The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here

Front and Center: Instrument Appraiser and Repair Woman/President of A & D Music Incorporated, Rebecca Apodaca

RA real-1By Pauline France

For Rebecca Apodaca, repairing and appraising instruments is second nature. She grew up replacing strings and adjusting necks on guitars, and was surrounded by music industry greats who trained her over the years.

She is accredited by the American Society of Appraisers; received one-on-one training by founder of B.C. Rich Guitars, Bernardo Rico, and Leo Fender’s business partner, Doc Kauffman; has received extensive training from organizations like the National Association of Professional Band Instrument Repair Technicians; was nominated for Hispanic Woman of the Year by Hispanic Business Magazine, and was honored with the Milestone Achievement 25th Anniversary Award from NAMM President, Joe Lamond. In other words, she is an accomplished professional and knows instrument appraisals and repairs inside out.

Apodaca was very generous with her time and chatted with us about her fascinating life and career. Read more about her below, and visit her website here.

WiMN: Describe your job in five words or less.

RA: Appraise and restore musical instruments

WiMN: Tell us a little bit about your background. Where are you from, and how did you get started in music?

RA: I’m a Latina and Native American born in Los Angeles. My mother sang in the big bands and sang rancheras; my father was an amateur classical/flamenco/Mexican folk music guitarist, who also repaired guitars. I was raised and surrounded by live musicians, and was carried in and out of guitar repair shops since I was a baby.

My father was friends with Sr. Rico, whose son started B.C. Rich guitars. They would hand me a bone with a line and have me sand it. By age 7 I was restringing guitars, and I started performing at 14.

WiMN: What instruments do you play?

RA: Professionally, electric bass, guitar, vocals, and ukulele. For repair purposes, all woodwinds, brass, orchestra and percussion instruments for test purposes.

WiMN: What does a typical day in your office/shop look like?

RA: Every day is different. From authenticating a ‘51 Telecaster, to repairing a Mesopotamia Guzle, and researching and writing a story regarding appraising a music typewriter (including all the phone calls and paperwork to accompany these jobs), to occasionally picking up my grandson from school. At the same time, dropping off a violin repair with my daughter who’s the musical director.

WiMN: Tell us about some of the most memorable experiences you’ve had appraising/repairing instruments.

RA: Repairing, researching, appraising and writing a fingering chart for German Schalmeis, then giving a lecture about it to 125 PhD’s at the Musical Instrument Museum in Ariz.

Also, inspection for sheet music appraisal of 300 pieces dating from 1850 to 1970 and translating into six languages, and researching and appraising a 1948 Bigsby, the second solidbody electric guitar in history.

WiMN: Who are some of your most well-known clients?

RA: Most I cannot share as I am under a privacy policy in appraising, but these I can. I just finished appraising composer Irving Berlin’s transposing piano that is supposed to be donated to the museum at Ellis Island.

I have maintained the saxes for former member of Earth Wind and Fire Ira Raibon for many years.

WiMN: You write for the Music & Sound Retailer. Tell us about that.

RA: I started in 2008 writing my impression of Summer NAMM. It lead to my own column for 21 issues of “ASI: Appraisal Scene Investigation” (each instrument has a story and I am telling the story of the methods about Certified Appraising). They liked my writing and had me start a new column called “Shine a Light,” where I interview different successful store-owners in the United States. I occasionally write front page article or other articles.

WiMN: What are your recommendations for young women aspiring to enter the field of music?

RA: Get educated.

WiMN:  What are some of your greatest accomplishments?

RA: I think my biggest accomplishments have been being the first female in the industry to do many things. It seems I am the Sacajawea (although I’m Navajo) to have shown the way to others after me. I seem to be ahead of ideas before others are thinking about these things, so at the time I am out there on my own with no support, as they cannot see what I envision.

The Certified Appraiser of Musical Instruments is the exception. When I approached NAMM President Joe Lamond about my idea to have me create the category for Musical instrument Appraisal within the top appraisal society in the world that is monitored by Congress, he saw the same vision and has been extremely supportive in writing letter of recommendation and vouching for my validity. So did Brian Berk, the former editor of MS Retailer.

WiMN: Have you had any issues with gender equality?

RA: I have had a few key individuals that did not let my gender be an issue, such as my father Mike Apodaca; Bernardo Rico, founder of B.C. Rich; Howard Judkins, professor in MI repair at Orange Coast College; Doc Kaufman of Fender/Rickenbacker.

WiMN: Anything else you’d like to add?

RA: I am actively seeking female musicians to put together the industry’s all-female rock band that Cindalee Hall of Rickenbacker envisioned. If you are interested in being in the band, are in the music products industry, and in Southern California, please let me know.

I am also up for a radio show called Lagunapalooza Fantasy Concert©;  and am trying to help the NAMM Museum of Making Music locate Harpo Marx’s Rickenbacker Electric Harp.