Conn-Selmer in Eastlake is the largest brass wind musical instrument manufacturer in the United States, according to John Stoner, president of Conn-Selmer.
The Eastlake division has been in operation since 1966 with a staff of 334 employees. David Woodruff, a Mentor resident, has been quality manager for the Eastlake division of Conn-Selmer for 10 years. He has been with the company for 30 years.
“The history of the Eastlake facility can be traced back to what was originally in Cleveland, started as the H.N. White Co. in 1893,” says Woodruff. “The White Co. operated the company till 1966. It was at that time, that a new group of owners moved from its former Cleveland location to out here in Eastlake.”
According to Stoner, the Selmer Co. acquired United Musical Instruments in 2000. That was when the company became Conn-Selmer, a combination of the Selmer brand and the Conn brand, which was manufactured in Eastlake. Conn-Selmer became a sister company with Steinway in 1995.
“Up until 2013, we were a publicly traded company under Steinway Musical Instruments,” says Stoner. “Steinway Musical Instruments was the corporate name, and under that was Steinway & Sons, the piano division. The other piece was the band and orchestra division. In 2013, we were acquired by an individual named John Paulson, who now owns the companies of Steinway and Conn-Selmer.”
The Eastlake facility manufactures brass wind instruments, which includes everything from student trumpets up to marching instruments, sousaphones, baritone horns, euphoniums, trombones and French horns. That basically covers every brass instrument that one would see in a marching band or orchestra. The company is also the only full line manufacturer remaining in the United States, says Stoner.
Woodruff says that the instruments manufactured at Conn-Selmer benefit and cater predominantly to educational institutions, not only in Lake County, but nationally.
“Some of the people in the Cleveland Orchestra play some of the instruments but the Eastlake facility does an amazing job with educational outreach,” Stoner says, noting that educational outreach is a company-wide initiative. “We do a lot with schools in Cleveland and the Northeast Ohio area. We also have quite a few employees in the facility who perform musically in the Cleveland area.”
Conn-Selmer has a couple of dealers in Mentor: Pfabe’s Music and Arrowhead Music (both band and orchestra dealers). In addition, Stebal Drums in Willowick is a dealer for the company as well.
“Most of the schools in Lake County buy some of our products,” says Bobbi Imel, vice president of human resources for Conn-Selmer.
By way of community involvement, Debbie Sayre, human resource manager, says that Jason Ellick, who is employed by Conn-Selmer, is the company’s safety council engineer. In addition, Ken Hughes, who retired from Conn-Selmer, still serves as a play tester occassionally and is an instructor for the Willoughby Fine Arts Association. Pete Cumming, quality technician for Conn-Selmer, is a professional trombone player in the area.
“Our goal is to support music education with outreach programs, not only in the area of Lake County, but across the country,” says Stoner. The company also wants to grow its Eastlake facility by expanding the arts and getting more children and adults involved in music, here in the U.S. and internationally.
The company has four manufacturing facilities in the U.S., Stoner adds. The Eastlake facility is the largest brass wind instrument manufacturer in the U.S. in terms of both its facility and employment.
But it’s the people at Eastlake who make it all work. “The people of Eastlake are the best to work with,” says Sayre.
“There also are a large number of families, many local, who have been here for generations,” adds Woodruff.
All of whom play a big part in the legacy of Conn-Selmer.