Gemeinhardt: Flute Maker Spotlight

Can you give a little history about the company, from where it began to where it is now, and the future?

Founded by Kurt Gemeinhardt, a 4th generation flute-maker from Markneukirchen, Germany, the Gemeinhardt company was established in 1948 in Elkhart, IN, 20 years after Gemeinhardt’s immigration to the United States. Initially crafting only very fine hand made flutes for professionals, the company expanded in 1952 to produce all levels of silver flutes. Beginner student flutes were developed at this time as well. It was these flutes that eventually became the bread and butter of the corporation as Gemeinhardt’s reputation for fine beginner flutes became a hallmark of the industry.

Kurt's father had studied under Emil Rittershausen, who had been trained by Theobald Boehm, and so the instruments they produce can trace their lineage back to the creator of the Boehm system.[5]

From 1993 to 2011, Gemeinhardt was owned by investment firms with the last changing the corporate name to Gemstone Musical Instruments. In June 2011 The assets of Gemeinhardt was acquired by Angel Industries Co. Ltd of Taiwan, a manufacturer of instruments and business partner of Gemeinhardt for several years. David Pirtle, president and CEO of Gemeinhardt, says that the acquisition by Angel Industries will allow Gemeinhardt more freedom to make decisions and run production in order to best serve the market.[3]

While many musical instrument brands are made overseas, the partnership between Gemeinhardt and Angel Industries is unique. Gemeinhardt manufactures and supplies many of the flute components (headjoint, body, footjoint, keys) from Elkhart, Indiana USA then sends them to Angel Industries to assemble them. They are then returned to Elkhart, Indiana for testing and adjusting in the Gemeinhardt workshop. David Pirtle, president and CEO of Gemeinhardt, asserts that this is because the parts can be made better in the Gemeinhardt workshop in America. This differs from most brands, which have their flute components manufactured overseas.[3]

In 2014 the Gemeinhardt Company introduced a new line of flutes named "The Kurt Gemeinhardt Generation Series" at the National Flute Association's annual convention in Chicago.[8] Consisting of entirely American-made conservatory and professional flutes. These flutes utilize the RS2012 Scale invented by Trevor Wye, William Bennett, and Eldred Spell.

In 1997, Gemeinhardt acquired the Roy Seaman Piccolo Company. In order to be sure the quality and process developed by Roy remained intact employees from Elkhart spent many months in Arizona working with Roy and all of Roy’s original equipment was acquired by Gemeinhardt.

In addition to flutes and piccolos, Gemeinhardt also has a line of saxophones and clarinets.

Products

Flutes

The Gemeinhardt company sells their flutes in different categories: Student, Conservatory, Professional, Kurt Gemeinhardt Generation Series (American made conservatory and professional flutes) Alto flutes, Bass Flutes, and they also sell headjoints separately.

  • Gemeinhardt models [12]
    • Student Flutes: Model 1SP Flute / Model 2SP Flute / Model 2BLK Flute
    • Conservatory Flutes: Model 2SH Flute / Model 3B Flute / Model 3SHB Flute / Model 3SB Flute
    • Professional Flutes: Model 33SHB Flute / Model 33SB Flute / Model 33SSB Flute / Ali Ryerson Autograph Series Flute
    • Kurt Gemeinhardt Generation Series Flutes: The "Blue" Model Flute / The "White" Model Flute / The "Red" Model Flute / The "Revolution" Model Flute
    • Alto Flutes: Model 11A-BLK Alto Flute / Model 11A Alto Flute / Model 11ASH Alto Flute / Ali Ryerson Artists' Series BLK Alto Flute / Model 11AS Alto Flute
    • Bass Flutes: Model 21BSP Bass Flute / Model 21B-BLK Bass Flute
    • Headjoints: Model J1 headjoint / Model NG1 headjoint / Model NG2 headjoint

Piccolo

All Gemeinhardt and Roy Seaman Piccolos are made in Elkhart, IN USA, except the 1P Piccolo [13]

The Gemeinhardt company also sells piccolos under categories, consisting of: composite, silver, wood, and Roy Seaman brand. The composite piccolo is made out of a synthetic material with some wooden texture to it, metal piccolos can be silver-plated or solid-silver, wood piccolos are made of grenadilla wood and are rarely used outside because the wood can crack, and finally the Roy Seaman Piccolo sub-brand of conservatory and professional piccolos.

