The two people most responsible for the 4147IB sat down recently to discuss how this instrument came to be. It’s a great interview that shows just how much collaboration went into this build. Enjoy!
There’s a lot of confusion about what a hand hammered, one piece bell really is. Not to mention the confusion about what makes them so special. Well, maybe not confusion so much as misinformation. The market is flooded with professional trumpets that have, so called, hand hammered, one piece bells. Thus creating images of craftsmen of old using nothing more than strength, determination, and skill to turn a flat piece of brass into an expertly crafted bell. In today’s industry, that couldn’t be further from reality.
In many cases, the way trumpet bells were crafted years ago has been left by the wayside. The overall specs and dimensions may be unchanged, but the manufacturing processes are light years apart. Do you think there were hydraulic presses slamming brass into bell forms at the turn of the century? What about computer controlled spinning lathes forcing a bell blank tight to a mandrel? While technology has made many aspects of manufacturing better, some advances have actually tainted the finished product. How many times have you heard someone say his or her 50 year old trumpet plays so much better than a new one? Why do you think that is? The brand names may be the same, but, as the saying goes, they just don’t build them like they used to.
What makes a true hand hammered, one piece bell? What’s the right way to craft one? I’m glad you asked. As I see it, there are several questions that must be answered. What’s the bell made from? How’s the pattern made? How’s the seam formed/brazed? How’s the bell formed? How’s the bell spun? The answers to these questions are what separate the “wanna be” bells from the real deal.
What’s the bell made from?
The Right Way: First and foremost, a true hand hammered, one piece bell starts out as a roll of plain old sheet brass. Sure there are different alloys and thicknesses, but the common thread is that they all start as nothing more than a simple sheet.
The Wrong Way: There are some out there that confuse seamless bells with true one piece bells. Seamless bells are formed from either a single piece of tubing or by electroplating a thick layer of metal onto a bell mandrel. Both of these methods have their advantages. We use seamless tube bells for our student line of trumpets and cornets. They’re inexpensive and durable while providing easy tonal production. However, these bells offer little in the way of projection or character. Electroplated bells allow us, and others, to produce copper bells at an affordable price. Despite the positives, these too are a long way from hand hammered, one piece bells in terms of performance.
How is the pattern made?
The Right Way: Simply put, the pattern is made by cutting the brass sheet to shape … ideally by hand. That is, someone lays a template over the brass, scribes an outline, and uses shears to cut along that line. No stamping, no laser cutting, no computer controlled cutting tools at all. In fact, if we got rid of our electric shears and went back to manual tin snips, cutting a bell pattern would look just like it did before the Great War.
The Wrong Way: Keep reading. This and the next two “Right Ways” are covered by just one “Wrong Way” used by some of our biggest competitors.
How is the seam formed/brazed?
The Right Way: After the pattern is cut, it’s placed in a hand press. Here the flat pattern is bent in bringing the two outside edges together. Basically, this press is nothing more than a table with a slot down the middle. The pattern is laid on this table with the slot running from tail to flare. A lever is pulled and the craftsman’s strength is used to push a piece of steel through the slot taking the brass along with it. This folds the brass pattern in half. Then a hand tool is used to cut tiny notches at set intervals along the length of the pattern. The notches work to lock the sides together and form a perfect seam. This seam is then hammered, by hand, tightly together. From here, it’s on to the torch room where the seam is brazed, again by hand, using a special brazing paste and torch. It’s a hot, noisy job, but one that requires the human touch to be done just right. After being brazed, the pattern begins to look like a trumpet bell for the first time. It may be a burned trumpet bell that was just run over by a steamroller, but a trumpet bell nonetheless.
How is the blank formed?
The Right Way: This is where things get interesting and a hand hammered bell gets its name. It’s at this point the hammers come out. The burned, flattened bell pattern is taken into the aptly named Hammer Room. Here, the craftsmen involved start by “opening up” the pattern. In a nutshell they slide the pattern over a vertical, steel bell mandrel and repeatedly force it down onto the steel. Think of it as if they were trying to throw the bell straight down over and over again. The action forces the tight pattern to open up, meeting the mandrel’s taper. They’re beginning to open the throat of the bell, but we’re still a long way from finished.
Once the throat is opened, it’s hammer time. The pattern is again placed on a steel bell mandrel only this time it’s horizontal. Large wooden and/or rawhide mallets are used to, let’s just say, caress the brass to shape. Every inch of the bell’s surface from tail to flare rim are hit again and again as the bell is formed. The blows rain down like a one sided prizefight until the shape is just right.
