The Advocate

Newsletter for The Music Education Community of Western PA

JMC's Trip to the Conn-Selmer Factories

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Earlier this month, Bob Johnstonbaugh, Alex Ayers, and Joe Weinzierl took a trip to tour the Conn-Selmer factories in Eastlake, Ohio, and Elkhart, Indiana. To give some background, Conn Selmer is the parent company of many reputable band and orchestra instrument companies. Their subsidiaries include Bach, King, Armstrong, C.G. Conn, Henri Selmer Paris, Holton, Leblanc, Ludwig, Scherl & Roth, Selmer, and Yanagisawa. These companies are spread out worldwide based on where they traditionally operated, sometimes for over 100 years.

The Eastlake and Elkhart facilities produce mostly band instruments, with each specializing in certain families of instruments and at differing levels of performance.

This was not Bob's first tour of these factories, but it was Alex and Joe's first time seeing these facilities and touring a band instrument factory. However, Bob was surprised at what had changed since he had toured the factories ten years ago, with technological and manufacturing process advancements.

The modern band instrument is an evolution of a hundreds of years old design. Many aspects of producing the instruments require old-world craftsmanship done in a contemporary way.

Parts of the production process require challenging, specialized labor roles, and there is no better way to complete the task without sacrificing quality. However, for efficiency, automation and machine assistance are used for parts of the process that do not require specialized work. Producing the instruments is a delicate balance of machine work and craftsmanship, all centered around making a high-quality instrument for the market. Many times during the tour, Conn-Selmer would boast a new, state-of-the-art piece of equipment and later would introduce a worker who had been doing their craft for 20-30 years. All these variables in the production flow centered around producing a great-sounding instrument.

It was fascinating to see how Conn-Selmer produces instruments. Throughout the tour, it was apparent that maintaining the instrument's quality and the sound was crucial in many of the current processes or changes in previous methods. In numerous instances during the tour, Conn-Selmer would explain the handwork process of producing the instrument, with the primary factor being delivering a high-quality instrument. They would explain that there are processes that would complete the job faster, but the overall quality of the instruments would suffer. The same held with a new piece of equipment which would include a story of how it took years to implement to keep the high-quality standard. It was impressive how Conn-Selmer modernly manufactures instruments rooted in design hundreds of years old, with the priority being the sound produced by the instrument. The tour left Bob, Joe, and Alex proud to rent and sell Conn-Selmer instruments.

The Return of Trombone Day!

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On November 19th, 2022, JMC brought back Trombone Day, a day devoted to all things Trombone at JMC’s Allison Park store. The day included vendor exhibits from the top trombone and mouthpiece makers in the country (arguably the world), masterclasses, and a trombone choir performance.

Greg Black, the world-renowned mouthpiece maker, joined the event. Greg attended the event with his entire line of trombone mouthpieces available for players to try, in all different specs and sizes, down to a 10th of an inch. Also in attendance were the custom trombone makers, Greenhoe from Chicago, Illinois; Edwards from Elkhorn, Wisconsin; and S.E. Shires from Boston, Massachusetts. Bach was also represented at the event, showing their new Peter Steiner signature trombone and some examples of their other professional horns.

Education for the day began with a masterclass from Jeff Dee, bass trombonist for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, on efficiency in tone production. Jeff broke down his warm-up and practice routine and shared wisdom and tips he has gained over years of practicing and playing. He then coached three college students on pieces of music they were trying to play and simultaneously shared tips and techniques with the rest of the crowd.

After the class, the eleven-piece Duquesne University trombone choir performed, conducted by their Adjunct Professor, Jim Nova, utility trombonist for the PSO. The performance was fantastic! Below is a list of the pieces that the choir performed.

Hex Files – Jim Kazik

Bruckner Etude – Enrique Crespo

Part I: Night Suite - Brad Edwards

Night Falls (…and the goblins emerge)

Lying Awake (with persistent thoughts)

Amygdala Firing (and no dream is safe)

The day concluded with a jazz improvisation masterclass from Pittsburgh’s own Dr. Emmett Goods, Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Jazz studies at the University of Rhode Island.

Dr. Goods shared some tricks he learned to create meaningful tone choices, with concepts from understanding basic scales and general music theory. Goods invited trombone players in the crowd to test his tricks by playing with him. Goods concluded his class and closed the day with a piece he had written about his mother, which he performed with JMC’s own, and professional pianist, Alex Ayers.

It was great to host a gathering with so much passion and enthusiasm for an instrument. Everyone in attendance had the camaraderie of passion for music, especially trombone. It’s inspiring when a group with a common interest gets together and shares their passion. In this case, the people were interested in playing trombones, hearing trombones, making trombones, buying trombones, or all the previously mentioned. JMC will host another Trombone Day in the future and other similar instrument-specific events for the other instruments we rent and sell to students.

Public Service Announcement: How to Clean Your Mouthpiece

With flu season, and COVID-19 still being out and about, it is important to ensure your instrument and mouthpiece are clean!

Luckily, cleaning your mouthpiece is simple!

Here's what you'll need:

  • Your dirty mouthpiece
  • A mouthpiece brush that fits your mouthpiece
  • Dish soap
  • Running water

What to do, and not to do:

  • For metal mouthpieces, use hot water.
  • For plastic and hard-rubber mouthpieces, use cool water ONLY. If you use hot or warm water on a hard-rubber mouthpiece, it will discolor it!
  • Don't put bleach or other chemicals on the mouthpiece; simple soap and water will do the job!
  • Use the brush & soap to scrub any buildup or dirt on the mouthpiece.
  • To eliminate all germs, just like washing your hands, scrub the soap on the mouthpiece for at least 20 seconds! If counting gets boring, now is the time to recite your preferred 20-second song
While soap and water will do the job, there are specialized products to clean, sanitize, and polish a mouthpiece faster, more thoroughly, and with additional cleansing properties. Below are some of our picks.

Superslick Steri-Spray

The active ingredients in this hospital-grade formula will effectively and safely cleanse your mouthpiece and instrument of germs. To deodorize and freshen instrument case interiors, lightly spray and allow to air dry.

Buy Now

Sterisol Germicide

Affectionately known as "The Red Stuff," Sterisol has been a staple in thousands of classrooms and studios for decades, giving positive sanitizing action in one minute.

Buy Now

Roche-Thomas Mi-T-Mist

A topical antimicrobial with a pleasant scent, designed to cleanse the mouthpiece and provide a refreshing agent that will remove residue build-up from the instrument.

Buy Now

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Starting this week, we are moving all of our performance and professional instruments to our Golden Mile store on December 3rd and our Allison Park store on December 10th.

For a student wanting to upgrade their instrument, this is an event to try our entire inventory of performance and professional instruments at one convenient location.

Tell Us What You Think

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Issued November 2022

Newsletter by Joe Weinzierl and Dennis Emert