Leblanc Instrument Models
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The year 2004 marked one of the most significant milestones in the long history of Kenosha, Wisconsin-based Leblanc, Inc., known until recently as G. Leblanc Corporation. On July 21, 2004, contracts were signed for Leblanc to be acquired by Steinway Musical Instruments, forging a partnership of undisputed greatness within the music industry. The transaction was completed on August 12, 2004. Leon Pascucci retained his key management role as president of Leblanc, Inc., and the company is now managed as a division of Conn-Selmer, Inc.
Other recent milestones have also marked Leblanc's centuries-old history and traditions. The Noblet name, for example, still vital as a brand within the Leblanc France line, marked its 250th anniversary in the year 2000, and the Frank Holton Company, Leblanc's brasswind division, celebrated its centennial in 1998. G. Leblanc Corporation itself, founded in 1946, marked the beginning of a new era of vigorous leadership in 2003 when Leon Pascucci assumed the primary management role upon the death of his father, Vito Pascucci.
Since its modest beginnings in America as a two-man shop, the company grew to a position of international prominence under the leadership of its cofounders, L%uFFFDon Leblanc (1900-2000) and Vito Pascucci (1922-2003). The Kenosha-headquartered corporation employs a family of some 300 workers at three sites in Wisconsin (two in Kenosha, one in Elkhorn) and about 40 workers in La Couture-Boussey, France.
The story of Leblanc's inception and ultimate growth is one of the most captivating and well known in the music industry; the stuff of which, as the saying goes, legends are made.
French roots. Leblanc in America traces its origins to the founding of Ets. D. Noblet of France in 1750, when the great flourishing of instrumental music at the court of Louis XV created a demand for musical instruments of all kinds. More than any other instrument manufacturer, Noblet refined and developed early woodwind manufacturing techniques, securing for the French nation its preeminent reputation for producing the best wind instruments in the world. Based in La Couture-Boussey for two and a half centuries, it is among the oldest continuously operating companies in France.
In 1904, having no heirs, the Noblet family passed its holdings to Georges Leblanc, descendant of a long line of distinguished French instrument makers. By the time he acquired Noblet, Georges Leblanc had gained a reputation as one of the finest woodwind makers in France. The workshop at the Leblanc headquarters in Paris became a meeting place of the great woodwind artists of the era. Working side by side with Georges was his wife, Clemence, who actually managed the factory while Georges fought during World War I.
From the beginning, the Leblancs were constantly guided by scientific principles and inspired by their inborn musical genius. As a result of this relentless dedication toward progress, Georges Leblanc and his son, Leon, set up their Paris workshop as the first full-time acoustical research laboratory for wind instruments. They recruited the talents of Charles Houvenaghel, regarded at the time as the greatest acoustician since Adolphe Sax.
The subsequent growth and success of G. Leblanc Cie. as a manufacturing entity was largely due to the work of Leon Leblanc, who in addition to his reputation as an instrument maker and businessman, was also a gifted clarinetist, holder of the first prize of the Paris Conservatoire, the first and only instrument maker to have held such an honor.
He had before him a brilliant career as a concert clarinetist, but chose instead to remain true to his heritage, feeling that he could make a greater contribution to music by combining the talents and sensitivities he developed as a musician with his skills as an instrument maker.
Together, Georges, Leon and Houvenaghel pushed the theoretical limits of instrument design to produce the first truly playable complete clarinet choir, ranging from sopranino to octo-contrabass, encompassing a range that surpasses that of the orchestral string sections. Perhaps even more significant, the Leblanc firm was the first instrument maker in history to manufacture clarinets with interchangeable keys, resulting in instruments that were easier to play in tune by artists as well as beginners.
As Leon Leblanc once noted, "Musicians of today should not be handicapped by the deficiencies of those before me. Acoustical, mechanical and musical improvements will be made. To this end, I have dedicated my life." Monsieur Leblanc served as chairman of the American company and president honoraire of the French firm until his death in 2000 at the age of 99.
The history of Leblanc in Kenosha, Wisconsin, dates to the last months of World War II and a chance meeting between Leon Leblanc and Vito Pascucci.
.The American connection. Born in Kenosha, Vito Pascucci showed a marked interest in music and played cornet in the Kenosha High School band. He became fascinated with the construction and design of musical instruments and learned their repair as a summer apprentice at the Frank Holton Company (the Elkhorn, Wisconsin, brass-instrument manufacturer that Leblanc would later acquire), and then, while still in high school, augmented his family's income by operating an instrument-repair shop at his brother's music store.
In 1943, Pascucci was called into the armed forces. His instrument-repair skills were rewarded when he was assigned as a trumpeter and repairman to Army Field Bands, then to the Army Air Corps Band, led by Glenn Miller. He began with the Miller band in New Haven, Connecticut, then traveled with them to Europe. Stationed in England, Pascucci and Miller formed plans to set up a chain of music stores after the war.
Miller's untimely death put an end to those plans, but when the band was sent to newly liberated France, Vito paid a visit to G. Leblanc Cie., and his guide that day was Leon Leblanc. After service discharge in 1946, Pascucci returned to Kenosha, where Mr. Leblanc asked him to establish a foothold for the French company in America.
A shop for the purpose of disassembling, climatizing and reassembling wood instruments was set up as part of the new firm. After shipment to America by sea (and later by air), the wood was allowed to stabilize under the new atmospheric conditions, and the instruments were restored to original factory specifications, reassembled, adjusted and thoroughly tested.