This step is the key to what makes a hand hammered bell so special. Keep in mind that throughout this hammering the brass is work hardened. The brass must be re-softened via torch annealing to continue. It’s this hammering, hardening, softening, hammering, hardening, softening, etc… that gives the bell its truly unique tonal characteristics. Some think it’s the lateral seam that’s the key to a hand hammered, one piece bell’s superiority over two piece designs. The theory is that a two piece bell’s radial seam blocks resonance traveling through the bell while the lateral seam does not. While the seam plays a part to the bell’s overall performance, it’s just a small part of the whole. If the key was the seam, a seamless bell should be the best of the bunch because there is no hindrance at all. No, the real magic comes from the extremely complex and time intensive tempering of the brass. The kind of tempering you can only achieve with strong arms, a hammer, and a torch.
The Wrong Way: As I mentioned before, this “Wrong Way” is the competitions’ answer to the three previous “Right Ways” we practice when crafting a true hand hammered bell.
Like us, many of the competition start with a simple piece of brass sheet. However, the similarities end there. Rather than cutting the bell pattern and forming it into a blank with little more than the skilled hands of a craftsman, the majority of work is done by machine.
The brass sheet is fed into a hydraulic forming press. Here, the sheet is sandwiched between a mold and a hydraulic bladder. The bladder is inflated and, under thousands of pounds of brute force, the brass is forced to the mold. This exposes the brass sheet to an extremely high amount of pressure and stress. Due to its lack of touch and feel, the machine only knows one thing, go from flat to formed. After this forming, the excess material of the sheet is cut away and you’re left with what looks like a bulbous, overly inflated trumpet bell split down the middle.
To form the bell’s seam the blank is put into another hydraulic press and bent to bring the two sides together. Again, no feel, no touch, just unbent and bent. Once the seam is brazed, the blank is already recognizable as a trumpet bell. It’s now that the hand hammering is done. However, since the bulk of the forming was done in the hydraulic press before a hammer was ever swung, it takes very little time and very few blows to achieve the desired shape. Less hand hammering means things move along much faster. It also means there is much less annealing needed. Think back, remember when I said the real key to a hand hammered, one piece bell was the hammering and annealing? All of that great tempering of the brass is sacrificed here for speed. Sadly, in the world of manufacturing faster equals cheaper and, in some minds, that means better. Now I guess you could argue that some hammering is better than none and you’d be right. Although, that’s like saying $5 is better than none, but wouldn’t you rather have $500?
How is the bell spun?
The Right Way: When it leaves the hammer room, a hand hammered, one piece bell looks more like a brass funnel than a trumpet bell. It takes a pretty good imagination to see the shape of things to come. The journey of turning this rough looking funnel into a full fledged trumpet bell comes with it’s first round of spinning.
Rather than being spun on a mandrel, like every other bell, it’s slid inside a special cup and hand spun to form a rough bell flare. This inside out spinning is used because of the rough shape of the funnel. This is the only way to ease it into a traditional bell shape. Trying to go from funnel right to a finished bell would expose the brass to damaging stress and metal fatigue. After this first spinning, the bell is pretty ugly, but it’s starting to shape up.
After one last pass through the annealing room, the hand hammered, one piece bell follows the path taken by every other bell we make. It’s hand spun on a steel mandrel mounted to a special lathe. Hand spinning is a key aspect of bell making. It’s all about the feel of the brass, the resistance of the tool, and the smoothness of the surface. Things much too complex for an automated system to monitor and react to efficiently. Yet again, the key to quality lies in the skilled hands of a trained craftsman.
The Wrong Way: Once again, superior craftsmanship is sacrificed for speed. Robo-spinners go from start to finish in one mighty pass. As before, there’s no feel and no touch, just unspun and spun. Their job is to smash the brass into place rather than smoothly easing it down to size. Think of it in carpentry terms. Say you’re building a table and need to cut a board to length. You can do it with either an axe or a circular saw. The end result might be the same, two pieces of wood, but the quality of the two pieces couldn’t be farther apart. What’s the old saying? There’s the fast way and then there’s the right way.
The real kicker in this whole thing comes when you realize that the “Wrong Ways” mentioned in this article are actually the best of the bunch. Some manufacturers completely skip the hammering process and rely solely on hydro-forming to go from brass sheet to the spinning lathe. Almost every benefit of a true one piece bell is lost. The worst offenders are those that hammer their bells for nothing more than show. Just so they can market them as hand hammered. I once saw an ad for a trumpet hailing its hand hammered bell. The ad featured a photograph of a finished bell on a mandrel being tapped with a ball peen hammer. Sure there’s a hand, a hammer, and a bell, but that’s not exactly the right idea guys.
