Visitors to the Frederick and Elizabeth Ludwig Fennell Music Library may notice a new display in the showcases. The group of unusual instruments from the Greenleaf Collection has surprised our new visitors, and even some veteran campers unaware of this resource, so a review of its history is clearly in order. It begins with Col. Charles G. Conn and the “elastic” cornet mouthpiece he invented to lessen the discomfort he felt after injuring his face. When other players asked to have their mouthpieces cushioned like his, he began making cornets, brought in craftsmen from Europe and by the 1880s he had built a thriving music instrument company in a highly competitive era.
In 1915, Conn sold his business to Carl D. Greenleaf who greatly expanded production and soon made Elkhart, Indiana, the music instrument capitol of the world. Realizing that his future success was in school music programs, Greenleaf produced the first American saxophones, encouraged the growth of school band and orchestra contests, and agreed to publish the Universal Teacher, a new method book written by T. P. Giddings and Joe Maddy.
When Maddy began garnering friends and funds to establish the National Orchestra and Band Camp at Interlochen, Greenleaf gave generously and urged others in the industry to do likewise. His son Leland brought a scientific mind to the family business and by 1938 had produced the StroboConn, a chromatic stroboscope that provided the means to measure pitch in hundredths of a halfstep. Carl and Leland began amassing a personal collection primarily of wind instruments, along with some they found in their travels to other parts of the world.
Our organ classroom building dedicated to Carl Greenleaf is but one of many gifts the Greenleaf family made to Interlochen over the years; in 1969 the family gave their instrument collection to Interlochen. Interested visitors may see the bulk of the collection by appointment.
Incidentally, by the 1940s Mr. Giddings’ enthusiasm over the StroboConn became so great he would practically pull campers away from their intended path to demonstrate the machine! One Ohio camper’s response to his manic enthusiasm was to raise funds to provide a building where he could “set up shop” and correct musicians’ faulty intonation to his heart’s content!