Conn-Selmer, Inc. is an American manufacturer of musical instruments for concert bands, marching bands and orchestras. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Steinway Musical Instruments and was formed in 2003 by combining the Steinway properties The Selmer Company and United Musical Instruments.
The company produces a large variety of instruments itself and through contractors.
In the late nineteenth century, brothers Alexandre and Henri Selmer graduated from the Paris Conservatory as clarinetists. They were the great-grandchildren of French military drum major Johannes Jacobus Zelmer, grandchildren of Jean-Jacques Selmer, the Army Chief of Music, and two of 16 children in this musical family. At the time, musical instruments and accessories were primarily hand made, and professional musicians found it necessary to acquire skills allowing them to make their own accessories and repair and modify their own instruments. Establishing Henri Selmer & Cie. in 1885, Henri began making clarinet reeds and mouthpieces.
In 1898, Selmer opened a store and repair shop in Paris and started producing clarinets. Henri Selmer’s brother Alexandre joined the Boston Symphony Orchestra that same year.
In 1904, Selmer clarinets were presented at the Saint Louis (USA) World’s Fair, winning a gold medal, and Alexandre Selmer was First Clarinetist with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Alexandre established himself in New York in 1909, opening a shop that sold Selmer clarinets and mouthpieces. The H&A Selmer (USA) Company grew out of that retail operation.
The H&A Selmer (USA) Company
In 1910, Alexandre returned to France and the H&A Selmer store was managed by George Bundy. The store expanded its product line, selling “Selmer” branded wind instruments and mouthpieces from manufacturers in the US in addition to Selmer (Paris) products. In 1923, the H&A Selmer Company was incorporated to expand its retail operations. A 49% share was sold to C. G. Conn Ltd while Selmer (Paris) retained a minority interest. In 1927, Bundy gained full ownership, establishing independence of the company. H&A Selmer (USA) remained the sole importer of Selmer (Paris) products, including saxophones and brasswinds once exports of such instruments to the USA commenced.
In 1936, Selmer changed its distribution strategy, abandoning most retail and becoming a wholesaler of instruments and supplies. Selmer went on to establish itself as a leading distributor of student-grade instruments under its Artley and Bundy brands.
In 1939, Selmer financed the startup Artley Flute Company of Elkhart Indiana, which provided flutes, and later clarinets, exclusively to Selmer until 1953. In response to the unavailability of Selmer (Paris) instruments after the German defeat of France in 1940, Selmer sought alternate sources for wind instruments and distributed them under their new student-line Bundy and intermediate Signet brands.
In 1950, George Bundy retired and sold his shares to partners Joseph M. Grolimund, Jack Feddersen, Milt Broadhead, and Charles Bickel.
Starting in 1952, the Selmer Artist program offered special deals for musicians who agreed to perform and record exclusively with Selmer (Paris) instruments, boosting the reputation of Selmer (Paris) instruments among aspiring professionals.
In 1958 Selmer acquired the Harry Pedler and Sons brasswind plant in Elkhart, starting in-house production of Bundy student-line brasswinds. In 1961, Selmer acquired the brasswind manufacturer Vincent Bach Corporation. Selmer moved production from Bach’s Mount Vernon, New York facility to Elkhart in 1965 while retaining the premium line Bach Stradivarius. The services of Mr. Vincent Bach were retained for design of student-line brasswinds.
In 1963, Selmer acquired ownership of its main supplier of student saxophones, the Buescher Band Instrument Company. Selmer continued distributing identical Bundy and Buescher instruments until it discontinued the Buescher name in 1983.
In 1966, Selmer acquired the rights to the Brilhart line of woodwind mouthpieces, with production contracted to the Runyon Company, and the Lesher Woodwind Company, a manufacturer of oboes and bassoons.
In 1970, Selmer acquired additional production facilities from C.G. Conn, who were divesting their Elkhart, Indiana operations. In 1977, Selmer acquired the stringed instrument maker Glaesel. Selmer acquired the Ludwig Drum Company in 1981.
The era of H&A Selmer as an independent company ended in 1970, with its purchase by the British electronics firm Magnavox. It was sold to Philips Electronics in 1975, then to the investment firm Integrated Resources in 1989. With the 1993 bankruptcy of Integrated Resources, Selmer was sold to the investment firm Kirkland Messina and reorganized as Selmer Industries, Inc., with The Selmer Company name used for its instrument manufacturing operations.
