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Hello all! My name is Lee Emerson. I have been away from the music world for 10 years, however after a recent layoff from my engineering gig, I have decided to open a music business in Pensacola, Florida, called Lee's Music Exchange and Repair.

A lot has changed during my absence. When I left, the only chinese horns brought to me for repair were the First Act instruments from Wal-Mart. Now, Chinese instruments are fast becoming the norm. Also, when I looked up UMI, I learned that now there is an umbrella company called Conn-Selmer, and shockingly I have learned that student-line Conns and Selmers are imported from China. I also understand that some Yamaha student line instruments are manufactured in China.

I have some questions that need to be answered as I try to determine what instruments I want to offer in my store.

1st: The majority of European, chinese, and Conn Selmer student line saxes appear to be built off of the same blue print. I had a Merano alto next to a Conn Selmer alto and found the parts to be interchangeable. There are numerous companies that I never heard of before selling nearly indistinguishable saxphones; they all have the Selmer-style octave mechanism and the same three-screw bell brace. My question is, who originated this design, and are all of these horns coming from the same Chinese factory, or are they made in different factories around the world? I'm guessing that the design originated with Keilworth or Guardala.

2nd: Is there a line of student level instruments actually built in the U.S.?

3rd: Which Chinese manufacturer is supplying instruments to Conn-Selmer and Yamaha? I met with Hunter Music Instruments from New York at the NAMM show in Nashville recently. They claim to be obtaining their products from the same factory in China that is supplying instruments to Conn-Selmer and Yamaha. They had name brand instruments side-by-side their instruments and demonstrated that they were identical. I ordered a few instruments to sample and show to area band directors. The tenor sax that I have seems to be identical to the Selmer Prelude. It has blue-steel springs and leather pads. I'm not a fan of the pearl-loid key touches, however. I've been playing this horn on gigs and it does O.K., but it hasn't inspired me to chuck my '43 King U.S. The biggest problem I have with the Hunter sax is that while it is better quality than a Merano or Cecilio, it looks the same and convincing potential customers to pay $950 my higher-quality instrument when it looks just like a new $250 instrument listed on Ebay will be challenging.

I look forward to comments and responses.
 

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There is one huge building in China (or is it Taiwan . . . or is it Indonesia . . . or is it Vietnam?) where saxophones are made, all of the distributors order up a dozen gross, have their own brand name put on them some way, then sell them as being something unique. (put smiley-face here . . .) DAVE
 
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