Approximately 10 years ago, I was standing at a bustling booth at Frankfurt Music Messe hearing everything from Sousaphone players through to piccolo players. That was my first commercial music show. That was my introduction to Conn–Selmer.
Conn–Selmer and their President John Stoner had recently bought Leblanc Clarinets – a brand that I’d been familiar with and had admired for years – and invited me to join the instrument development team. We had a mutual desire to design and build a new intermediate instrument to reduce the obscenely large price gap between beginner instruments and the next step. When I started to play the clarinet, I had a plastic C clarinet which cost me under £100 and when it was time for me to move on, the only suitable instrument was in excess of £1,000. This had always stuck with me.
With this in mind, we set off to design an affordable clarinet that was easy to play but made to the highest standard in Conn–Selmer’s US factory. At that stage, my role was artistic. I played prototype after prototype to perfect the instrument.
The Bliss was launched in December 2008 at the Midwest Clinic in Chicago. This will remain a special occasion for me – and not just because of the celebratory steak! Following the launch, I went on the road with Conn–Selmer for six months and now visit several times each year to work with the district managers, the music dealers, schools and teachers across the US.
What has struck me most since working with the team at Conn-Selmer is the family atmosphere within the company. Whether it be working with a district manager in Texas, a music show in Florida or at their Headquarters in Indiana, the sense of camaraderie is strong. In the years since the Bliss launch, my relationship with Conn-Selmer has gone from strength to strength. There are always interesting things happening back at factory and we’re always working to make the best instruments available.