The South Carolina Lowcountry inspires music. From “Porgy & Bess” to the Charleston Symphony Orchestra to Ranky Tanky and everything in between, the region is bleeding sound. In the middle of it all, you’ll find Chris Bluemel, founder and owner of Southern String Supply.
Bluemel has been building and perfecting its business since 1999, focusing on repairs, sales and rentals. He also continues to work as a freelance professional musician, having begun his performing career as a musician in the United States Army. He has played tuba with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra and various jazz bands. Throughout the trip, he picked up the repair of instruments.
“When you’re single, you have free time,” he laughed. “So, I learned things. Many things.”
The “things” he learned included how to fix a range of wind, orchestral, guitar and folk instruments. He did an apprenticeship to hone his skills before starting his own shop. Originally called The Instrument Doc, Bluemel knew his skills and the environment in which he used them were unique.
“We’re the only real repair shop like this in this part of the state,” he relayed. “We are a physical workshop that can repair instruments on site. It is a very specialized field. We don’t ship everything to be repaired in warehouses.
He added that this gives them an advantage. “We are all professional musicians. We test everyone’s repairs, giving you quality control that can’t be matched in our industry. We have an in-depth knowledge of building instruments that you won’t find anywhere.
Bluemel loves to open her shop to others and share: “We have organized school programs so that students can see what it is like to repair and make instruments. I get a lot of job shadowing during career days at school.
Southern String Supply also sells a wide range of the same instruments they repair. You will find brass instruments, tubas to trumpets. You will find wind instruments – flutes, clarinets, saxophones and more. There are guitars, Japanese folk instruments, dulcimers, and supplies for each of them. Southern String Supply also has the best assortment of ukuleles in the Lowcountry, like Lanikai and Ohana.
If you or your child would like to enroll in a music class at school or try something new, call the store. They will tell you everything you need to know to get started with their rental program.
“We are deeply invested in music education and the community of professional musicians,” Bluemel emphasized. “We have been around for a long time already, and we will be here for a long time.”
So whenever your guitar skips a string or your flute fingerboard gets stuck, Chris Bluemel and the team at Southern String Supply will lead you back on your musical journey…or maybe help you start one.
For more information, call 843-276-9239, or visit theinstrumentdoc.com.
By Lea Rhyne
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