When I started MusicMedic.com in 1999 in my Onancock living room, I thought about how cool it would be to someday make a saxophone. I knew that goal was lofty and I would need a serious amount of tools, money, experience, and the skills to do it. It wasn't something I could immediately pursue. At the same time, I also wanted to make tools and be an industry supplier because I saw a need and I love tools, so I followed this path.
For years after that moment, I have enjoyed the success of a great company with great people, in our multi-faceted supplier- pad maker- saxophone repair business. However, every time I make decisions about the company, I still think about my goal to make a saxophone. I consider how it will affect my desire to have a company that produces great things and being a great supplier. How it will affect our desire to do the finest saxophone repairs, and finally, someday, make instruments of our design. Sometimes, when you get too caught up in things, you have to take a step back to look at the larger picture. You have to give yourself time to think and evaluate a lot of aspects in your life.
With my extremely busy travel schedule and all the work that goes into MusicMedic.com, I sometimes feel like my work in the Sax ProShop isn't moving forward quickly enough. Every time I dig into project, I soon have to leave for a trip. I feel like I end up only scratching the surface. When I return, I work to get caught up then start digging in and I'm off again. The cycle continues.
Throughout the years, the Sax ProShop has evolved and achieved many of my goals. I wanted a great repair shop that takes repair forward, does things no one else can do, and to change the saxophone world through thoughtful innovation. We've been restoring horns that are in such rough shape that they might otherwise be left for dead, then we take them and turn them into incredibly desirable horns that play and feel much better than when they left the factory. When the rumor spread a couple months ago that the Sax ProShop was going to close, lots of people started buying up horns that we had for sale on the website. This lets me know that this high level of work is important to players, and that's why we do what we do. We love working for great players from around the world, having them in our shop, learning from them, learning with them. The thing is, the shop does that, and does it without me. That's the daily life of our terrific specialized technicians. Sometimes I wonder why my own projects just can't get moving. I get jealous of them for having the time to do what they love.
But the thing is, nearly everything is already in place to work toward my goal. The Sax ProShop was restructured and we bought a new lathe and tooling. With these new tools, it allowed us to start making custom necks and that is going well, with an ever increasing variety of necks being made available. We've also successfully created various body tubes and have the ability to make any type of key or tone hole.
The shop is already in the perfect position to redesign the saxophone, making a superior horn here in the US that we can customize to meet players' goals for their tone and style. I've never heard of another place that makes saxophones who has so many people who are so passionate about saxophones. On our team, we have people who are incredibly intelligent about metallurgy, CNC machining, lots of professional saxophonists with lofty ideals, people who specialize in making saxophone pads, people who care about the shape of the instrument, the bore, the taper. It's a perfect storm and it needs me to recognize it. That's what I'm doing. But this project requires someone who is passionate and present. I thought I could do this with all my travels, but I cant, there's just not enough time.
So, my plan is to stop my travel and spend the entire year working in my shop. During this time, the goal is to design and make a saxophone here at the shop, and to make more than one. I really want to develop the Sax ProShop into a place where making great saxophones is what we do, making every single piece right here in Wilmington, NC. We are well on our way already. Every Friday, we have a meeting of the “key committee” where we work on new key mechanisms. We've also produced bores in various shapes and materials to combine our empirical knowledge and test them. However, there's still lots of work to be done.
MusicMedic.com and I will not be attending or exhibiting at any more trade shows for at least a year. I'm choosing to not send anyone else from MusicMedic.com to these shows so that every single technician is here to help develop ideas and help me grow the company in every way. These goals added on to our current work load will take every resource possible. I think the great people around me and I can do it, we just need a little isolation and time to focus.
Sometime in the not-so-distant future, we will re-emerge from our trade show sabbatical with innovative saxophones, new products, and new inspiration to exhibit and show the world what we have accomplished.