Crossroads of Saxophone Craftsmanship
Yesterday evening, I found out that the Powell Silver Eagle project had been “suspended”. The Powell Silver Eagle was a made-in-America high-end saxophone being built by a partnership between E. K. Blessing (based in Elkhart) and Powell Flutes. To reduce this partnership to extreme basics, you have lots of money (Powell) combined with know-how and tooling (Blessing) doing their best to make a handmade high-end saxophone in the United States. Hype was good, reaction of those who played the prototypes was good, and to those of us on the outside the forecast seemed sunny.
Still, events conspired to scuttle this project. Jobs were lost. People passionate about the saxophone- and especially the people such as myself who are passionate about a truly high-end, craftsmanship-heavy saxophone entering the market- were stunned, disappointed, and depressed. And to make matters worse, it wasn’t just the Silver Eagle project that was lost, but at this point it appears that the very foundations upon which the project lay- a large portion of the vestiges of American instrument manufacture in Elkhart- are in danger of fading away.
It is in this mood that I find myself creating on this website.
The question is: are we at the end of craftsmanship, or at a crucial chokepoint? Is this a sign that a truly new and unique saxophone cannot be made by anyone but giant conglomerates with experience and a massive war chest? Or is this a sign that there may be room for a new way?
I believe the talent and passion and means necessary to create a new saxophone are distributed throughout the potential readership of this website. I believe that this talent and passion is actively searching for an outlet, and I believe that the Open Source Saxophone Project could be it.
I do not believe it will be easy. I do not believe it will be a straight path, nor do I believe it will be quick. I am nearly certain that there will be many people who will oppose the philosophy behind this project- people whose daily bread depends upon the knowledge barrier between the maker and the buyer, the repairer and the owner.
But I also believe that we face a choice: do we accept that our shared saxophonic future must be in the hands of the few in order to prolong the life of a calcifying status quo? Or do we lay down a collective sacrifice of our hard-won knowledge in order to advance the state of the art for the benefit of all?
Because the most disruptive thing that we can say is that this isn’t about money. This is about passion. And that that may be why we have a chance. Because the bottom line is what has destroyed Conn, King, Buescher, SML, Martin, Dolnet, Buffet… and the bottom line has no power here.
I have chosen my way forward. Everything I learn, I will share. Everything that can benefit future generations of those who love the saxophone, I will make freely available to anyone who will listen. Whether or not this means anything in the long run depends on whether you will join me.