Welcome to my Brass Band page about MELLOPHONIUMS
This page is dedicated to the beloved, but unusual looking Mellophonium that became a love-hate association with Stan Kenton fans and band members.
After many years of investigation and inqueries from other experts on Mellophoniums, the first mellophoniums were made in 1956 by Conn.
According to their records and the serial number, my horn was made somewhere between late April and early May of 1956. I have an advertisement for Conn instruments, dating April 4, 1957 that introduces the mellophoniums as a brand new instrument, along with other instruments. To date, I have not found anyone who has been able to beat the serial number on my horn.
I do welcome anyone who has one that is older than mine. I am trying to find and track the earliest ones that were made before 1960.
Picture taken of me with my mellophonium and baritone horn about 1998.
When I first bought my horn, I didn't know much about it. I was told it was a Marching French Horn. It looked really cool hanging on the wall of a used band instrument shop in Tacoma, Washington in about 1994. I was attracted to it, so I made arrangements with the store owner to make payments on it until it was paid for.
It wasn't until a couple years later that I started seriously playing my horn more. I was an avid Baritone Horn player and was active in the Puyallup Community Concert Band, but when the band needed someone to play horn parts, I volunteered to help. We had four baritone horn players in the band anyway. I dared to be different!
It wasn't until about 1998 that someone told me more about these mellophoniums and the history behind them. He introduced me to the world of Stan Kenton and his jazz band.
photo courtesy of Steven D. Harris
I read what information was available and thought everything was right until I was dumbfounded by the Conn serial number list. My horn's serial number did not match the story of the origins of the mellophonium, according to the information I read about Stan Kenton's jazz band.
I spent many hours researching and inquiring when I was able to. I thought that maybe it was a misprint on my serial number until I came across an avid Stan Kenton enthusiast, who wrote a book about Stan Kenton called "The Kenton Kronicles", named Steven D. Harris . He sent me all the information he had about mellophoniums. I surprised him with finding out that he was off by 2 years on the origins of the mellophoniums, also. He thought that Conn had made the horns, starting in 1958 until I showed him the serial number.
This horn is an example of my horn. Same color interior of the case, but outside snaps are different on my horn case. This horn was for sale awhile back on Ebay and was also made in 1956, but later in the year.
This is my horn above. Notice subtle differences with the case hasps. Somewhere between the time mine was made and the one from Ebay, the hasps were changed to all 3 the same. Mine has a locking snap lock in the middle.
This is a current picture of me and my horn from August, 2008.
My horn is actually in very good condition for as old as it is. The metal on these horns are very fragile and dent easily. I had someone get most of the dents out of the horn earlier this year.
It does have an awesome sound and tone quality to it after years of perserverance and practice I've put into playing it. The first day I played it, it sounded like something obscene or a very sick elephant.
To describe the sound of this horn... The lower range sounds like a trombone and alto horn crossed. In the higher range it has a sound like a cornet or trumpet, but yet a sound all of it's own.
Stan Kenton was an adventurer into new sounds, dynamics, and explored new ways of creating music. Some people didn't like the mellophoniums in his band. There were others who welcomed the new style and sound. Some of the musicians felt threatened by the new horns, thinking they were going to be replaced in the band. There were some very heated moments in the band and clashes, some claiming the horns were hard to stay in tune due to a flaw in the design. Some of the musicians chosen to play the mellophoniums, didn't want to take the time to experiment with the potential of this new instrument. A rift was formed in the band that would rip it apart, eventually, after a four year battle, Kenton finally pulled the plug on the horns.
Photo courtesy of Steven D. Harris.
Apparently, I've noticed some misinformation about the difference between mellophones and mellophoniums. The horn I play IS a genuine mellophonium. Before the mellophoniums were mellophones. They were basically right handed french horns with valves. Then the creation of marching mellophones, which look like big fat trumpets. There are a few on You Tube that claim to be mellophoniums, but they are actually marching mellophones.
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