  • Gemeinhardt Piccolo models [14]
    • Composite Piccolos - used for outside (Marching Band) and inside (Concert Band/Orchestra): Model 1P Piccolo / Model 4P Piccolo / Model 4PMH Piccolo / Model 4PSH Piccolo
    • Metal Piccolos - used for mainly outside (Marching Band): Model 4SP Piccolo / Model "Stinger" Piccolo / Model 4SH Piccolo / Model 4S Piccolo / Model 4SS Piccolo
    • Wood Piccolos - used mainly for inside (Concert Band/Orchestra): Model 4W Piccolo / Model 4WSSK Piccolo / Model KG Limited Piccolo
    • Roy Seaman Piccolos:[15] Model "Storm" Piccolo / Model "Storm BLK" Piccolo / Model RS Standard Piccolo / Model RS Limited Piccolo

Saxophones

  • Student models: Model GSA500 LQ Alto saxophone / Model GSA600 LQ Alto saxophone / Model GST500 LQ Alto saxophone / Model GST600 LQ Alto saxophone

Clarinets

  • Student models: Model 2CN1 Clarinet / Model 2CS1 Clarinet/Model 2CLN

What's new with Gemeinhardt?  Any new or recent products you're excited about?

The Galway Crusader C1 model headjoint kicks off the series with a design Gemeinhardt carefully constructed to Sir James Galway’s exacting specifications. Through the latest technological advancements, Gemeinhardt is able to replicate the headjoint design for each and every headjoint produced. The inconsistencies of the hand making process are taken out of the equation, and the flutist’s expectations for high quality sound production are guaranteed in every headpiece.

Headjoint

Crusader (C1)
Head tube: Sterling silver standard wall (.016) 
Lip plate and riser: proprietary blend of platinum and "Gemeinhardt’s Sterling Silver Plus"

We will be introducing the C2 and the C3 very soon!

The Crusader line of flutes is a work in progress. We are very excited to announce more on this line in the fall.

L.A. Sax is a brand of step-up and professional saxophones Gemeinhardt acquired. There is a lot of excitement around the reintroduction to this brand in the industry.

How has Gemeinhardt evolved over the years?  Back in the day, we only knew Gemeinhardt for their excellent student flutes, but now the company is competitive with the top pro flute brands.  How did that change come about?

At the time Dave became president & CEO Gemeinhardt instruments and Roy Seaman piccolos had not been a priority to the previous ownership in way of research and development or marketing, for many years. So, we had our work cut out for us. From new designed keywork, updated scales, construction and manufacturing process and procedures, to marketing, to a new mindset for our sales force, to new ways of communicating with flutists and music educators, and new exciting lines of flutes, clarinets, and saxophones. A lot of blood sweat and tears has gone into the last 8 years in order to revive and reinvent the company. At Gemeinhardt, we have many skilled artisans with many years of experience, whose abilities have not been completely utilized. They have the ability to make fine flutes and piccolos at every level, so that is what we are doing.

What is a typical day at Gemeinhardt like for you?

Interesting question… There are no typical days. Every day is very different. One day I may be testing the latest models of flutes and piccolos, to Dave buffing headjoints, to traveling to a convention or dealer event, to working with our sales staff, manufacturing staff, finance staff, or talking to China, talking to our artists, talking to Sir James and Lady Jeanne Galway, to planning the future. It’s a whirlwind and busy, busy, busy, when you are a small staff, but a large company in many respects!! But we do have a good time; we make sure we have pizza with the group typically once a month, and give EVERYONE updates on how we are doing in the outside world. We just had PROJECT Trio here to play with the Elkhart Symphony and do some events at schools and a local retailer’s store.


Everyone loves the Sir James Galway Crusader headjoint!  How did that partnership start, and what can we expect with the future of the Crusader series, and with Sir James?

Lady Jeanne and I (Jennifer) began corresponding as she noticed Gemeinhardt was growing with a new and exciting identity. At the Chicago NFA we all met formally and Sir James and Lady Galway spent a significant amount of time at the booth trying the instruments. Through the Galway First Flute program, they had many people asking what types of student instruments they recommended, this began their search to find the answer to that question. As they approved of our instruments and we have a large retail partner base, we decided to partner with them to get the word out to our retailers about the First Flute program.

Through further conversation, as we were in the process of developing advanced headjoints for our USA flutes and pre-professional 33 series line, Sir James became quite interested and supplied us with a sample which we then modified until we had exactly what he was looking for. This became the Crusader C1 headjoint, which launched the instrument partnership.  We are looking forward to a full line of headjoints and flutes under the Galway Crusader umbrella. This line will have an impact that is far reaching throughout the world for students to professionals.

Gemeinhardt's artists are fun and eclectic, each bringing something unique and fresh to the flute world.  Who is on your current roster, and what do you enjoy most about working with your artists?

Ali Ryerson, Nina Perlove, Rozalind MacPhail, Greg Pattillo, Peter Seymour, Eric Stephenson, Ernesto Fernandez, Shawn “Thunder” Wallace, and Orlando “Maraca” Valle.

It is difficult to put into words how we feel about the artist who have chosen to be a part of the Gemeinhardt family. They truly are family. The beauty of how eclectic they are, yet when we are all together there are no egos only respect and a lot of fun! Everyone is 100% passionate about what they do and passionate about sharing it with others. It’s pure joy and energy when you get this group all in one room! Although Peter and Eric are string players as part of PROJECT Trio, they contribute as much as anyone else with their musicality and education initiatives, and Peter is helping us with our social media and our new teaching artist program. Most flutists will not readily know Shawn. He is the director of Jazz Studies and associate professor of jazz saxophone at The Ohio State University. He is an amazing musician, and has some mean flute skills!


