I grew up in Elkhart, Indiana. It was a great town in which to grow up, especially for a budding young musician. All of the local schools had strong music programs with good band directors at the helm. It probably had something to do with the fact that Elkhart was once known as the “Band Instrument Capital of The World.”
At one time, there were several companies making band instruments under names like Conn, Selmer, Gemeinhardt, Armstrong, Bach, and Blessing. Today there are just a few left, but in the in the 60s and 70s when I lived there, many were still producing instruments.
So a native son of Elkhart – that would be me – went on to a successful career as a professional trumpet player and then he created a lip balm for musicians – that would be ChopSaver. But I never knew why Elkhart was the cradle of the American band instrument industry, until now. It turns out that it also had something to do with injured lips.
In the late 1800’s, Charles Gerard Conn, a civil war vet and an amateur cornet player, suffered a split lip from, of all things, a bar fight. Afraid he might never play again, he fashioned a special mouthpiece that utilized rubber to soften the pressure of the mouthpiece. His invention became a hit with other players and he set up a shop to create more. Soon after, he started making entire instruments and the rest, as they say, is history. A more detailed account of the story can be read here in The South Bend Tribune.