A Product of My Past
Like all of us, I am a product of my past and so I would like to begin this post by thanking the late Renold O. Schilke, my trumpet teacher, my employer, and my mentor. Forty-three years ago, he gave me the opportunity to learn about brass playing and the equipment that we as brass players use to make music. It began with private trumpet lessons from him at 529 S. Wabash in Chicago. (Many forget that he was a former principal trumpet with the Chicago Symphony). His lessons were not just about how to play. Without me knowing at the time, I was also learning some of the basics of instrument and mouthpiece design. This evolved into me doing clinics, representing the instruments and mouthpieces while I was still in college. Within a year or so I was given the job of making the custom mouthpieces and eventually designing instruments.
I was fortunate to work with some of the world’s best brass players. To list them all would take up the entire page, but people like Bud Herseth, William Scarlett, George Vosburgh, Phil Smith, Charles Geyer, Barb Butler, Dale Clevenger, Gail Williams, Frank Crisafulli, Ed Kleinhammer, and Arnold Jacobs were regulars from Chicago who frequently were up there with us on the 8th floor. Back then, whenever visiting bands or orchestras passed through town, Schilke’s was the place to be. Musicians like Jon Faddis, Lew Soloff, The Canadian Brass, Armando Ghitalla, Thomas Stevens, Roger Bobo and so many others from around the world came through that shop.
I was able to pick their brains as to how they got to be where they are. I learned what skill sets they used to achieve, the level of ability they possessed and the needs they had for their equipment. With this knowledge I was able to craft mouthpieces that had the look and feel they were after as well as produce the sound they desired. Sometimes, it was just a matter of making a simple modification to their existing mouthpiece.
I learned that all sorts of variables contributed to the final product. I learned that taking as little as .005” from the outside diameter of a rim affected not only the feel to the performer, but the intonation and color of the sound. I learned that not only was the size of the throat important, but the shape of the throat was probably more important than the size. I learned that while the depth of the cup was important, even more so was the shape and the volume of the cup. I also learned that the greatest variables are the performers and their history….who they studied with, who they listen to, all helped in my design of mouthpieces. Even after 40 plus years, I am still learning.
With the passing of Renold Schilke in 1982, I began to think about forming my own company. I talked it over with many of my friends who offered encouragement. But with a wife, son and new home, was it the right time?
Late one evening I received a call from Bud Herseth. He was calling to let me know he had heard about what I was thinking of doing and wanted to let me know he was behind me 100%. Any help I needed, he was there for me. Over the next couple of days I received calls from others who wanted to let me know they were with Bud in supporting me and my new venture.
With the encouragement from many of these brass professionals, as well as my family, I knew it was time to develop a line of mouthpieces incorporating these designs which would be available to everyone. The Laskey Company was formed in 1998 and we opened our doors in 1999.
You will see our mouthpieces used by musicians in notable orchestras around the world. Chicago Symphony, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Boston, Concertgebouw, Dallas are just a few. In addition, my mouthpieces have been used on many recordings by leading commercial players throughout the years.
Our products include a full line of mouthpieces for trumpets, french horns, trombones and tubas. See our website: laskey.com for a detailed look of each model.