In your opinion, what sets Gemeinhardt apart from the rest?  What makes the company special to you?

Between Dave and I we have 55 years of experience in the music industry. We both started on the production line and worked our way up the ladder to become owners and executives of the company. Dave has worked his entire adult life at Gemeinhardt. I have experience from a number of manufacturers, but the majority of my time has been with Gemeinhardt. I am a flutist as well. The preservation of the Gemeinhardt Company is very personal to us. We are growing our U.S. production, and are excited to be hiring and training a new generation of flute makers here in Elkhart. We don’t just say we are passionate about what we do, we show it.

Upcoming events?  Where can we see Gemeinhardt in the next few months to try out instruments?


We are excited to be growing in Europe, as we exhibited at the Adams Festival, and we will be in Switzerland for the Galway Festival in August.

We will also be at the Texas Flute Fest and NFA this spring and summer. Keep an eye out for the fall, there are some plans being set I cannot disclose as of yet, but it will be very exciting, I promise you!

 

Gemeinhardt Artist Rozalind MacPhail shares what she likes best about Gemeinhardt instruments, and working with the company:


How did your partnership with Gemeinhardt come about?

I began learning on a Gemeinhardt flute and I’m delighted that I’m performing with these beautiful instruments. To be sponsored by a progressive company like Gemeinhardt is a dream come true. It takes my live show to a whole new level. Not only does Gemeinhardt make great flutes but they support unconventional flutists like myself. That’s a company I am proud to stand behind.

I initially met David Pirtle and Jennifer Baunoch at the National Flute Convention in 2017. I have been admiring their company for quite some time and was thrilled to spend time getting to know them. We immediately hit it off. They are passionate, kind and warm-hearted people. All of the Gemeinhardt family is. Their motto, “Music. Passion. Life.” says it all.

We kept in touch after the convention and after a number of meetings over the web, it totally felt right to partner up with them. They sent me a huge box of gorgeous flutes just before Christmas and that was it. I was hooked. I thought to myself, “Any company who would go out of their way to send me these beautiful instruments and support my original music career is solid gold in my eyes. They’re helping me take my career to a whole new level. That’s a company I am proud to stand behind and represent on the international stage.

Their instruments are gorgeous. I love the other artists they sponsor as well. They’re doing great things for the flute community and I love their progressive approach to flute making. They’re also a blast to hang out with. I feel proud to be a part of the Gemeinhardt family.

What do you like most about working with Gemeinhardt and their instruments?

They are passionate about providing great quality instruments at an affordable price. They’re dedicated to giving back to the music community and they inspire emerging artists so much through their educational outreach. Giving back to the community is super important to me.

They support unconventional artists like myself who are doing something outside of the box and they truly value their artists. I have such great respect and admiration for every musician they have on their artist roster. It’s an honor to be a part of it all.

What is your arsenal of Gemeinhardt flutes while on the road?  Any particular one you like playing best?

I play the Ali Ryerson BLK alto flute with a curved head joint, the Storm piccolo with the amazingly responsive Wave head joint. I’m loving the Galway Crusader head joint with the 33SB. The instruments are warm and they project beautifully. I especially love their higher registers. The alto flute has been a real hit on the Atlantic Canada tour I’m doing. It looks really cool too!

In your opinion, how is Gemeinhardt helping promote "unconventional" as well as classical flute artists like yourself?  And what do you like about your fellow Gemeinhardt artists?

They embrace the unique, the dedicated and the progressive. Greg Pattillo and Project Trio are doing amazing things all over the world. I admire them as performers and as educators. Ali Ryerson blows me away with her amazing jazz chops and her warm sound. Nina Perlove is such a fine flutist and educator who I have admired a great deal over the years. I love watching her flute tip videos. I was also blown away by Ernesto Fernandez when I was introduced to his flute playing last summer and it was Gemeinhardt who first introduced me to him. Who doesn’t love the grooves coming from Orlando “Maraca” Valle? All of the Gemeinhardt artists blow me away. They’re great musicians and also really great people. Talk about taking the flute to a whole new level and showing what’s possible in a refreshing and fun way!

How do you view the Artist/Flute Company relationship?  How does it benefit both the artist and company?

What is so amazing about being part of the Gemeinhardt family is how we all support each other every step of the way. It’s a great example of how it takes a village to create magic. Gemeinhardt is a great team. We all aim for the highest in excellence and we’re all very passionate about what we do.

The timing could not have been more perfect when Gemeinhardt offered to support me as an artist. I was ready to take my career to a whole new level. David and Jennifer could see that. They’ve given me the tools I need to shine. It’s fun to reciprocate the support they give me by helping to get out the word about their wonderful flutes In Canada.

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