Newsletter for The Music Education Community of Western PA
The Effects of the Global Supply Chain on Musical Instruments
By now, everyone has grown accustomed to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global supply chain.
It is now a regular occurrence when buying an item that the price is higher than before the pandemic and that the lead time to receive that item is going to be longer if what you wanted is even available. These problems are not outside of, and in some cases especially challenging for, the musical instrument industry.
During the pandemic, as people were in lockdown, there was a massive increase in the purchasing of instruments. The increased purchasing was due to people being confined to their homes and deciding to begin or further commit to studying an instrument with the new time they had to themselves in lockdown.
Although it is great news that people are learning to play instruments, this tremendous increase in sales was during the labor shortage brought on by the pandemic, and production could not keep up with demand. Online purchasing drained inventory on many instruments, and the lack of labor complicates having more produced.
The labor shortage affects all aspects of the manufacturing process, from workers procuring raw materials to fabricating parts to assembly. Nonetheless, instruments are composed of many different, specific parts often manufactured at various facilities worldwide by specialized workers. Instruments are impossible to finish if one of the parts is unavailable. Compromised manufacturing is only the first obstacle in the process. If the instrument is completed and shipped, it encounters problems with logistics facing the supply chain.
Instruments were not the only products that received increased orders from the pandemic. In general, online sales soared during the pandemic from people being confined to their homes and not shopping as heavily at brick-and-mortar stores. Logistics companies were unprepared for such a sudden and massive increase in online purchasing. Due to this spike in online purchases, which rely on shipping to reach the customer, there are jams across the entire supply chain, starting with importing docks and manifesting to rail and truck transportation, the means of moving goods all over the country. Not only is the sheer volume of shipping orders stressing the logistics industry, but transportation companies are still experiencing labor shortages from the pandemic, so they are understaffed to handle the large volume of goods to be shipped.
These shipping and manufacturing problems cause higher prices and longer lead times under the principle of supply and demand. Since supply is so low across all parts of the manufacturing process, prices are higher due to the scarcity of the items to produce the goods. Likewise, low supply paired with increased demand leads to extended lead times since there are not enough of the item in stock, and many people are waiting to receive the item.
Although these issues are frustrating, it is crucial as musicians and music educators that we be patient with the ongoing problems with the supply chain regarding instruments. Most of the reasons instruments suffer from supply chain problems are a lack of quality materials and specialized labor. These manufacturing principles translate to better sound quality and durability, and we mustn't abandon quality sound for the sake of better prices and faster lead times. For young musicians, they should play on a well-built instrument so that they can enjoy learning to play it and not struggle to have it do what they want.
Also, people who are just starting to learn an instrument may give up because it is too difficult to play on a low-quality example of an overly difficult instrument. Durability is also an important factor in purchasing an instrument related to quality. One should buy an instrument built to last so that they may grow with it and let it become an extension of themselves.
Lastly, music retailers are not driven solely by making a profit. They are also motivated by the spread of musical expression from purchasing and playing instruments.
Music stores want people who desire to play an instrument to be able to, so increased pricing, low availability, and high lead times are not conducive to their company mission. Music retailers are the last stop in the supply chain before being purchased by the player, and by the time it has arrived at them, it has been given a higher price from the manufacturers. However, quality sound and quality music remain essential, and we mustn't adjust our standards for music simply because of the state of the economy.
Exploring Pittsburgh Jazz History with the "Vinyl Report"
The August Wilson African American Cultural Center and Pittsburgh Jazz Festival will broadcast the Vinyl Report every third Thursday of the month. In this video series, jazz drummer Tom Wendt speaks on and plays selections from jazz albums, on vinyl, with specific ties to Pittsburgh. Each episode features an interview with someone related to the album, where they provide personal insights into the artist as only someone who has met them can do. Wendt is a Professor of Jazz Percussion at Duquesne University and has played drums professionally since he was 14, so his selections are great and observations about them are insightful.
Tom Wendt digging for a physical copy of the Vinyl Report's featured albums at Jerry's in Squirrel Hill
Tom looking for albums at Jerry's in Squirrel Hill
Tom interviewing Thadeous Mosely about his experience meeting Charlie Parker
The first episode was about Charlie Parker’s Bird with Strings, where Wendt interviews sculptor Thadeous Mosely who saw Bird perform the album at a club in Homewood called Johnny Brown’s back in the 1950s. Mosely describes meeting Parker, and Wendt speaks on the history of tying a string section into a jazz group and the musical challenges associated with doing so.
This month’s episode dives into Archie Shepp’s live album Montreux One, which features a lesser-known, but immensely talented jazz drummer and Pittsburgh native, Beaver Harris.
Wendt interviews Harris’s daughter Verna Vaughn where she tells stories of growing up in a family with an active jazz musician. You can watch this episode below.
Next month’s episode covers Jimmy Ponder’s 1988 album JUMP!, Ponder was an incredible and underappreciated Jazz guitarist from Pittsburgh. Wendt is joined by another local Jazz guitar master Mark Strickland. Strickland shares stories of playing with Ponder and elaborates on the friendship they formed through making music together.
The April episode is about James Brown’s 1970 album Soul on Top, a big-band collaboration with Jazz saxophonist and arranger Oliver Nelson. Pittsburgh bassist Dwayne Dolphin is the special guest on this episode. Dolphin was a member of James Brown’s music director Fred Wesley’s band, and he offers his insights on the relationship between Jazz and Funk.
The episodes are available on https://pittsburghjazzfest.org/education/, and new episodes air there every third Thursday of the month. Pittsburgh has a rich history in Jazz Music, and the August Wilson Center and Pittsburgh Jazz Festival are taking a fun and captivating way to share it.
Congratulations to all of the Students Selected for the PMEA All-State Band and Wind Ensemble
This month, the PMEA announced its rosters for the All-State Ensembles. Students from all over Pennsylvania participate in multiple rounds of auditions in order to play in the PMEA All-State Ensembles.
The All-State Band and Orchestra will perform at the PMEA Festival, held in-person for the first time in two years, on April 6-9. Below are lists of the students selected for the All-State Orchestra and Band. Congratulations to all of the students for their hard work and dedication.
2022 PMEA All-State Jazz Ensemble Roster
2022 PMEA All-State Vocal Jazz Ensemble Roster
2022 PMEA All-State Wind Ensemble Roster
2022 PMEA All-State Concert Band Roster
2022 PMEA All-State Orchestra Roster
2022 PMEA All-State Chorus Roster
We want to extend a special congratulations to JMC student Caleb Drayer of Plum High School for receiving a trumpet position in the PMEA All-State Wind Ensemble. Caleb is currently studying under Michael Buckstein at JMC's Golden Mile location.
We'd also like to congratulate Joshua Maurer of Trinity Christian School for receiving a French horn position in the All-State Orchestra and Elijah Conklin of Fox Chapel Area High School for receiving a French horn position in the All-State Band. Joshua and Elijah are students of JMC Educational Sales Specialist Dennis Emert.
JMC is very happy for Caleb, Joshua, and Elijah for their achievement, and we wish them all the best.
JMC will have a booth at the PMEA festival this year, so if you are attending, be sure to stop over and say "hi." For more information on the PMEA All-State Festival, click here.
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Issued February 2022