If you are a public school band director you have to face the facts. No matter what you say, no matter how you say it, you will still wind up with inferior quality instruments being brought into your band rehearsals. We have complained and argued about the percieved poor quality of these instruments, coming from dozens of different manufacturers and being sold in stores along side the Barbie dolls and NERF guns. For nearly twenty years we have complained about instruments that break at the slightest bit of excess pressure or repair parts that are almost impossible to get. The question is, in the last twenty years have things really changed and in reality, is a $125 trumpet really a bad thing?
You may not be happy with the answers I am going to give you...
My personal take on the whole thing has been that not all cheap instrument brands are bad. In fact, if I had a choice I would rather have a kid playing on a "cheap" but usable instrument rather than not being in my band at all. With participation rates in our classes dropping like a stone across the country the last thing I want to have happen is a kid come up to me saying they can't be in band because they can't afford it. In other words, like it or not these cheap instruments do serve a purpose.
At the same time though I've been doing a lot of research over the last few weeks, working on a story I will be running in segments here on MusicEdMagic on the topic of off-brand musical instruments. I'll be honest with you, the reality of instrument manufacturing in 2012 is a whole lot better than it was back in 1992. There are some newer brands that are totally getting things right, investing in research and development and improving manufacturing techniques across the board. At the same time though there are others that continue to slough through with their sole intent being to make a quick buck, finding the cheapest and fastest ways to make affordable instruments that may or may not be durable or even playable.
Check back over the coming days and hopefully you will be enlightened on topics such as: