Lester Stubbert refurbishes guitars for use in Montague schools
by Nina Linton
It’s been a while but Lester Stubbert still remembers the feeling. Without an instrument himself, the musically-inclined child fashioned an impromptu guitar from one of his father’s lobster traps and a Popsicle stick; his aspiring three-year-old fingers plucking the interlaced strings, a resonant warble emerging.
Lester recalls that moment as perhaps the first and the last time he was unable to play an instrument. By Grade III he had performed his inaugural concert, with his musical ambitions amplifying throughout the years to include the piano, bass and mandolin.
Making a name for himself in the East Coast music scene, Lester has two Music PEI awards to his name and has played alongside famed fiddler Natalie MacMaster, and Celtic crooners The Barra MacNeils.
“It’s my life,” he says about his employment. However, it wasn’t always easy. Raised in a modest household where money was tight, Stubbert learned his craft on borrowed guitars brought to him by his cousins. “It was just a continuous cycle all the time of bringing a guitar, leave it for a month, then they would pick it up and bring me another one,” he says.
So when the opportunity arose for the musician to volunteer his time repairing donated guitars for local school kids, he took the task to heart. Ensuring the next generation of strummers would have quality strings to learn on.
“I saw the need so I decided that it would be kind of cool to do that for the kids, so they can take the guitars home and they are playable,” he comments. After placing an ad in the newspaper looking for contributions last fall, Montague Consolidated School received a score of used guitars, many in inoperable order. Lester quickly found his living room full of guitars waiting to be repaired.
Running Stay Tuned, a professional stringed instrument repair business based in his Brooklyn home, Lester says that this project has helped further his own growth, expanding his repair skills while fixing objects that expand the students’ melodic ones.
“There were some neck adjustments,
I had to put new bridges on, and every one needed strings, but that was pretty basic. Some of the necks were off them so I had to put them back on,” he says.
These refurbished guitars are used in the study of music at the elementary level, also enhancing the students’ team-work ability, as well as improve self-discipline, creative thinking, problem solving and self-expression.
With more guitars trickling in, Stubbert hopes to continue his pro bono restoration work for the school, inspiring more students to appreciate music and the opportunities it presents. He also feels that having an enjoyable pastime keeps kids “off the streets.” Says Lester, “There is so much interest now in music from kids, and it is nice to see them good at it and provide an instrument for them.”