Keep all of this in mind the next time you hear or read the term “hand hammered, one piece bell”. While the description might be technically accurate, there’s a lot more to it than mere technicalities. When a salesman tells you how great a trumpet is because of its bell, ask him some of the above questions. He might not know the answers, but if he answers them all with the “Right Ways” mentioned here chances are he’s trying to sell you a Getzen.
As many of you, dealers and retail customers alike, know some Getzen instruments are hard to come by these days. We face concerns about delayed delivery just about everyday. While building to order is better than having bloated inventory sitting on the shelf, people will only wait so long before they move on and buy another instrument. What’s the deal?
When you compare the last few years to 10-15 years ago, our production numbers are down. That’s despite the addition of new employees and the institution of new manufacturing techniques and processes. At the same time, our annual orders have been steadily increasing for almost every model. More orders plus less output equals long back orders. For a few specific models, we started the 2008 fiscal year with more instruments on back order from 2007 than we were able to build and ship in the previous twelve months. And I’m not talking about inexpensive student instruments. These are, unfortunately, higher end instruments. Eventually, many of these customers are going to go elsewhere. So what is the answer?
Just up production right? We could easily put the pressure on our people and start forcing horns through. Just crank them out as fast as we can. Maybe even cheapen some horns. We could take a cue from our competitors and cut corners to speed up student and step up production. Maybe even import some lines rather than building them in the US. Or, we could automate some of our production and let machines stamp out more of our horns. After all, a machine doesn’t need a break and you don’t have to pay it overtime. If we did all of these things, I’m sure we could out pace the last few years with ease and even approach record production highs in no time at all. It would definitely fill our back orders. Delivering on all of those orders means a lot more money coming in while the shorter production time translates to lower costs. Everyone knows what that means… higher profits. That’s what business is all about right? Then again, we’ve all heard some of the horror stories going around these days. “Trumpet X is great… if you can try enough to find a good one.” Or, “Every single Trumpet Z is the same… they just don’t have any character.” My personal favorite, “Sure it doesn’t perform like a trumpet, but it looks like one and it was sooooo cheap.” Maybe sometimes chasing higher profits isn’t the right answer.
Our philosophy is a simple one. Higher production is great and we strive for that every day. However, we will never sacrifice quality and craftsmanship in exchange for upped production and delivery. Could we save time by cutting short the lapping and honing time on student trumpets? Sure. Could we save time by eliminating some of the hand labor on our one piece trumpet bells? You bet. Could we get more trombone slides made if we lowered our standards on plating, barrel shaping, and hand straightening? Definitely. Would our instruments be any good? Nope, but we sure could build them fast.
Years ago, as I got more and more involved in the business, one of my main concerns was quality. I was, and still am, extremely frustrated and discouraged to hear from dealers and players whenever they purchase a horn that was sub par. It was hard not to take those complaints personally. Being the squeaky wheel that I am, I got the grease in the form of being put in charge of establishing our quality levels. I wasn’t very popular at times, but I refused to lower the standards I expected from every instrument we built. Having worked in the factory myself, I knew what we were capable of. It took a lot of work and persistence, but over time every goal I set was met and surpassed.
The quality of instruments being delivered today far exceeds those that we built back in 1991. There was a price to pay for those high standards though. Eliminating the pressure for volume and rejecting sub standard instruments will diminish monthly production output. It’s a tricky tight rope act, teetering between high quality and high production. In the beginning, we fell from that rope again and again. There were times that our quality took a step back. Other times, our numbers were far below demand. Over time though, we have gotten better at balancing things out. Now, with the addition of people like Jim Stella, we are moving ahead in leaps and bounds. Steps like refining our manufacturing, adding more people, and instilling in our existing employees just what they are capable of are adding up. Everyday we move closer and closer to filling our back orders. At the same time, our finished quality continues to rise. It’s a win-win for all of us.
Don’t get me wrong, we still have a long way to go. Even with our improvements we realize this is not a time to just sit back and relax. There are always goals to be set and broken. In some cases, even with higher production we don’t seem to make any headway. Just ask anyone waiting for a Custom Series tenor or bass trombone. The more we ship, the more that are ordered. Go figure. It’s like treading water with a weight belt on. As soon as you get strong enough to raise more than just your nose out of the water, someone adds a few more pounds and the struggle starts all over again.
