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Château's Versailles series CAS-96 alto saxophone is built from beginning to end by a single craftsperson.

Château Musical Instruments

Asian instrument manufacturer makes strides in Western markets and expands product range beyond saxophones to include flutes, clarinets, and trumpets.

THE UNITED STATES' VIBRANT school band and orchestra market is attracting a new generation of suppliers seeking a toehold amongst the sector’s established household names. After many years of development “in the wings,” Taiwan-based Tenon Industrial Company made its U.S. retail stage debut with Château brand saxophones, flutes, trumpets, clarinets, and guitars. Tenon also provides marketing services for Guo brand polymer flutes, Leho brand ukuleles, and MIDIplus brand digital keyboards, keyboard controllers, MIDI and audio interfaces, electronic drums, etc.

To say that school music retailers aren’t impulsive buyers is a bit of an understatement. “New” instrument brands don’t find easy passage into their showrooms. And yet Château is making the grade. Jeffrey Pellegrini of Ted Brown Music in Tacoma, Washington has been selling the full range of Château saxophones for three years. “Their margins are very good,” he says. “They come in well set up—they don’t require much adjustment prior to us putting them on the [sales] wall or in the rental pool. And [Château] has been very attentive and accommodating when supplying us with replacement parts.” Pellegrini also appreciates the company’s “very generous terms. They’ve sent us product on a 30-day approval whenever we needed it.”

Once a school teacher, Tenon Industrial founder Jerry Chang began focusing on musical instrument export soon after launching the company in 1979. After achieving his admittedly modest initial goal of delivering “playable instruments on time and on budget,” starting in 1989 Chang resolved to upgrade Tenon’s offerings to meet international standards, diligently learning all facets of music products export from his customers and other manufacturers.

"Our customers love their tone and timbre,
they’re structurally very sound,
and they’re offered at great price points."
- Scott Mandeville, Tim's Music

Five years later, Chang began making significant investments to develop Tenon’s own production capabilities, discerning best practices and accruing knowledge and experience in the art and science of wind instrument manufacture. A major milestone on the path to that goal was reached in 1999 with the creation of Tenon’s own brand, Château, to compete in the global marketplace. Château instruments are now sold in 21 countries on five continents. Its major markets include the U.S., the E.U., Brazil, Japan, Korea, and China. Chang reports that sales have recently remained steady in mature markets while rising in developing nations. He anticipates significant growth over the next five years, especially in Latin America and Africa.

A model of continuous improvement, Tenon benefits from ongoing vertical integration to improve efficiency and quality control. The company also makes employee education and training a priority. In 2005 it established an enterprise resource planning system within each department, division, and branch office worldwide. The resulting productivity gains and reduced production costs have helped Tenon further hone Château horns’ value to both end-users and dealers.

Highly skilled craftspeople have been enlisted to manufacture, finish, and test Château saxophones.

Throughout the company’s development, Chang has also strived to set Tenon apart from competitors through its products’ value and distinctive features. Among other specifications, the various Château saxophone series are differentiated by defined copper (and other metal) content to highlight specific tonal and resonance characteristics. For example, the flagship Versailles 90 and Versailles 96 series horns are handcrafted with 92% copper and nickel-silver, respectively. Premium features include ribbed construction, high F# key, double arms on bell keys, an air channel focus system on the neck, luxuriant full-body and key engraving, abalone key buttons, pro-level Pisoni pads, and Italian blued steel springs.

Both the Versailles and 85% copper Chenonceau 80 series are built from beginning to end by a single craftsperson, a time-consuming method that limits production but ensures flawless, artisanal execution. Other lines include the large-bell Chambord 50 Series and student model Valencay 22 and Chevernay 21 series. All series offer altos and tenors; some additionally offer baritones and curved and straight sopranos. All Château saxophone parts are manufactured entirely in Tenon’s own factory, which affords the company superior control over quality and instant authority to implement instrument design refinements.

Château recently drew additional attention to the brand with its new Art Series saxophones, which feature a complex, ten-stage painting process that contributes to the instrument’s visually stunning appearance.