Watch this space
We will add things from time to time, and since many of them are important musical events, you may find it worthwhile reading. It will be periodically updated.
It may be long, rambling and disjunct, but after 50 years in business we have seen and made some history in music. Some will be delighted to find nuggets here. I have put this section off, not wanting to be rambling, but dozens of people keep asking me to record these stories. (They keep asking me to write a book!) Some of the stories will be under a button "STORIES" that I will start soon. One story is so historically important it has it's own button about how Ron McNair had approached me to help him put the first instrument (there had been a small harmonica before) in space!! That was in 1984. See the "SAX IN SPACE" button.
When I asked Ron why he chose me to work with him, he said to me: "You knew more than anyone else."
KURT HEISIG MUSIC: est. 1968
Established April 1968 AT 383 Delmas Avenue San Jose, Ca. (13 years)
Moved to a temporary Saratoga Avenue office in West San Jose the first 4 months of 1981
1981 TO 2010 14428c & b Big Basin Way on the back of the _____, then Barclays, then Wells Fargo Bank. We had three different banks as landlords!! (29 years)
Simultaneously we were at 1045 Water St. Santa Cruz from Oct 1983 Until 2010, (27 years)
Monterey 2010 -2011 at 856 Lighthouse Ave, above Cannery Row.
Pacific Grove 2011 to May 2012 at 301 Grand Av.
Now at 512 Polk St, Monterey, Ca 3940 Since May 2012.
In April of 1968 I was a student at San Jose State College. I was determined to be "the best high school band director in the United Sates!" In order to do that, and since I wanted to teach out in the country away from cities, I determined that I had better learn as much about the industry as possible so that my students would have the best instruments, mouthpieces, reeds, etc. I would learn the industry and train the local music store what to carry.
I had learned this concept from a fellow bandmate in high school, Bob Hanlon, whom I am grateful to to this day! Bob had also talked me into taking lessons from Al Anthony, who had been lead Alto with the Stan Kenton Band.
I had heard about the great University of Michigan Band Director William Revelli and how he studied "all the instruments" with members of the Chicago Symphony (What about Sax?) and would stop the band, walk into the band and play a students instrument -- ANY PART!! - and say "Now, that's how I want you to play it!" Because of this, and Hanlon's influence, I was a double major on sax and clarinet and working up pieces on alto, baritone and soprano saxes. (SELMER MK VI'S OF COURSE!!!!) I worked on tenor later when I bought one of those too. I wrked on Bb, A, C, Eb, Alto and Bass Clarinet. I alternated semesters on flute and oboe and studied trumpet at home with my roommate some. (SEE MORE BELOW)
AT SJSU I was an enthusiastic member and officer in MENC and we would invite new teachers to return and tell us of their experiences.
We heard all of these horror stories of how they were not allowed to discipline problem students and could not have controlled rehearsals because they were not allowed to value the other kids right to an education by throwing the problem kid out. HE HAD A "RIGHT" TO AN EDUCATION!
(So the good kids didn't ????)
I decided to continue with the store, in order to help as many students and teachers as possible, and teach college. I WOULD PROVIDE THE GOOD INSTRUMENTS TO ALL THE TEACHER'S STUDENTS!! I taught at BETHANY BIBLE COLLEGE and UC SANTA CRUZ. Many of my students have also recieved credit at several other colleges too and a SUNY college and a California college asked me to be Department Chair.
The store was now established and would be my primary vehicle for doing what I could do to help others. Everybodies students and all te pros I could reach(see button "SOME OF OUR CUSTOMERS").
Finally I gave up at (now) SJSU after 10 years and took a degree (lots of extra units!!). I just didn't get all I wanted in an education. I was playing the saxes, clarinets, flute, oboe, and trumpet professionally, but wanted more. The school didn't have it, so I took the "wallpaper" and moved on. (To Carl Leach, Claude Gordon, Observation of Joe Allard, a master class with Harvey Pittel, Alvin Cromwell, clinics with Sigurd Rascher, and a lot of time with Steve Adelstein. Others too, such as Dennis McHatton and Ralph Morgan, retired Chief Woodwind Designer with Selmer USA. 26 years mentored by Ralph.)
While at State I had had my store open for 7 years. The Chair, Gibson Walters had requested that I have a private meeting with him secretely. He had a nuber of faculty positions open, especially Symphonic Band Director and wanted my advice as to who was best for the job. Clement Hutchinson, became the new interim Symphonic Band Conductor for a few years. (He never knew that Gib Walters and I, a student, had picked him in a private meeting).
Every few weeks I was selling a Benge or Schilke Trumpet to one of Clem's players, Tom Crown Mutes, R13 clarinets etc. Clem thanked me profusely for helping him with his band, which I was first alto sax in.
When I took advanced conducting under Hutch, who was also my clarinet prof, we each had to conduct the Symphonic Band for our final. Each student would wave, wave, wave and gone...... They would rush over and shake Clem's (Hutch's) hand and run in terror. I chose the Peter Menin Canzona and rehearsed the band through the floor. I got everything exactly as I wanted it, closed the score and walked over to Hutch. He said: "Would you be my new Associate Director with the Youth Band." (Santa Clara Valley Youth Band, which I had played in my Senior year in high school). Hired on the spot.
In 1968 when I started the store, I bought $20 wholesale worth of Vandoren Reeds and a $30 business license! A small step. I was 20 years old.