This past year has taught us a lot of lessons and brought several advancements. New people, ideas, techniques, and equipment are bringing us closer and closer to where we want to be. It’s been a long and costly endeavor, but we are committed to it. Remember, at Getzen we only have to answer to ourselves, not a board of directors or sea of faceless stockholders. Cutting corners could benefit us in the short term, but in the long run it’s just going to drag us down. After all, what’s the long term benefit of quickly delivering a piece of junk to a customer? We’re committed to providing you with the finest quality instruments you can find at an affordable price. Most importantly, we’re committed to making sure that every one of our instruments is worth the wait. It’s my name on every bell and I wouldn’t accept anything less.
Showtime – Nicole Sasser
Nicole Sasser excitedly released her first album during the summer of 2008. Her CD, entitled Showtime, showcases her talents as both a trumpet player and singer. It is available for purchase on her website at www.nicolesasser.com.
Mark Sheridan-Robideau, Peter Madsen, Doug Farwell, and Steve Wilson of the Continental Trombone Quartet proudly provided the musical accompaniment for the American Repertory Ballet this past October. The Worlds End/Worlds Begin show was held as a fundraiser to benefit the Highland Park, New Jersey group Artists Now.
Featured Custom Series Dealer
At Tulsa Band Instruments customer service and the personal touch are their top priorities. Unlike some stores, Tulsa’s staff is knowledgeable and ready to answer all of your band instrument questions. In addition to sales, they boast Oklahoma’s best, full service repair facility.
Tulsa Band proudly carries the Custom Series line along with a wide variety of other Getzen instruments in their Tulsa, Oklahoma store. For more information, visit their website at www.tulsaband.com.
We are proud to announce the addition of Dave Kaminsky to the Getzen sales force. For nearly 30 years Dave has been in the industry with both Leblanc and Conn-Selmer working in sales, educator relations, and establishing education programs. Mr. Kaminsky will be handling Getzen representation for the South-Eastern United States.
In April, we had some very special visitors stop by the Getzen factory. Members of the Stan Kenton Alumni Band under the leadership of Mike Vax stopped by on their way through South-Eastern Wisconsin. We treated the band to a tour of the factory and lunch. They treated all of us to a thirty minute concert in the Allied Supply warehouse.
Thank you to Mike and the members of the band for stopping by. Thanks also to Breber Music of Elkhorn, WI for loaning us a drum kit, keyboard, and amplifier for the performance.
There are now three ways to get your very own copy of the Getzen Gazette. Of course, there is the printed version and many have visited the Getzen Gazette Blog on our website. Now you can download a pdf version and view or print copies of it from your own PC. Past Gazettes are listed in the left column of this page. If you prefer the real thing, you can be added to the Gazette mailing list by mailing your request to:
Gazette Mailing List
c/o Brett Getzen
PO Box 440
Elkhorn, WI 53121
For several years Getzen has offered our Silver Trumpet Value Pack and we figured it was time for an update. The Value Pack still offers one of the best package deals around with a silver plated Getzen trumpet (models 590S, 700SP, or 700S). The Pack also includes a gold plated mouthpiece, leather hand guard, electronic tuner, select Getzen artist CD, trumpet care kit, and a special black, contoured soft sided case with shoulder strap. All of this for one low price. Contact your district manager or local Getzen dealer for more details.
The year 2009 marks a great milestone for the Getzen Company. It is the 70th Anniversary of the company’s founding. That means over 70 years of family involvement in the brass musical instrument industry. It also means four generations of family tradition and commitment. In an industry dominated by corporate giants, that is truly something special.
This special edition of the Getzen Gazette celebrates our great achievement. Please join us as we take a look back at what got us to where we are today.
A pdf version of this issue of the Gazette is available for download. It includes a photo montage of our company’s history.
A Family Tradition Begins
It all started in 1939 when Anthony Getzen decided to take a chance. He had recently resigned his position as the Plant Superintendent of the Frank Holton Company to take his shot at achieving the American dream. After nearly 20 years in the musical instrument industry, Tony put his knowledge and skills to the test and the Getzen Company was born.
Things started out slowly on Geneva Street in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. On its first day of business, the company opened with just Tony and his three employees working in a converted dairy barn behind the Getzen family home. At the time, the company’s focus was on band instrument repair. The Getzen Company quickly began to earn a name for itself as a well respected repair shop thanks to the hard work of Tony and his staff. Working so closely with so many brands of instruments exposed Tony and his crew to the good and the bad of instrument design and build quality. All of that acquired knowledge would come in very handy, but new horn manufacturing was still years away.
