‘I’m done being a victim.’ Tacoma music shop owner tells story of his stolen clarinet

A man accused of stealing and attempting to sell a Tacoma musician’s $9,000 clarinet to different pawnshops has been arrested.

The 25-year-old man was charged Tuesday with first-degree theft and first-degree trafficking stolen property for allegedly stealing Victor Prinsen’s clarinet on May 16. Prinsen is the owner of High Note Audio on Tacoma Mall Boulevard. The shop opened in November 2023.

Prinsen said the day of the theft, he was hosting a group of friends in the store’s showroom when an unknown man came inside. The man did not appear to be someone who would buy from his store, but Prinsen asked him what he could help him with.

“I rolled out the red carpet. I shook his hand and just treated him like a respectable human being,” Prinsen said.

The man told him he was waiting for his sister and sat on one of the chairs next to Prinsen’s clarinet. Prinsen said he kept the clarinet next to a music stand so he could play it whenever it was slow at the shop. Since the incident, he decided not to keep the clarinet in his shop.

Prinsen went back and forth from the showroom to the area where the 25-year-old man was sitting. Prinsen said that he was only a couple feet away from the man, and at one point asked him if he wanted to join them in the showroom. The man said no, and that he would just wait for his sister.

While Prinsen was in the showroom, he had his back turned for a moment and heard the door close. When he went back out, the man and his clarinet were gone. Prinsen ran outside, but the man got into a car that was waiting for him and it drove off.

“That first night I slept two hours and the second night I slept maybe four hours. I was just going on fumes, I was so stressed out,” Prinsen told The News Tribune on Wednesday.

Prinsen said the clarinet is rare and he bought it six years ago for $5,000. It was handmade in Paris, and Prinsen spent thousands of dollars customizing it, which added to its value.

Prinsen had a concert Monday and made plans to use a clarinet that someone let him borrow. A few hours before the performance, he received a call from Ponders Pawnbrokers in Lakewood, saying that a man was trying to sell the clarinet but they sent him to another shop. The second pawnshop called him a few moments later saying they had the clarinet.

Both of the pawnshop employees had heard about Prinsen’s clarinet being stolen from a KING 5 news story. Once Ponders Pawnbrokers told the man to go to the other shop, they immediately called police.

“I drove from my house about 20 minutes away. I got there just in time to see him cuffed and get put into a car with a very unhappy expression and got my instrument back undamaged. I played it that night an hour later for a concert,” Prinsen said.

A plea of not guilty was entered on the 25-year-old man’s behalf at arraignment on Tuesday. Pierce County Superior Court commissioner Barbara McInvaille ordered him released on his personal recognizance, court records show.

Since the theft, Prinsen said, he has increased his security system and is on alert all the time. If anyone comes into his shop and shows signs they are being suspicious, he will not be as hospitable anymore.

“I’m just done being a victim,” Prinsen said.