Sunday, November 22, 2015

BAC: Best American Craftsman Music

“The only thing that ultimately matters is to eat an ice-cream cone, play a slide trombone, plant a small tree, good God, now you're free.” — Ray Manzarek, founding member of The Doors

FOR OUR anniversary, I planned a trip to BAC Music in Kansas City so that Paul could geek out over trombones. That's how we came to settle upon KC as our celebration destination. 

Best American Craftsman (BAC) is a custom brass instrument maker. Established by Michael Corrigan, his company's goal is melding old world craftsmanship with modern musical science. Mike used to work at S.E. Shires Company, a custom brass instrument maker near Boston owned by Steve Shires. Paul and Steve were trombone players together at the University of Iowa, and I'm sure Paul would have loved to have gone to his classmate's shop, but with Paul's current schedule, traveling to Kansas City was a much more realistic choice.

At BAC, craftsmen make trumpets and trombones instruments by hand. They also customize existing instruments, however, which was why we were there. Paul brought three of his trombones along to be looked at, with a view to having his King 3B tweaked with custom modifications.

Mike is a gracious and engaging host. He filled us in on the history of BAC and gave us a tour of the "factory" — and by factory, I mean individual workers step-by-step hand-making instruments. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it in person.

Below are some pictures from our tour.

A roll of brass. This is how a handmade trumpet or trombone starts out. If look closely at the inside of the roll, you can see that a trombone bell shape has been cut out of the roll.

There's the shape cut out of the roll.

The flat shapes are bent into cones.
A closeup.
They're fired and worked.
It's hard to believe the crude things on the right will become
the beautiful instrument on the left.
Paul getting the tour from company owner, Mike Corrigan.
Fired and hammered and fired and hammered.
Looking more like a trombone.
The engraver adds beautiful filigree designs to the horns.
Almost a finished horn. I never would have believed it, if I hadn't witnessed the process.

Paul gets his customized 3B back mid-December. He's so excited!!

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