Austrian brass and woodwind maker enters U.S. market with
new Academica line, aimed at broader customer base
Bruce Silva devilishly wishes he had made recordings of all the ways customers and industry peers have stumbled over the pronunciation of “Schagerl.” But since Chuck Levin’s Washington Music Center began carrying the line more than eight years ago, a growing number of players are falling in love with the Austrian brass and woodwind manufacturer’s instruments. And as Washington Music Center begins to distribute the line to a select group of North American dealers, the entire Western music community may eventually learn to say “SHAW-gurl.”
Silva, who recently joined Washington Music Center’s band instrument sales after 17 years at Buffet/Buffet Crampon (where he rose to the role of vice president, North America in 2001), says the distribution network will comprise a select few U.S. and Canadian retailers, each of whom will exclusively represent the brand in a large, protected territory.
Schagerl Music GmbH was founded in 1961 by Karl Schagerl, who in 1989 turned the company over to his sons. Karl Schagerl, Jr., who “grew up in the factory,” doing everything from machining parts to testing the instruments, became the company’s CEO. His brother, Robert, is now head of design. Karl Schagerl Sr. and his wife still live in a home near the factory in Mank, Austria. Over the years, the factory has been continuously modernized, most recently with CNC technology that delivers improved consistency and more efficient production.
Impressed with Schagerl instrument quality and attention to detail, Washington Music Center’s Band Instrument Department Manager Lee Walkowich convinced CEO Alan Levin to take on the line. Walkowich, Karl Schagerl, and acclaimed trumpet designer Tony Scodwell then collaborated to develop the high-intermediate Academica and pro-level Meister series instruments for distribution throughout North America.
Though Schagerl instruments were already well-known and respected throughout Europe, international awareness of the brand is now growing along with the company’s artist roster, which includes players with some of the world’s top orchestras. Among the more influential are: Prof. Hans Gansch, former principal trumpet of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra; the highly entertaining Mnozil Brass ensemble; and celebrated Aussie James Morrison, who is stellar on trumpet, trombone, and sax and extends the company’s reach further into jazz and pop idioms. In addition to their value as brand ambassadors, all three contribute to the company’s instrument design and refinement, and all are represented by signature model instruments; Mnozil and Morrison in both the Meister and Academica ranges.
Emblematic of Schagerl’s capacity for innovation is the Ganschhorn trumpet series. Developed in close collaboration with Thomas Gansch (Gansch & Roses, Mnozil Brass), this unconventionally shaped trumpet combines the direct response and comfortable handling of a Périnet (piston valve) instrument with the smooth sound of a rotary valve horn.
Though best known for its trumpets, cornets, and flugelhorns, Schagerl also offers equally compelling lines of trombones and saxophones, all developed by some of Europe’s top performing musicians. All Schagerl brass and woodwind instruments are sold by Washington Music Center.
Schagerl Music produces approximately 550 instruments annually, about 70% of which are exported, and the company employs around 30 highly trained craftspeople. Robert Schagerl credits the firm’s modest size and family ownership with its brisk evolution and agile response to recent market opportunities.
Schagerl’s Taiwan factory manufactures the Academica range—nothing is outsourced—and every instrument is painstakingly inspected by quality control experts trained in Austria. As a result, the instruments meet the highest expectations of today’s musicians.
Prior to the introduction of the Academica range, Schagerl’s exposure in North America derived from in-store sales at Washington Music Center as well as attendance at various tradeshows including ITG, NTC, ETW, the Saxophone Symposium, the Midwest Clinic, and various other conventions.
Silva will begin contacting retailers about dealership opportunities at the upcoming Midwest Clinic, where Washington Music Center will display a selection of Schagerl instruments. He says he’s confident that “when they see the products and the pricing, with assurances that they’ll have a protected territory, dealers will be very impressed.” Schagerl products come with a five-year warranty, and of the hundreds of instruments Washington Music Center has sold, only one was returned. “Karl Schagerl replaced it,” says Silva, “no questions asked.”
With its rapidly growing reputation for impeccable products and a small, enthusiastic team of dealers, not everyone in the band instrument sector will know how to pronounce “Schagerl,” but it won’t be long before everyone knows the name.
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