Recently, our Founder - Jonathan Hodgetts - undertook a 3 week tour of the USA; his biggest business trip to date, spanning an impressive 5,500 miles across some of America’s most beautiful landscapes.
Here, he tells us all about it - from his live interview with one of America’s biggest Tuba video bloggers, to Wessex’s incredibly popular exhibition at the TMEA in San Antonio, Texas.
“I was joined on part of this tour by Chuck Nickles - who travels with me often, mostly for our quarterly visits to the factory in China - and who supported me immensely during this, our biggest ever exhibiting trip.
“I started my journey with the U.S. Army Tuba Euphonium Conference in Washington D.C., where we were helped out by Wessex Artiste Paul Maybery.
“I was delighted to hold Wessex biggest booth to date at the Conference which we have attended the last 5 years. We had a huge amount of interest whilst there with so many exciting new instruments including the Chicago Presence, Chicago York, Grand and Duplex euphonium, with so much positive feedback from those who visited the booth.
“As always when in Washington DC, we made time to visit my favourite steakhouse in America - Ray’s The Steaks - where they do the best steak I’ve ever tasted.
“Unfortunately, the weather was bad immediately after the conference in the northern states, and poor Paul got stuck in the snow on the way back home, taking a week to get back to his home in Minnesota!
“Following the U.S. Army Tuba Euphonium Conference, I headed south, travelling through Virginia, where I visited the V & E Simonetti Historic Tuba Collection in Durham, North Carolina.
“For anyone who hasn’t yet been, I can’t recommend this collection highly enough; 350 stunning instruments make up this incredible collection, and whilst I was there I came up with some exciting new ideas for instruments; I always feel inspired by instruments of the past.
“After my inspiring museum trip, I headed over to Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina, where I exhibited some of the Wessex instruments for the students there in a room we could hardly move for tubas and people. We received lots of interest, including in the new Stearn Bass trombone.
“Then it was on to visit Tuba video blogger, Dylan King, in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he performed a live interview with me on his YouTube channel. 200 people tuned into the interview - which lasted over an hour! - live, and the video has received 1,400 views to date.
“The next day, I travelled down to Limestone College in South Carolina to exhibit again…
“Once this exhibition had come to an end, it was time for a huge drive to Texas of about 500 miles! Once there, I stopped off at the University of Texas, Arlington, to exhibit in the beautiful University theatre there, all arranged by Ed Jones of the Fort Worth Symphony.
“Carl Kleinsteuber then generously gave his time to join me at the University of North Texas Exhibiting, which once again attracted so much interest..
“So far during my journey across the U.S.A, the weather had been good but as I travelled south from Dallas towards Austin, I hit subzero temperatures, and experienced freezing rain. This, of course, was particularly difficult to drive in but, I’m pleased to say, I was fine!
“Once in Austin I went out to the suburbs with the honour of meeting up with Mike Lynch - owner of the largest private collection of Tubas in the world. It really was a pleasure to spend time with Mike during this journey and see his amazing collection.
“Another long drive south took me to the University of Rio Grande Valley near the Mexican border for another popular exhibit. I was lucky enough to enjoy a sumptuous Mexican meal with Professor Scott Roeder, who I’ll be seeing again in Spain this July!
“After this, I set off to TMEA, in San Antonio, Texas; America’s premier music educators convention, where we exhibited for the full 3 days and I was helped on the booth by not just Chuck, but by Wessex Artistes Carl Kleinsteuber and Eric Hunter.
“This was a huge and truly incredible exhibition for Wessex, as we had the honour of holding our biggest booth ever the Convention which was attended by 35,000 people, and so many of those people came to visit us, at times, we couldn’t always get into our own booth!
“This exhibition gave attendees the opportunity, not only to learn more about Wessex Tubas, and our newest offerings, but also to try some of our instruments out for themselves; on multiple occasions we had no less than 15 instruments being trialed at one time! We must have been visited by hundreds, if not thousands of people whilst we were there.
“However, my visit to San Antonio wasn’t all work, as I was fortunate enough to steal a little time to myself and go for a lovely walk along the river.
“Another very long drive back up north to Cincinnati saw me meet with the renowned and wonderful Chris Olka of the Cincinnati Symphony who was really keen to video review our new 6/4 tubas.
“I left Chris with the Chicago-Presence, Chicago-York, and the Grand to review, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing what Chris thinks. Whilst I was with him, he commented that the York played as well as the best equivalent German tuba costing more than double the Wessex!
“My final trip on this incredible tour saw me visit Fort Wayne with Sam Gnagey who designed the TE465 Eb Front Piston Tuba ‘Gnagey’. Whilst Sam and I enjoyed a gorgeous lunch together, and a friendly catch-up Sam’s lovely wife Debs, who happens to be skilled in instrument repair, she was able to repair some of my stock that had been damaged whilst on the road.
“A quick pit stop at the warehouse, and it was time to get back to the UK with only 10 days before heading for China!
“All in all, I had a wonderful time in the U.S.A, meeting some interesting, passionate, and quite extraordinary people. And none of it would have been possible without the support of the Wessex team; including Chuck, Paul, Carl, and Eric.
“I’m also thankful to those who came out to see us at all of these exhibitions, invited us to exhibit, and to Chris and Dylan for their hospitality.
“I’ll be back in the U.S.A in April/May for a whole 6 weeks when I will be travelling coast to coast, and I’m already excited for my return.”
If you’d like more information about any of the instruments mentioned above, please visit our online shop.