In 1946 the benefits of a rapidly growing, post World War II America prompted the shift from instrument repair to instrument manufacturing. It all started with a relatively small line of trombones. Only 1,000 trombones were built that first year, but a quickly growing market and fan base showed that there was indeed a place for Getzen in the world of brasswind manufacturing. Capitalizing on that success, the first Getzen trumpets and cornets were being delivered to customers around the country the next year. It wasn’t long before these new Getzen instruments were gaining popularity in the music world. Tony and his staff drew on their experience in both production and repair to design instruments that not only had an emphasis on playability and performance, but also on durability. As market share continued to grow, another product line expansion came in 1949 with the addition of a full line of piston bugles. In just under a decade, the company had gone from a small, repair shop to a full fledged manufacturer of brasswinds.
During the growth of that first decade, the family tradition of the Getzen Company was firmly established. Tony’s three sons, J. Robert, William, and Donald all worked for their father during breaks from school and after returning home from the military at the war’s end. After working closely with his father since the early days of the company, Tony’s eldest son Bob was promoted to the position of Plant Superintendent in 1949.
Over the next ten years the company continued to grow. By the end of the fifties, the Getzen Company employed over 80 people and the annual production ballooned as well. Following this boom came advances in the quality and design of Getzen instruments, most notably their industry leading student instruments. The company was an undeniable success and even the competition took notice. In 1956 Vincent Bach was quoted in a Getzen print ad as saying, “They certainly are very beautiful horns, and Getzen can be proud of being able to turn out such a fine instrument…”
Following in his father’s footsteps, Bob Getzen resigned his position with the Getzen Company in 1959. Later that year, Bob founded Allied Music Corporation, a wholesale instrument repair shop. Allied Music opened in a brand new, 3,000 square foot building less than a mile from the Getzen Company’s location. The first day of business for Bob and his one employee marked an exciting new start. However, that first day was a quiet one as they opened the shop with zero customers. Around this same time, Bill Getzen decided that the music business wasn’t for him. Instead, he chose a career in law and became a very successful attorney. The third brother, Don Getzen, remained with the Getzen Company having made the shift from manufacturing to focusing more on the management side of the business.
The following year, family ownership of the Getzen Company came to an end. Late in 1960, after 21 years in business, Tony sold the Getzen Company to Milwaukee attorney Harold M. Knowlton. Initially, the terms of the sale had Tony staying on with the company in a management role. However, this working relationship lasted less than a year. Shortly after the purchase, Mr. Knowlton moved the company from its original home in the old "barn" to its new location at 211 West Centralia Street. All of the original employees remained with the company, including Don Getzen. He was the final Getzen to be involved with the company for years to come. It would take another 31 years and the success and prosperity of two generations before the family would own its namesake once again.
Family and Company Move Forward
Two years after purchasing the Getzen Company, Harold Knowlton wanted to put his mark on the company and began making a push into the professional instrument market. With the help of a young, up and coming trumpeter named Carl “Doc” Severinsen, Getzen seized on an opportunity. The company was already well known for its popular student horns and they looked to capitalize on that popularity with a new line of professional instruments. Through the union of Doc and Getzen, the 900 Severinsen Model Eterna trumpet was born. Word quickly spread through the trumpet world and it wasn’t long before everyone wanted to try this exciting new horn. Following the stunning initial success of the Eterna trumpet, Getzen began working to expand its product line. New cornet and flugelhorn designs were in the works and the company was quickly carving out a place for itself in the professional instrument market.
Everything was going great for the company until shortly after midnight on October 14, 1963. That Monday morning a fire was sparked in the extreme rear of the factory in what was the bell and small parts department. A passing police officer noticed the flames and called it in to his dispatcher. Several explosions rocked the factory as flames reached flammable and volatile liquids (lacquer, solvent, etc…) used during production. Those explosions and a brisk fall wind quickly spread the fire through out the factory. By the time the fire department arrived, flames had already broken through the roof and much of the factory was burning out of control. The fire department remained on the scene until after six o’clock in the morning when the flames were finally extinguished. When it was all said and done, the entire production section of the factory had been leveled by the fire. The warehouse storage area and offices had also sustained severe damage from the fire as well as smoke and water damage. This effectively rendered the factory on Centralia Street a complete loss. News of the fire made the front pages of several newspapers across the Midwest including the Milwaukee Journal, Kansas City Star, and Chicago Tribune. Immediately after the fire, fellow instrument companies in Elkhorn extended offers of help. Both the Holton Company and Allied Music offered the use of their facilities to salvage the instruments damaged during the fire. Many Getzen dealers also sent in letters of sympathy and encouragement pledging to continue doing business with Getzen as soon as the company was back on its feet.
