You Know You’re From...Pine River: John Uttech

The Pine River F.D. Chief saves lives and musical instruments
Published: Mar. 28, 2022 at 8:34 PM CDT
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PINE RIVER, Wis. (WSAW) - The phone rings from inside a shed building.

“Hello, you have reached the home of Musical Brass Repair Service.”

”I have never, ever, advertised,” said John Uttech. ”It’s all been word of mouth.”

From the U.S. to Australia, Japan and Canada, people in the brass music industry know John Uttech.

”I rebuild musical instruments for a living. I’ve been doing it almost 40 years.”

But it wasn’t until 2016 he started his own business. Leaving his manufacturing job and turning his hobby into his profession.

”To take something that is just absolutely totally smashed and bring it back into pristine condition again, there’s a big sense of pride,” the business owner said.

”You’d be amazed. I’ve seen them run over by a bus, he brought it in, I just shake my head,” said wife Sharon, who will help out occasionally. “And then a couple weeks later he shows me the finished product.”

How John developed his love for brass instruments might be the most Wisconsin thing, ever.

”When I was 5 years old I started playing with my dad in a polka band,” he said with a big grin.

Dad is also the reason he developed the skills he has.

”We had a repair shop. So, pretty much every farmer brought something over to my dad to get fixed and welded. I was involved in repairing and restoring things everyday.”

Right now, business is good.

”I can pretty much safely say I’ve never come across something that can’t be fixed,” Uttech said.

Not one instrument, however, has lived up to John’s expectations.

”There is nothing, nothing that has ever left this shop that I’m happy with. Nothing. There’s always something I can find that I could’ve done better,” he said.

His customers, and his success, would disagree.

”Every horn that leaves here gets play tested. At least I know everything works.”

But there’s a horn of a different variety he never wants to hear.

“I take this job very seriously.”

He has served as the only Chief of the Pine River Volunteer Fire Department & EMS since it’s inception in 2005. That passion he has for brass instruments, you can hear it when he speaks about being chief.

”I am committed to every township resident. I don’t want to leave (let) them down,” he said.

“He grew up with them. He’s been to high school and schools with them,” said volunteer firefighter September Murphy. “He knows their parents. He knows their families. He’s hung out with them. He’s been to their house as a child growing up and now he’s going there to help them.”

”To walk into that person’s worst day and its somebody that they know, it makes all the difference in the world.”

The man who spends most of his days working alone in his shop, Chief Uttech is the right person leading the department.

“When he’s on a call he’s a guy of authority,” added Captain Jeff Zettler. “A guy you listen to. A guy that’s going to be there to protect you.”

“You see how much he’s doing and that makes you really want to step up your game,” Murphy said.

“They have made me look good. It’s not me, it’s them,” insisted Uttech.

Always on standby for the fire department. Never off the clock at the shop.

“Like a million bucks,” he said after one final test run of a repaired horn.

John’s wife Sharon is an EMT with Pine River, too. John also restores antique tractors and gas engines, raises Belgian Draft Horses and helps manage the farm. Not to mention the polka band he’s been a part of for more than 50 years.

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