Best known for its pro-level reeds, MARCA recently launched its first-ever student product.
Professional-grade French reed line grows with
factory expansion and new student series
The Côte d’Azur, or Riviera, in the Var region along the Mediterranean Sea, is one of the most beautiful areas in all of France. Among the tourists who visit every year, the region is famed for its perfect climate, charming villages, and white-sand beaches. In the musical instrument trade, however, it’s known as one of the world’s premier sites for reed-making. Alongside fields of naturally-growing cane, the MARCA Reeds company has spent the past 60 years crafting high-quality clarinet, saxophone, oboe, and bassoon reeds at its family-owned factory in the town of Ollioules. Well known for its meticulous workmanship, the company made its name as a maker of professional-grade reeds used by numerous top classical and jazz players. More recently, though, its mission has expanded—starting with the launch of its first student reed line in 2016. That same year, MARCA sales rose 40%, and about the same growth is projected for this year. In addition, the company has poured a half-million-euro investment into a factory expansion that’s expected to boost production capacity from around 10,000 reeds per day to at least double that by the end of 2018. “Our goal is to increase production so that more and more musicians can one day say, ‘I played MARCA,’” says company co-owner Nicolas Righi. “But our approach to quality will never change. We make the best reeds in the world, and without that quality, we could never have such passion for what we do.”
Established in 1957, MARCA is an acronym for “Manufacture d’Anches et Roseau de la Côte d’Azur”—or, in English, Manufacture of Reeds and Canes of the French Riviera. Founder Franco Guccini made reeds there personally for nearly six decades, retiring just two years ago at the age of 90. The company is now owned by two of his grandchildren: Nicolas Righi and his cousin Lionel Maurer. Righi, the CEO, has a background both technical and musical, with a degree in engineering and 20 years of playing experience as a conservatory-trained clarinetist. He’s also worked at the MARCA factory since 2003.
Among MARCA’s hallmarks as a reed-maker is its exclusive use of the “wild” cane that’s native to the Var region. At the MARCA factory, the first step in the process is selecting only the finest cane, which is aged to optimal levels before the manufacturing process can begin. From there, the reed is crafted through a combination of exacting handwork and modern machinery, with strict quality control checks and testing by professional players. The result, says Righi, is a reed of “the highest quality possible. And it’s not only us who say that.”
Distributed in 60 countries and developed for professional artists, MARCA reeds are played and endorsed by pros around the world. Two of them—saxophonists Arno Haas and Darren Rahn—recently weighed in on their reed of choice.
“The reason I play MARCA reeds on soprano and tenor sax is because I love when I pick a reed out of the box and it sings right away,” says Haas, a versatile jazz artist and producer who’s also taught across Europe and Asia. “They have a wonderful response and a resonant sound through the full range of my horns. On both instruments they provide just the right amount of ease and support to give me the tone, flexibility, and colors that I’m looking for.”
A multi-Grammy-nominated recording artist, Rahn has played Marca reeds since 1989 when, as a college music major, he tried out numerous brands in search of a better sound. “The MARCA Superiere reed stood out above all the rest,” he says. “I find MARCA to have a better consistency of quality than any other reed I’ve tried. They use only the finest quality cane, and I get more playable reeds out of one box than any other reed I’ve played. I also find better consistency from reed to reed. In my book, MARCA reeds are simply the best.”
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