With the backing of Kirkland Messina, Selmer Industries acquired the Steinway Musical Properties company, the parent company of piano manufacturer Steinway & Sons, in 1995 and changed their own name to Steinway Musical Instruments. The domestically produced Bundy brand was discontinued shortly afterward, replaced with student wind instruments sourced from Asia and sold as Selmer (USA) woodwinds and Bach brasswinds. In 2000, Steinway acquired United Musical Instruments (owners of Artley, Armstrong, Benge, C.G. Conn, King, Scherl & Roth) then merged it with The Selmer Company to form Conn-Selmer in 2003. Some products were dropped to minimize overlap between Selmer and former UMI products. In 2004, Conn-Selmer acquired the Leblanc Company, gaining their exclusive distribution rights for Yanagisawa saxophones in the US and Canada. Conn-Selmer kept Leblanc in production of clarinets but ended their brasswind production in 2007, discontinuing their Martin brand and moving production of their Holton brand to Elkhart, Indiana. Conn-Selmer retains the North American importation and distribution rights for Selmer (Paris) and Yanagisawa Wind Instruments formerly held by H&A Selmer and Leblanc, respectively.
Conn-Selmer is the largest manufacturer of band and orchestral instruments in the United States. Now having extensive manufacturing in China, it manufactures instruments in approximately five facilities since 2002:
It has been heavily involved in outsourcing manufacturing of brands formerly associated with American manufacturers, including Ludwig drums, Glaesel, Scherl & Roth, and Wm. Lewis and Sons stringed instruments to China and Selmer (USA) wind instruments to various Asian sources.
The employees at the Vincent Bach facility in Elkhart, Indiana represented by United Auto Workers Local 364, struck on April 1, 2006, and as of July 30, 2009, the union was decertified. Out of 230 workers that went out on strike approximately 70 returned with the remaining workers having been subject to recall until July 30, 2010.
In 2006, calls were made for the American Federation of Musicians to boycott the entire Steinway-Conn-Selmer instrument company due to its permanently replacing union workers at its manufacturing facilities.
The employees represented by United Auto Workers Local 2359 at the Eastlake, Ohio Conn-Selmer manufacturing plant called a strike on July 26, 2011, after working without a contract since February 2011, and settled with the company on October 21, 2011.
In 2013, the Paulson & Co. investment firm acquired Steinway Musical Instruments.
- Armstrong (flutes, piccolos)
- C.G. Conn (French horns, flugelhorns, cornets, trombones, sousaphones, trumpets)
- Glaesel (violins, violas, cellos, double basses)(made in China)
- Henri Selmer Paris
- Holton (trombones, horns)
- King (Guitars, Marching brass, trombones, baritones, cornets, flugelhorns, trumpets, tubas, sousaphones)
- Leblanc (clarinets)
- Ludwig-Musser (percussion, timpani, drum sets) (sub-brands made in China)
- Scherl & Roth (violins, violas, cellos, double basses) (made in China)
- Selmer (USA) (saxophones, clarinets, flutes, oboes, bassoons, trumpets, trombones, baritones, tubas etc. (outsourced)
- Vincent Bach (trumpets, cornets, flugelhorns, trombones)
- Wm. Lewis & Son (violins, violas, cellos, double basses) (made in China)
- Yanagisawa (made in Japan)
- Artley (clarinets, flutes)
- Avanti (flutes)
- Benge (trumpets, piccolo trumpets, trombones)
- Buescher (saxophones, trumpets, mellophones…)
- Cleveland (brass instruments)
- Emerson (flutes, piccolos)
- Galway Spirit Flutes (flutes)
- Hermann Beyer
- Otto Bruckner
- King (saxophone line)
- Martin (trumpets and trombones)
- Noblet (clarinets)
- Vito (student brasswinds and woodwinds)
- Priestly, Brian, Bacon, tony and Trynka, Paul, Selmer (Paris), The Sax and Brass Book, Backbeat Books, 1998, p.100–113
- Morgan, Ralph (1994). “History of the H&A Selmer Company”. Retrieved 2017-09-13.
- “Ludwig”. Our Brands. Conn-Selmer, Inc. Archived from the original on 2016-08-27. Retrieved 2015-12-21.
- “Steinway & Sons”. Steinwaymusical.com. Retrieved 2014-04-09.
- “Elkhart Truth”. Etruth.com. 2014-01-24. Archived from the original on 2011-07-18. Retrieved 2014-04-09.
- “Elkhart, Indiana Vincent Bach Music Instrument UAW364 Workers Fight For Justice”. Indybay.org. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
- “Steinway & Sons” (PDF). Steinwaymusical.com. Retrieved 2014-04-09.
- “Steinway & Sons” (PDF). Steinwaymusical.com. Retrieved 2014-04-09.
- “Paulson & Co. Announces Completion of Acquisition of Steinway Musical Instruments”. Steinway.com.