Despite the devastating loss, just hours after the flames were extinguished plans were already underway for the construction of a new factory. In less than a month, the debris of the destroyed building had been cleared away and construction of the new building had begun. A target of January 1964 was set for the opening of the new Getzen Company factory. That target date was missed by just a month when the new factory opened in early February. Initially, production was limited to just a few select models as production slowly ramped up. However, it was only a matter of months before Getzen was up and running at full capacity again, rapidly trying to fill orders that continued to come in during reconstruction.
In the following years, Getzen’s popularity continued to grow with every instrument they shipped. This was thanks, in no small part, to the stellar success of Doc Severinsen and the 900 Eterna trumpet. The Eterna trumpet was so successful that for a time it was the best selling pro trumpet in the United States. Professional musicians from around the world coveted the Eterna trumpet and were eager to work closely with Getzen. Through these relationships, Getzen was able to draw on the musicians’ expertise creating a vast network of designers and play testers. With this invaluable tool, Getzen was able to continually improve their entire product line. Soon the company was rolling out new, professional cornets, flugelhorns, and trombones. During the second half of the 1960’s the Getzen Company grew faster and larger than its founder could have ever imagined. That same meteoric rise continued throughout the 1970’s. The Getzen Company had moved from a small, four man repair shop to being firmly planted in the upper echelons of manufacturers in the industry.
During these same years, Bob Getzen was experiencing great success with Allied Music. Bob’s extensive knowledge in the field of instrument repair combined with his unequalled work ethic and a large customer base rapidly propelled Allied Music from a small, two man operation to a nationwide leader in band instrument repair. By 1966, Bob had once again entered into the field of manufacturing when he started to work with his brother Don Getzen. Don had, in 1965, resigned as Executive Vice President of Getzen to venture out on his own. At that time, he founded DEG Music Products Inc. in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Don hoped to take advantage of the skilled employees at Allied Music and their experience with brasswind instruments. The two brothers worked together and Allied Music expanded to begin the production of a complete line of marching bugles for DEG.
The expansion continued in 1967 when Bob saw a void in the industry just waiting to be filled. It was then that he founded Allied Supply Corporation. Allied Supply serviced instrument repairmen around the world by supplying them with instrument parts, repair tools, and replacement cases. Supply’s real forte was specializing in carrying replacement parts for almost any wind instrument, including obsolete and hard to find parts. For the first time, repairmen had a one stop shop for all of their store’s needs. That same year Bob offered an even greater service to repair shops when he founded the Allied Music Repair School. The program was designed to offer a comprehensive course of hands on training to teach students the finer points of band instrument repair. Each participant went through an in depth, forty-eight week course that covered all aspects of brass or woodwind band instrument repair. The students would study under the experienced employees of Allied as they worked on hundreds of instruments during their stay in Elkhorn. The program also covered non-repair related aspects of the industry including business practices, customer relations, shop management, pricing, etc… This advanced education combined with their own natural talents allowed many of the graduates to go on and open their own successful repair shops, many of which are still thriving today. Some have become well known and respected within the industry with names like Wayne Tanabe and Dave Monette to name a few.
Much like the Getzen Company, Allied Music and Allied Supply continued to thrive during the early seventies. In 1972 the partnership between Allied Music and DEG grew as Allied began to expand its manufacturing base. That year production began on a full line of trumpets, trombones, cornets, and marching brass horns under the DEG name. At the same time, Allied Supply was expanded from just a few shelves in the shipping department to its own dedicated section of the factory. In 1974, with both companies growing larger, Bob decided to sell Allied Supply to his two sons Thomas and Edward Getzen. The brothers had several years of experience working in both instrument repair and manufacturing. Just like the companies they founded (Getzen, Allied Music, Allied Supply, DEG), the Getzen family’s involvement in the band instrument industry continued to grow as Tom and Ed marked the third generation of Getzen horn builders.