I still sell Vandoren in 2019. In 1988 when I was 40, Vandoren said that I was the only person in the world that they made custom reeds for. They made 500 #5 baritone sax reeds just for me. The box came to the USA marked "for Kurt Heisig only." I am still playing these and some older supplies from the '60's and '70's
I opened the store in 1968. In the early '70's I found a supplier selling Solo Esser Reeds. I used to buy those at Ferguson's Music by SJSC when I was at SJSC. (I had my Selmer 9* clarinet from there, winning it in a raffle the same day I auditioned for my full scholarship to SJSC. I got the scholarship too!)
I would buy the Solo Esser Reeds for my customers. Great Reeds. I now had Vandoren and Solo Esser. ONLY GREAT REEDS AT KURT HEISIG MUSIC!!
The supplier couldn't get stores to buy the Solo Esser reeds. Well, I knew great reeds and bought all 9,000 they were clearing out! (btw These reeds were made in Lindau Bodensee by the great GS out of cane purchased from a company we still buy tube cane from now.)
In 1976 I got a grab bag special of reeds from a wild and crazy salesman named Gary Kahler (the younger, who had played in the Bill Chase Trumpet Section and was the only one not on the plane with them and Jim Croce when it crashed). There were 85,000 reeds, because I bought four grab bags. Don Wun had retired in Portland and Gary was selling his stock for him. (Gary was amazing!).
So, I had 85,000 mixed - Buffet, Carl Fischer, Vibrator, Oscilator, Bruno and other reeds, plus my 9,000 Solo Esser and a stock of Vandoren reeds. The first thing I did was what I teach my students. I went through and picked a lifetime supply of reeds for tenor sax, alto clarinet, bass clarinet, jazz alto sax, and more.
I had this huge bill to pay off on these reeds. I sold off hundreds of #1 reeds to Gene Coleman and other dealers to pay down the bill. (Sad-- in 1982, in the San Lorenzo Valley, in Santa Cruz county, in the terrible flood that killed 36 people in one day, the reeds I had sold to Gene were in his basement workshop when the river rose....)
I had over 94,000 reeds in stock!!
Along the way I sold over $4,000 of reeds to Los Lobos, $900, $2,400, $1,500 etc, in lots to SMART musicians who understand I GOT MINE!!! Several musicians bought lifetime supplies. Reeds work BETTER with age. That is something Clem Hutchinson taught me. For instance for both Jazz and classical tenor sax, I am using 50 year old Carl Fischer Tenor Sax Reeds. Talk about TONE!!!! RESPONSE!! EASY TO PLAY!!
Many a wise musician has come to me and thanked me for teaching them all about reed quality and how to work on reeds and then ordered hundreds of dollars of reeds! (While typing this a musician just called raving about the wonderful reeds I sold him and asking me to send him more reeds from the 1960's!---- You can't plan this stuff!). When you know what to do about reeds, they last a long time and they are your FRIEND (See Reed Geek below. The product of one of my students Mauro Di Gioia).
I sold 2 or 3 of a famous brand of trumpet, but my trumpeter friend Rich Cash, told me there were better instruments. I called the benge Company and they told me they already had an agent (not store -- AGENT) in the San Francisco area - Leo DeMers who had been in the Shipstad and Johnson Ice Follies section. (To be an agent foe Benge you had to be a famous trumpet player, a certified old guy, and have been a friend of Eldon Benge, who had been First Trumpet in the Chicago Symphony. I was 20 or 21, and not known as a great trumpet player. Eldon Benge was no longer living). I told the Benge Company that Mr DeMers was in Oakland and San Francisco and San Jose was a long way away. They called Mr DeMers and asked him if that was okay? "Yeah, give it to the kid." In those days to be a legal adult and sign contracts guys had to be 21 (Nixon changed that a few years later) women were adults at 18, men at 21. This was before equality.
Boy did I sell Benges! I also contacted the Schilke Company in Chicago. Benge and Schilke had been best friends in Chicago and both, at different times, had played First Trumpet in the Chicago Syphony. Pretty soon I was selling Benge and Schilke trumpets. I have letters in my store on didsplay from the Benge company from 1970 when I was only 21 giving me a second territory - the Monterey Bay area. From my old San Jose store I sold Benge, Schilke,and later Callichio trumpets to most of the trumpet section at SJSU, and to lots of pros down as far as Monterey.
Clem Hutchinson, the Band Director at SJSU came to me and thanked me for helping so much with his band.
I would impose on my roommate's trumpet teacher at San Jose State, Chris Bogios from the San Francisco Symphony, to test each trumpet I got in. I would test them and then bring a 4 trumpet case full to Chris to try.When his and my opinions were finally consistent I stopped bothering him. I DON'T THINK HE MINDED TRYING DOZENS OF WORLD CLASS TRUMPETS!!!!!
(This testing turned out to be very important for all the decades of our store and is today the key to why HEISIGtm instruments are so good. More about this later.)
I drove down to LA to tour the Benge factory at 1122 W Burbank Blvd. (In old chicken sheds!!) Later my roommate, Dieter Schlaepfer, and I drove down to meet Mr Calicchio and order trumpets. (Go to youtube and watch "The last trumpet maker". It is a documentary of Dominick in two parts!!!) Boy was Dominick Calicchio a wonderful character!!!! We were college kids and he was so nice to us. He treated us like we were some big established old store. But then again, I WAS selling dozens and dozens of pro horns. Top pros were buying from us. We were a major west coast dealer in the early '70's.
THEN WE MET CLAUDE GORDON. ---to be continued.
Kurt Heisig Music
512 Polk St
Monterey, California 93940
Phone: (831) 920-1883