Tigner took his musical soul and talents to Seattle and Honolulu before returning to the Valley in 2015. His home on Easy Street in Sunnyslope doubles as his musical instrument repair shop, On The Mend.

Tigner started becoming interested in and working on instruments when he was 6 years old. He said Charles Lawler from Belmont’s Music Store let him work on instruments in his shop during his teenage years, and Tigner hasn’t looked back.

I didn’t choose music,” Tigner said. “Music chose me.”

Tigner is, first and foremost, a musician. The vocalist/guitarist has played in many bands over the years and still plays to this day. He has taken his guitar talents and showcased them in productions, ensembles, and orchestras. Perhaps ironically, Tigner repairs only brass and woodwind instruments, not strings.

Tigner spent time as repair shop manager at Kennelly Keys in Seattle once he went to the west side of the Cascades. It was there where he honed his craft of repairing instruments such as trumpets, trombones, baritones, tubas, saxophones, flutes, piccolos, oboes, and bassoons further.

Once Tigner moved to Honolulu in 2007, his repair business boomed. There were few businesses like his in the area, and with such a large market, clientele came in bunches.

You know, over there, I was sort of like one of a kind,” Tigner said. “I kind of raked up for a decade. I would be fixing 20, 25 instruments a day. There wasn’t much competition, and I don’t think there was anybody who could do it the way I did. You know, there were guys down there who would fix your trumpet, patch your surfboard and fix your microwave. I was specialized.”

He met his wife of 20 years, Stephanie Tigner, in Seattle, and jokingly said it wasn’t hard to convince her to come along. Once on the island of Oahu, business was good, but the expectations for an outsider were high. Tigner said he needed to prove he was a good businessman.

A personal loss forced Tigner back to Wenatchee a few years ago, and On The Mend in its current form was born. In contrast to having a booming metropolis around him to feed his business, the Wenatchee Valley proved more of a challenge in getting volume through the door.

You really have to rely on word of mouth around here,” Tigner said. “If you don’t do fantastic and professional work, there are other people around town that will do your business for you.”

It’s not hard to recognize the deep roots that the Tigner name has in North Central Washington. One only needs to drive toward Cashmere High School 10 minutes west on Highway 2 to see that, as the education buildings and athletic complexes that don the orange and black sits off Tigner Road. In an area about one-tenth as populous as Honolulu (the Wenatchee-East Wenatchee Metropolitan Statistical Area’s population was approximately 111,000 people at the 2010 census), Tigner can use the name recognition.

I’ll get calls out of the blue, a lot of people recognize my name,” Tigner said. “There was a contingent of my fan base in Wenatchee when I left town that kind of kept up with me as the years went by, and I think that helps.”

Since coming back, Tigner has helped schools throughout North Central Washington repair instruments used by students, including Orchard Middle School.

Jeff Sandberg, band and orchestra teacher at Orchard, said it’s a combination of love for music and excellence in his craft that makes Tigner the go-to guy for musical instrument repair in Wenatchee.

His history as a manager in Seattle has a lot to do with the professionalism you see from him,” Sandberg said. “His love for music and his experience playing probably goes into his work as well.”

Sandberg said he first met Tigner at King Ludwig’s Restaurant in Leavenworth at a polka performance. Sandberg said the two became comrades once it was obvious their personal music interests aligned. Above all else, Sandberg said it’s Tigner’s passion for people that sets him apart.

He’s not only a professional but a human being first,” Sandberg said. “When you’re a fish in a big pond, I would think that his attitude toward people personally has as big of an impact as his service does, which is fantastic. It’s a dynamic way for him to look at his business and it speaks to me. I know people matter and I bet his genuine personality shines through to all of his customers. His willingness to be kind to people on all levels is unique. I appreciate that. It impacts me as a school teacher and as a person.”

On The Mend’s normal business hours are from 10 a.m.-6 p.m., but Tiger makes accessibility a priority for all of his customers as often as he can, even if that means bending the rules a little bit. Sandberg said his promptness and efficiency does not go unnoticed.

You give him a call and he’s there when you need him,” Sandberg said. “It’s fabulous. He can be there the same day, next day, or anytime you need him to be. It really is exceptional customer service.”

Tigner said he’s had “real jobs” in the past; the kind of jobs that require punching a clock, inside an office or equivalent, but that the lifestyle didn’t suit him. Instead, he chooses to make music and help others do the same.

It’s one of those things I got immediately attached to when I was really young and it just continued,” Tigner said. “When I got to the point where I was old enough and could make my own choices whether or not I wanted to still take lessons and that kind of stuff, it was too late. I’d been doing it for too long. I don’t remember too much of life before not being in music. It’s just who I am. Always will be.”