The decade of the 1980’s brought with it more and more changes for both Getzen and Allied Music/Supply. In 1985, after twenty-five years at the helm, Harold Knowlton sold the Getzen Company to Charles Andrews. This marked the end of an era for the Getzen Company. Three years later, at the age of sixty-two, Bob Getzen decided to “retire”. That year, Bob sold Allied Music Corp. to his sons ending his twenty-nine year run as the company’s owner and president. Despite his retirement, Bob kept an office in the factory and remained heavily involved in its operation for the next several years. In 1989, Allied Supply’s continued growth required it to move out of its corner of the Allied Music factory and into its own 9,600 square foot building next door; a stark contrast to the company’s humble beginnings. Perhaps the biggest change of the decade came in 1989 when Allied Music seized on the revolutionary development of the Axial Flow Valve and began the production of the first generation of Edwards trombones. Through the Edwards Instrument Company a goal was set to build a trombone unequalled in quality and unparalleled in design that met the demanding needs of the world’s top musicians. This was the first step in the journey to craft what is now, arguably, the world’s finest trombone.
With the initial success of the Edwards trombone came a need for a shift in the company’s priorities. It was then that Allied Music began to make more of a switch from instrument repair to instrument production. In 1990 that new manufacturing emphasis paid off when the company teamed up with the world famous brass quintet, The Canadian Brass. The two worked closely together to design a line of instruments that were to be manufactured by Allied Music and played/marketed by the quintet. With that, the stage was set for yet another successful decade for the Getzen family and its company. Nobody in the family could foresee the once in a lifetime opportunity that was looming just over the horizon. It would be another year before the life long dream of a generation would become a reality.
The Company Comes Back Home
Following the founding of the Getzen Company and after decades of success with Allied Music and Allied Supply, the Getzen family was firmly established within the musical instrument industry. Those years of hard work and great success provided the family with an amazing opportunity in 1991. That year, the family was finally able to regain control of the family namesake. Several years of production problems and financial hardships came to a head and the Getzen Company, under Chuck Andrews, was forced to file for bankruptcy. Although it was a dark time for the company, it was a high point in the lives of Tom and Ed Getzen. The grandsons of the company’s founder were able to purchase the Getzen Company out of federal bankruptcy court. After 31 years apart, the Getzen family and the Getzen Company were finally back together again.
Immediately after the purchase, the hard work of bringing the Getzen Company and Allied Music together was started. The first step was to begin moving Getzen’s employees and equipment from its location on Centralia Street to Allied’s home on the outskirts of Elkhorn. Of course, the factory was overwhelmed by this new influx of staff and equipment. To accommodate this sudden growth, an 18,000 square foot addition was built onto the Allied Music building effectively doubling the size of the factory. The addition included a new bell department, buffing room, water treatment center, dent department, and several offices. As the Getzen employees moved into their new home the skilled Allied Music staff met them with open arms. They were also met with new and repaired equipment along with improved working conditions. Shortly after the addition was completed, both two companies were once again up and running at full speed. Resources and manpower were split between new horn manufacturing and instrument repair with Getzen as the parent company and Allied Music operating as a subsidiary. The long journey to return the company to its former greatness had begun.
The first obstacle that had to be overcome was the degraded reputation of Getzen. Years of production and design changes had led to a product line that was sub par when compared to past levels. Re-establishing the company’s place in the industry was difficult. Changing the public’s negative perception of the Getzen name became a key goal as Tom and Ed pledged to do everything possible to improve the quality of the company’s products. The first step was working closely with the employees to let them know that things had to change and that the company needed their help. Together, management and the employees wasted no time as the entire product line and manufacturing standards/techniques were re-evaluated. All existing models were closely examined and necessary design improvements were made. New models were added to incorporate successful instrument designs previously used by Allied Music. At the same time, every single aspect of production was evaluated to improve not only labor time, but also finished instrument quality. As Tom Getzen put it, "It wasn’t a quick or smooth process by any means, but it had to be done."
The remaining years of the 1990’s saw many more changes with both Getzen and Allied. In 1992, Getzen capitalized on the great success of the Edwards trombone line with the introduction of the all new, Getzen Custom Series trombones. This marked the first serious re-entry of the company into the professional instrument market. With the introduction of new models and a surging demand for instruments, production needs prompted Tom and Ed to discontinue the Allied Music repair school in 1993. In 1994, production demands forced the discontinuation of Allied Music’s reed instrument repairs, freeing up more factory space for expanded production. Continually improving quality led to even higher production demands. Just a year later, Allied Music was dissolved entirely when brass instrument repairs were stopped. All of the company’s resources, both man power and equipment, were free to focus entirely on new horn production. The revolving cycle of increased production leading to increased orders leading to increased production etc…continued. The increased sales allowed the company to continually make more advances in quality. It also led to the introduction of even more new models and improved designs. Finally, the Getzen Company started to regain some of the respect it had lost within the industry.
