Instrument thefts lead to increased Conservatory security measures

In response to the theft of several instruments from the conservatory, additional security measures are being taken. Approximately eight high-resolution security cameras will be added around the Conservatory—many of those in the common space near the couches. When the conservatory closes at night, all entrances will be locked now, requiring an ID or key to enter.

The theft that caused this increase in security occurred on April 26, supposedly between the hours of 11:30 p.m. and 1 a.m. the next morning. On that Friday night, the Major Work Performance “Bernstein and the Brits” occurred, which featured both the orchestra as well as the choirs. Due to this performance, the conservatory was much emptier than normal.

The missing instruments were not noticed until the morning of April 27 when students began to arrive to practice. The Dean of the Conservatory of Music Brian Pertl first heard about the occurrence on his way to a student recital and then kept hearing from more students as the morning progressed. 

Campus Safety was already involved at this point, but once more students came forward—around 11 a.m.— the police became involved. Once the investigation became connected with the police department, pawn shops would be flagged when the serial numbers of the stolen instruments lined up with instruments that were trying to be sold. Each student who was missing an instrument filled out a police report.

According to Dean Pertl, seven instruments were stolen: a trombone, an electric bass, a French horn, a trumpet, a euphonium, a tenor saxophone and a Wagner tuba. In addition to the instruments, one student’s laptop was also taken.

Due to the uniqueness of each of these instruments—especially the Wagner tuba, which is considered an uncommon hybrid between a trombone and a French horn—it is believed that those who stole the instruments were not very experienced. Because many of these instruments were custom-made or very unique, they will not be as difficult to track down on websites like Craigslist and eBay.

Of the seven instruments, two of them were owned by Lawrence University. The tenor saxophone and Wagner tuba were property of Lawrence, but the rest were owned by students. Because of the size and quantity of instruments taken, it becomes questionable how many people were involved.

Footage from security cameras has already been pulled, but with minimal results. As of May 6, the next step was to look at the security camera footage from the vending space in the common area of the Conservatory. 

Since 2008, when Dean Pertl joined Lawrence University, there have been three thefts in the Conservatory, each time occurring in the common area by the couches. The last incident occurred approximately six years ago and involved a stolen cello and a tuba. In both prior cases, each instrument was returned to the owner eventually.

Many of the students with missing instruments are currently borrowing from friends or from Lawrence. As a result of the theft, most students appear to be using and locking their instrument storage lockers where this was not the custom in the past.

As Dean Pertl acknowledged, Lawrence has a culture where it is okay to leave your stuff out. This “beautiful thing,” according to Dean Pertl, about being able to trust your peers does leave the Lawrence community vulnerable to situations like this theft. None of the instruments that were stolen were locked away during that night.

Besides the monetary value of the instruments, some sentimental value is also in play when considering the loss of an instrument. Dean Pertl explained an instrument as “part of who you are,” since many of these students have been playing on these instruments for years.

With the news of this theft being posted across social media, many alumni, local music stores and local band directors have become involved in the search. Having many eyes open on websites like Craigslist and eBay increases the likelihood of finding the stolen instruments.