Are you a Music Director, Band Director or Flute Choir Director? Presenting Garlinger Batons, founded by Adam Garlinger and Flutrepreneur, Kelly Garinger.
Tell us about your life as a music director.
It has long been a goal of mine to lead a local community band. I think that I made my first recruiting flyer when I was about 13. After college, and a short stint teaching general music, I was afforded an opportunity to direct our local community ensemble. I absolutely adore our group. It’s not large, with only around 25-30 members, but we have a lot of heart and they are some of the greatest people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Leading this group has been an absolute blessing because it gives me an outlet to use the knowledge I gained in college, it gives me something to look forward to on Mondays, and it allows me to work with wonderful people within my community. I couldn’t ask for a better life as a music director.
What are your goals professionally?
Professionally, I would like to continue my growth, knowledge, and skill set in every aspect of my life. It may come as a surprise to some, but making batons is not my full time job. Maybe someday it will turn into that, and that would be wonderful, but for now I am still learning everyday in my shop, and I cherish that. Learning and improving is something that I value greatly, and having an outlet that constantly provides those opportunities is wonderful. Each time I pick up a tool, or research different turning techniques, or even watch a video of other makers creating their own works, I find myself growing and improving my own process.
Tell us about how you started with creating the batons, how long ago? How did you come up with the idea?
As I mentioned earlier, I went to school for music education, and in another life (one with more money poured into the arts in schools) I would be a music educator. While in school I had the junkiest, cheapest possible baton I could find, and it stunk. There was a counterweight in it that rattled around, it was flimsy, and I still managed to break it a handful of times. It didn’t fit me or my personality at all.
Now, my grandfather could make just about anything you showed him. He had a way of breaking down the shapes in his mind and make ‘making’ look so simple. Naturally, I went to him and told him about my terrible baton. I asked him to make me something that would fit me (I am 6 ft, 4in- not a small guy). The result? A 17 inch long baton with an oak shaft and a 3 inch walnut handle. The thing feels like I’m waving around a tree branch, and, while it’s not terribly well balanced, I absolutely love it. It’s what inspired me years later, when I inherited his lathe after he passed, to try my hand at making my own baton. There were lots of failed attempts, and a few of my friends have the earliest attempts. Bless them, they never complained about the terrible shapes, awkward lengths, or the fact that the handles were nowhere near straight to the shaft. I owe a lot of our success to their input and support.
It was their encouragement that drove me to start a small Etsy page in January of 2020, and it was there where I proceeded to sell exactly two batons from January to July. They weren’t exactly flying off the shelf. In that time, I decided to focus on acrylic batons, as it was an underserved market, while working on the process, refining shapes and styles.
In June of 2020, (one month after starting a new job) I had a large Pin Oak tree fall on me while camping with my family. The accident landed me in the trauma ward for 2 weeks, and out of work for several months. The time off allowed me a lot more time in my shop, working out techniques, refining what works, and most importantly, keeping me sane. Then I went back to work for a couple of months before realizing that I needed a total hip replacement, and was off work for another several months! I had a lot of free time in 2020.
In January 2021 Kelly started a TikTok, had a video take off, and batons started flying out the door. The rest has been an absolute thrill, and we’ve just been enjoying the ride.
How do you divide the responsibilities?
Kelly and I try to divide everything right down the mid…. Actually, if we’re being completely honest, Kelly does most of the work for Garlinger Batons. It’s a full-time job and she is absolutely awesome at it. She runs our website, makes cases, takes the photos, runs our social platforms, keeps us socially relevant by staying on top of the latest trends, and all while also running a household full of boys. (Even the cat and dog are boys!)
I on the other hand work a full-time job outside of the home, make the batons, typically make the product pages for our shop updates. I know what blanks are out there and available for custom orders, and run our community band’s music program. OH, and occasionally I come up with a good pun for a new shirt… that Kelly draws and plans out. The woman is an absolute force of nature.
What is the part that you enjoy the most about Garlinger Batons?
Our map. My favorite part of Garlinger Batons is our amazing customers and getting to see where they are at on our map. I think a close second is the feeling that comes with knowing that we are serving fellow music educators and directors around the world. I think it is so cool that we are all over the US, parts of Canada and the UK. There’s something really special knowing that something you have worked really hard on is being enjoyed all around the world.
What has been your greatest challenge with creating the batons?
One of the biggest challenges we have faced to date is dealing with well intentioned, however, not really helpful suggestions. Lots of people have suggested that we expand to magic wands, or, “Have you ever thought about selling ______?” Kelly and I joke about it every time it comes up because we feel like we are at max capacity now, so we typically try to respond in kind. It’s something that can be a bit demoralizing, because it seems to imply that what we are doing now isn’t enough, even though we are quite content with where we are. Just because it’s not a niche that you are in, that doesn’t mean it holds no worth.
What are your goals for Garlinger Batons?
My personal goal for Garlinger Batons is to be one of the names that you think of any time you are considering a new baton. We strive to be a non-cost prohibitive option to the normal music educator, while still being one of the highest quality batons on the market. It always makes me smile when someone refers to our batons as an upgrade or “a grown up baton.” Eventually I think it would be great to take Garlinger Batons full time for both Kelly and I, but until that point, we are quite happy with it being a fun, quirky, unique option for everyone to enjoy.