Instrument repairman Marc Donner went from wanting to be a rock star to helping them shred.

"Back in the '80s, I was a touring musician, trying to be a drummer," Donner said.

While on tour, he noticed that the guitarists' strings kept breaking due to the design of the popular electric guitars of the day and the stress placed on them by the very-'80s whammy bar. He saw a way to restring them to keep them from breaking and make it quicker to replace them when they did.

"Soon, all of the guitarists I knew wanted me to restring their guitars," he said.

He found himself tiring of the rock and roll lifestyle, preferring to watch TV in the tour bus instead of chatting up girls in bars.

"I figured if I wasn't going to have my face on the cover of Rolling Stone by the time I'm 26, it's probably not going to happen," Donner said. "I had to find another avenue."

He went to work for a music store in Oregon. When the store moved to the Victor Valley, he followed and threw himself into his work, studying violin repair in Monrovia.

"A guitar is like a Volkswagen," he said, noting that the design of the violin has been perfected centuries ago, while guitars are still relatively in their infancy. "A violin is like a Ferrari."

Despite his unconventional appearance luthiers, who repair stringed instruments, rarely have long hair and wear faded black rock band T-shirts he turned out to be a natural at it. His employers kept giving him raises and promoting him, but eventually told him he was too good to be working for someone else and ought to strike out on his own.

In 1994, he did just that, opening Classic String Repair on Jacaranda Avenue. It was the same year he became a father and bought a house.

"I was always told, 'No, don't waste your time (with music),'" Donner said. "So I was happy I could purchase my home. As a musician, I showed them."

Marolyn Kayser has been taking violins to Donner to repair for more than a decade.

"There's no other shop like that in the High Desert that even does that kind of work. It's a very specialized kind of field, so he's one of a kind, in more ways than one," she said. "It's like looking for a needle in a haystack."

Today, Donner's mornings and early afternoons are spent repairing guitars, violins, mandolins and more and his afternoons and evenings are spent giving guitar lessons. And despite the recession, he and his shop are hanging on.

"There's not one thing that I do that is necessary for your life," Donner said. "I've been in love with music since I was a little kid. As long as I can play it, teach it, do it, I'm happy."