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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000269.txt from 1995/03

From: CLARK FOBES <reedman@-----.COM>
Subj: Re: Mouthpiece Makers
Date: Thu, 9 Mar 1995 18:02:32 -0500

When I was a young man just starting my career as a performer and taking
auditions, participating in summer music festivals, etc. I was amazed at
how often the name of Frank Kaspar was invoked when the subject turned
to mouthpieces. I had the opportunity to purchase a refaced Ann Arbor
Kaspar when I was about 24 and played that for some years until I bumped
into a "Chicago" Kaspar when I was about 30. Neither of these
mouthpieces was in original condition, but had qualities that I liked,
they also had failings. I now play and perform on my own mouthpiece and
find it superior in all respects to any mouthpiece I have previously

A large part of what defines my life now is that I have become a
mouthpiece maker. In the past four years I have made (and sold!) almost
500 professional mouthpieces, I believe that would put me beyond the
range of part time tinkerer. For almost 10 years now I have devoted
many, many hours to studying, analyzing, experimenting and playing
clarinet mouthpieces. In that time I have probably played and measured
at least 100 Kaspar mouthpieces, most do not have original facings and
many had serious tuning problems. So what is going on here?

I want to state that I and all mouthpiece makers in this country owe a
great debt of gratitude to both Franks Kaspar and to Mssrs Goldbeck and
Wells. These men were instrumental in developing a whole "school" of
mouthpiece making and design in this country that has flourished into a
real industry. For good or ill many makers tout their products as Kaspar
copies , (a rather disingenuous marketing ploy in my opinion). So,
Frank, no hard feelings for what I am about to say.

A mouthpiece maker does not become famous because he makes a good
product. He becomes famous because of the clientele that buys and
performs on his product.Further when you look at the period of 1940 - 70
when both Kaspars were active, how many other people were making custom
clarinet mouthpieces? I think it might be fair to say that if you are
the only game in town you are probably the best and PERCEIVED as the
best. AND if you are one of a handful of people able to produce good
mouthpieces it is very likely that your mouthpiece will end up in the
hands of some of the very best players who then in turn either suggest
or require that his/her students play on the same mouthpiece. Manny
Notes who plays principal clarinet in the "_________ Philharmonic" and
teaches at the very prestigous "__________ Consevatory" plays on a
Kaspar. His students who are among the most gifted in the country are
required to use a Kaspar and then become principals in other orchestras
and they tell their students.... Voila! A dynasty and a legend.

My question is: for all the good Kaspars that are out there still being
played, how many are sitting in drawers or are being sold for
ridiculosusly inflated prices to students who will later discover their
flaws and once again consign them to other drawers. And how many of
those "Kaspars" are pieces of rubber with a name on them that have been
destroyed by refacing and are still passed off as the genuine article.

MY point: Judge a mouthpiece on it's merits and it's suitability for
you. A legendary mouthpiece won't get you a job if it doesn't suit your
needs. A legendary mouthpiece is nothing if you can't make it sing
whether you are an amateur or pro.

Clark W Fobes

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