How it started
I began repairing band instruments in Atlanta as an apprentice, and instantly loved the work. After working on all wind instruments for 3 years, I began to specialize in woodwinds and then mostly saxophones. By repairing saxophones 8-10 hours a day, 5-6 days a week for 5 years, I learned a lot about the unique problems of the saxophone and how to make the horn play well. Actually, what I discovered is that most people are playing on saxophones that don't really play very well. Even a new one may not be set up to play well. I've had students, band directors, and pro players bring me a saxophone they thought was in good playing condition. After I've worked on it, the reaction is always the same... " I didn't know it could play like this!" As more people brought their saxophones to me I realized that I was the only one in the area who was able to really make a saxophone play well. I decided to set up my own shop, Birmingham's own saxophone shop. My specialty is complete repads, since it allows me to set up the horn in every detail. I also do small repairs, and I'll work on other woodwinds, too.
Why is Collins Hornworks the best place for saxophone repair?
The bottom line is that I know how to finish a saxophone. I do all the necessary set up work. I use the most appropriate materials for corks, felts, and pads. I adjust every key to the proper height and action. And finally, I play test it like you would play it. I'll play scales, patterns, alternate fingerings, subtones, overtones, altissimo, low notes, palm keys and side keys. When it plays well, it's finished. Not, "I guess that's good enough."
There are very few people who do this kind of work. I love working on horns and I'm a good enough player to know when a saxophone plays well. A saxophone plays well when all the pads completely cover the tone holes, all the keys function and fit properly, and all connections fit and seal properly. A qualified repairman must be able to accurately diagnose the problem. Then, he must have the proper tools, materials, and skills to make the repair. After the repairs are made, the instrument must be play-tested. The repairman must be a competent saxophone player to know if the horn plays well!
I set up my shop because it allows me to speak freely about everything that I've seen in the music world. I'm not tied to any manufacturers and I don't work for anybody that tells me what I should do or say. The advice and recommendations I make are in your best interest. Also, I know that it may seem odd that such a high-level repair shop is in Birmingham, AL instead of a higher profile city. Well, I love Alabama, and the Birmingham market has supported me for ten years. Also, players ship me horns to work on from across the country, and travel from across the state or from out of state to get me their saxophones. Some of my work has even gone out of the country. I mention this because I want you to know that what I'm doing here is very special, and you or your child deserve the best you can get.
Who is Steve Collins?
Steve has been a band instrument repairman in the Birmingham area for 13 years. He worked in a local music store repairing all brass and woodwind instruments, then specializing in woodwinds, and for the last 10 years specializing in saxophones. He has a unique combination of being a skilled repairman and a competent musician. Most important is his passion for his profession to make sure every student or pro player receives a horn that works well and is fun to play.
As a musician, Steve has played baritone sax for 38 years, and marched in the Alabama Million Dollar Band with an alto sax. He played in the Alabama Jazz Ensemble, is a member of the Tuscaloosa Horn Section, and currently plays in several bands including the Night Flight Big Band, Horndogs, Power and Glory Big Band, and the “ Class of ’65.”