50 BizVoice/Indiana Chamber – January/February 2018 How long does it take to make a clarinet? Would you believe 108 years? “It takes 100 years to grow the tree,” explains Bob Lichty, woodwinds category manager at Conn- Selmer, during a recent tour of the company’s Elkhart South Plant. “The wood has to be that old to be that dense,” he says, pointing to a rack of shaped, drilled clarinet pieces. He shares that cut wood blocks are stored in a climate-controlled environment for another seven years. Then they are carved by hand before a machine drills the necessary holes. “The more precise we are at this stage, the easier it is for the finishers,” says Lichty, adding that the machine can work on 75 instruments a day. That focus on quality – from start to finish – is a common refrain at Conn-Selmer, which manufactures and distributes band and orchestra instruments for student, amateur and professional musicians under 14 different brand names. The oldest brand, Leblanc, dates to 1750 and is produced at the Elkhart South Plant. “This is the last place in the United States that is making student flutes and clarinets,” Lichty attests. In fact, it’s the largest and last full-line manufacturer of band and orchestra instruments in the U.S., according to the company. Legacy brands Along with Armstrong flutes and Leblanc and Selmer clarinets, the South Plant also makes other woodwinds – flutes, bassoons and oboes – and percussion instruments including chimes, xylophones and marimbas. Brass instruments – like the highly-respected Bach Stradivarius professional trumpets – are shaped, soldered, polished, assembled, buffed and readied for shipping at a second Elkhart plant, which also Conn-Selmer Crafts Instruments, Supports Education Efforts MAKING SWEET MUSIC By Crickett Gibbons Manufacturing: Today Skilled employees at Conn-Selmer’s Elkhart plants carefully craft and assemble student and professional instruments by hand, including woodwinds and brass.