One of the biggest changes for the new Getzen Company came in 1999. That year, after several decades of working together Tom and Ed Getzen went their separate ways. Tom purchased all of Ed’s shares in both the Getzen Company and Allied Supply and became the sole owner and president of both companies. At the time, two of Tom’s four children worked full time at Getzen and his youngest son worked part time during breaks from high school. This continued family involvement, along with Tom’s purchase, ensured that the company would stay in the family for many years to come.
With a renewed family dedication to quality and performance, things at Getzen really started to take off in the following decade. In 2000, Edwards Instruments had outgrown its small corner of the Getzen facility and was moved into its own building next door to Allied Supply. This provided Edwards with a dedicated showroom from which to sell their top of the line trumpets and trombones while the production of Edwards instruments remained in the Getzen factory. In 2001, Getzen took a substantial leap forward in the trumpet world when, after nearly 30 years apart, Doc Severinsen and Getzen teamed up once again. Together with Doc, Getzen launched the 3001 Severinsen model trumpet. Soon after, Getzen expanded on this design and introduced an all new line of Custom Series Bb and C trumpets marking Getzen’s return to the ranks of the world’s finest trumpet builders. The partnership between Doc and Getzen remained in effect until 2003 when Doc once again left for other ventures. The 3001 & 3001LE trumpets were renamed “Artist Models” and both remain in the Getzen line of Custom trumpets today.
That same year marked a sad time for the Getzen family and company. In February, J. Robert Getzen passed away following a lifetime dedicated to the music industry. Throughout his life, Bob had worked extensively in both instrument manufacturing and repair. Over the years, he was responsible for advancements in both production and repair techniques including the invention of several tools used by repairmen around the world. His skills and dedication were passed on to countless other repairmen through his commitment to the Allied Music repair school program. Bob was also influentional in the formation of the National Association of Band Instrument Repair Technicians (NAPBIRT). NAPBIRT is an organization intended to bring together instrument repairmen from around the world to share everything from repair techniques to shop management skills. Through his years of technician education and involvement with NAPBIRT, Bob Getzen was able to give many great professionals their start. Not only did he cement his own family’s presence within the industry, but the positions of many other men and women as well.
Over the past five years Getzen has demonstrated its continued dedication to quality instrument manufacturing. Constantly striving to meet the needs of musicians everywhere has prompted Getzen to introduce seven new models including the 3001MV Mike Vax and 907S Eterna Proteus trumpets. The dedication doesn’t end there. Getzen has also recently partnered with Griego Mouthpieces and Blackburn Trumpets. With Griego, Getzen is supplying top of the line Griego mouthpieces with all Custom Series trombones, elevating an upper level instrument to an even higher point. Through their partnership with Blackburn, Getzen is answering the call of many players by combining the tried and true 940 Eterna piccolo trumpet with the outstanding performance of Blackburn leadpipes. Quality, American made instruments and unmatched customer service have combined to elevate the Getzen Company back to its position at the top of the musical instrument industry.
The long standing tradition of the Getzen family and the Getzen Company continues to this day through two of Tom Getzen’s four children. Brett Getzen, Tom’s second oldest, spent years working in both instrument repair and new horn production starting at the age of eleven. Today, at 31, Brett is involved in many aspects of the company from production to sales and marketing as Getzen’s Special Project Manager. At 24, Adam Getzen, Tom’s youngest, has worked for the company for nearly half of his life. As a student, Adam worked part time in several different departments within the factory. Since making the switch to full time, Adam has taken over and now runs the company’s plating department. Together, the two sons make up the fourth generation of Getzens in the band instrument business. Both are striving to ensure the company’s success for generations to come.
In recent years, the band instrument industry has seen many changes, such as the emergence of more off shore production, the consolidation of many independent companies, and the closing of others. It is refreshing to see a thriving, family owned company like Getzen that still holds dear its founding principles after 70 years. A commitment to crafting the finest, American made instruments possible at affordable prices while providing the service their customers deserve.
Only instruments newly ordered and shipped from the Getzen Company will include the new Blackburn leadpipes or Griego Custom mouthpieces. Those instruments already in dealer inventory may not include these items. It is recommended that retail customers confirm that any 940 Eterna Piccolo (Blackburn) or Custom Series trombone (Griego) in question is indeed a new instrument with these items and not old stock. Getzen is not responsible for furnishing Blackburn leadpipes or Griego mouthpieces to players purchasing instruments sold to dealers prior to the introduction of these items.