Thus the instrument retailer was assured that wood clarinets would be delivered in perfect playing condition. Discriminating clarinetists were assured that every instrument would be musically as well as mechanically correct. And band directors were assured that the instruments their students played would possess a harmonious timbre, have correct intonation and be free of mechanical deficiencies.
Soon, in the 1950s, due to an ever-growing school market, demand for Leblanc instruments in the United States was far greater than the French concern could meet, so Leblanc began producing plastic-bodied clarinets in Kenosha.
The Vito line of musical instruments was thus born, thrusting Leblanc to the forefront of the student clarinet market. In 1951, construction of Leblanc's Kenosha factory was completed, a plant that to this day provides a model for the industry in its modern equipment, efficient operation and attractive appearance. Ever-increasing production called for the factory's subsequent expansion in 1953, 1960 and 1966. In 1999, Leblanc added 37,000 square feet of modern manufacturing and warehousing space to its Kenosha headquarters, bringing even greater flow and efficiency to its work flow.
Through the years, Leblanc's staff developed innovative methods that brought the production of plastic-bodied instruments to then unknown levels of accuracy and consistency. Rough-cut body blanks of a specially formulated plastic called Resotone were crafted into clarinets with the same care that wood instruments were afforded, rather than merely injection-molding the finished clarinet joints as some other manufacturers were doing at the time.
Unique precision boring machines simultaneously bored out the plastic body blanks, drilled tone holes and the holes for keyposts. Developed internally, these drilling machines enhanced consistency and efficiency manyfold. If all their operations were to be performed separately, it would have been impossible to achieve Leblanc's legendary consistency and precision in construction. These machines revolutionized the way plastic clarinets were made, and today, have been replaced by even more sophisticated CNC drilling machines.
In 2004, a new line of student woodwinds was introduced bearing the Leblanc USA brand, a marketing shift that now allows clarinetists to play "Leblanc for life."
Decades of growth. In 1964, Leblanc acquired the Frank Holton Company, located in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, one of America's most prestigious brass-instrument manufacturers. With this acquisition, Leblanc not only gained the revered Holton name, but procured the priceless experience of the craftsmen who had worked there many years prior.
Holton's famed Collegiate line made Leblanc a major presence in the school brasswind market, and this student-priced line then and still does set the school standard. With the acquisition, Leblanc also gained a friend in Philip Farkas, one of the world's leading hornists and teachers. The line of instruments to which the late Mr. Farkas still lends his name comprises the world's bestselling student and professional French horns.
In 1968, Leblanc acquired the Woodwind Company, a respected manufacturer of clarinet and saxophone mouthpieces. Under the guidance of G. Leblanc Corporation, the Woodwind Company brand is widely recognized for the excellence of its manufacture and performance.
The Martin Band Instrument Company was acquired by Leblanc in 1971 from the Wurlitzer company and was relocated to Kenosha from Elkhart, Indiana. Martin, founded in Chicago, would have been America's oldest continuously operating band-instrument manufacturer if not for the Great Chicago Fire. The famous Committee trumpet, favored by Wallace Roney, Chris Botti and other top jazz artists, and the innovative Urbie Green trombone both carry the legendary Martin name, made in a progressive, modern plant.
On January 1, 1981, Leblanc was granted the exclusive rights to market Yanagisawa artist saxophones in the United States and Canada. Considered the most technically advanced saxophones made, Yanagisawa instruments are played by some of the world's foremost saxophonists.
In April, 1989, Leblanc USA acquired majority interest in the esteemed French firm and assumed responsibility for its management.
A new generation. Leon Pascucci (namesake of Leon Leblanc) joined his father at Leblanc in 1971, serving in various capacities throughout the company's operations. In 1991 he was named president, and in 2001 he became chief executive officer. The shareholders of G. Leblanc Corporation, meeting the week after Vito Pascucci's death, named Leon Pascucci to the position of board chairman on August 28, 2003.
In addition to his many years of service to Leblanc, the younger Pascucci has volunteered his services to numerous organizations, both locally and within the music industry.
Pascucci currently serves on the boards of the Music Distributors Association, the NAMM Museum of Making Music, the American Music Conference, the National Bandmasters Association and the Berklee College of Music Board of Visitors. He is a past president of the National Association of Band Instrument Manufacturers and a past board member of NAMM, the International Music Products Association.
Pascucci is also well known for his design abilities, which he has applied to Leblanc's exhibits at NAMM, to the company's offices and factories, and to a gallery of miniature interiors, which have been nationally published. What's more, Leblanc's new student clarinet case is a reflection of Leon's design sense.
A look behind, a look ahead. In the years since its inception, Leblanc has earned a solid reputation as an innovator in instrument design, manufacturing technique, modern marketing programs and award-winning national advertising campaigns.
Even more important, no other manufacturer can offer as wide a selection of brass and woodwind instruments crafted with the same integrity and dedication to excellence as does Leblanc. Through all stages of the company's growth, advancement and acquisitions, it has never lost sight of the principles on which it was founded. Long ago, Georges Leblanc established the basic tenets of integrity, musicianship and creativity for his firms to live by. At Leblanc, Inc., these principles still live on, propelling the company into the 21st century.
Since 1750, Leblanc has been and remains committed to the highest standards of excellence, all in the service of musicians and of music itself.