How does it feel to walk into a room full of brand-new brass musical instruments?
If you’re sousaphone player Matthew Mudd, pretty good.
“It was like Christmas for the sousaphones,” said the senior in Ball State’s “Pride of Mid-America” Marching Band. “We had our lobby and band room full of unpacked sousaphones. Plenty of people from high school through college have never played on a brand-new horn before, so it was a cool experience for a lot of us.”
Most of his fellow musicians are getting that experience since the band acquired a batch of new percussion, brass and piccolos worth more than $500,000 this school year. The band’s unprecedented overhaul replaced equipment that was roughly a decade old and had seen its share of wear and tear, said School of Music faculty and band members.
The upgrade — it includes everything but saxophones and clarinets, which are in better shape — means the band’s brass instruments are now uniformly silver in color, trombones produce a greater volume of sound, and percussionists can more comfortably wear the drums they play.
It’s the product of a partnership with instrument maker and distributor Conn-Selmer that included a discount of more than $200,000 on the instruments.
The Elkhart, Indiana-based company has in its corporate portfolio a host of instrument manufacturers that cater to marching bands, concert bands and orchestras and has made arrangements like Ball State’s with more than 50 other universities.
“The in-kind pricing we use for our partnerships helps institutions know that they are getting the best pricing possible to help make their investment go a long way,” said Michael Kamphuis, managing director of Conn-Selmer’s Division of Education. “We are proud to be able to partner with Ball State and its incredible staff and students in the music department.”
New drums and sousaphones were especially welcome, according to marching band Director Caroline Hand and School of Music Director Ryan Hourigan, because the older instruments bore scars of the constant back-and-forth between the Music Instruction Building, a moving truck and performance sites.
Mudd, the sousaphone player, knows about this firsthand. He said the instrument, essentially a wraparound tuba that weighs about 30 pounds, becomes susceptible to warping and dents over time.
“We have a lot of people who have, not necessarily broken instruments,” said the public relations major from Crown Point, Indiana, “but there’s little things you have to constantly deal with.”
Regarding its new drums, Ball State’s marching band is the first major university marching band in the nation to use a new percussion line from drum maker Ludwig, one of Conn-Selmer’s brands, and is providing feedback about the equipment during its first year on the field, Kamphuis said.
According to snare drummer Mike Kehoe, so far, so good.
“It’s kind of a struggle getting good sounds out of an old drum,” said the junior music education major. “So with this new drum, it’s a lot easier to play, and it’s just a lot more enjoyable.”