SOUTH WHITLEY, Ind. (21Alive) -- The haunting sound of the bassoon is hard to describe with words and so is the process used to make one of these magnificent instruments. A visit to Fox Products in South Whitley, explains it all.
Tony Starkey has been running the 65 year old company for the past two years. Starkey says "I'd like to say there's no book but one of the first things Alan gave me was a book on how to run a bassoon factory. You can't make that up!"
The operation is a showcase of craftsmanship, which isn't surprising, since Fox Instruments are played in several world renown symphonies and they supply about 80% of the bassoonists in the US. They also make oboes and English horns.
According to Starkey, just the past year, the company had orders that exceeded what
they've done in the past ten years due to the quality of the instrument.
They start with trees... allowing the wood to age for nearly a decade before it is shaped, hollowed out, fitted with its intricate overlay of keys and pads. The employees here do precision work.
Starkey says "The smallest of changes can affect it in an amazing way. We just had almost a throwdown argument over 4 thousandths of an inch in a finger hole.”
The company employs 105 workers on site and they make about 125 bassoons per month. Many of them are long-time employees who have meticulously honed their craft over the years. Tony Starkey says you have to have manual dexterity and you have to have an understanding of mechanisms. "We're trying to bridge the gap between art and that kind of craftsmanship but when we can, bring in the consistency of technology. That's the plan", he says.
Starkey is looking to grow the business even further by doing their own silverplating.
Fox Products was started by a bassoonist with the Chicago Symphony orchestra and our tour ends with a bassoonist, a Fox employee who trained at the Eastman School of Music, tests out the final product. (bassoon playing) An instrument fit for a virtuoso. A masterpiece, made here.
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