Leblanc (musical instrument manufacturer)
Leblanc, Inc. was a musical instrument manufacturer based in Kenosha, Wisconsin. 2004 saw the firm sold to Conn-Selmer, a division of Steinway Musical Instruments, by its chairman, president and CEO Leon Pascucci, son of one of the founding partners, Vito. Leblanc has now ceased to exist as an independent operation and has become a brand of Conn-Selmer along with their many other brands.
G. Leblanc Cie. was a French company founded by Georges Leblanc late in the 19th century, in La Couture-Boussey. In 1904 the company acquired Noblet, the oldest instrument manufacturer in France. In 1945, Léon Leblanc (1900-2000) met Vito Pascucci(1922-2003), then on duty as the instruments manager and repair technician for the Glenn Miller US Army Air Force Orchestra. Pascucci and Miller had discussed opening a musical instrument distributing company and importing instruments after the war. The idea lived on with Pascucci after Miller died, and he was scouting potential suppliers. He and Leblanc reached an agreement. They founded the G. Leblanc Corporation in Kenosha, Wisconsin in 1946.
In addition to the G. Leblanc Cie. products, the G. Leblanc Corporation started importing saxophones from the French firm Beaugnier, branded "Leblanc." Leblanc's most distinctive saxophones at the time were its Model 100 and 120 "System" saxophones, the latest iteration of instruments designed by G. Leblanc since the early 1930s to alleviate acoustic problems inherent in the standard Sax key system and offer more fingering choices.
Leblanc broadened its product line and distribution with the acquisition of several other companies: the Frank Holton Company (manufacturer of brass instruments) in 1964; the Bublitz Case Company, manufacturer of musical instrument cases in 1966; the Woodwind Company (manufacturer of woodwind mouthpieces) in 1968; and the Martin Band Instrument Company (brand rights and distribution network for brass instruments and saxophones) acquired from the Wurlitzer Corporation in 1971.
Yanagisawa saxophones were first marketed by Leblanc in the late 1960s under the Leblanc and Vito brands, and the Martin brand after 1971, prior to their distribution under Yanagisawa's own name. In 1981 Leblanc became the exclusive marketer and distributor of Yanagisawa products in the United States and Canada.
In 1989 the American Leblanc firm acquired majority interest in G. Leblanc Cie. and took over its management.
The Vito brand
Beginning in 1951, the American Leblanc firm went on to manufacture student model clarinets under the Vito brand, named after its American partner. The bores were produced at Vito's new facility and the hardware was supplied by Leblanc. Vito brass instruments were sourced from Holton, which later was acquired by Leblanc in 1964.
After briefly sourcing its Vito saxophones from Holton, Leblanc imported Beaugnier saxophone parts to be assembled in Kenosha and sold under the Vito brand. By the late 1950s, Vito saxophones were also assembled from parts supplied by the Art Best Manufacturing Company facility in Nogales, Arizona, with some differences from the Beaugnier designs. The two series of Vito saxophones are referred to as Vito-France and Vito-Kenosha. The most distinctive model from this period was the Vito Model 35, with a key system based on the Leblanc "system" design.
During the late 1960s Leblanc started sourcing saxophone parts from Yamaha for the Vito-Kenosha line, producing saxophones with both American and Japanese parts. As the decade came to a close Leblanc introduced the Vito-Japan line, consisting of alto and tenor saxophones from Yamaha (7131 models), and soprano, alto, and baritone saxophones from Yanagisawa (VSP models).
Leblanc added the KHS company of Taiwan as a source for Vito saxophones in 1981. The KHS versions were sold as models 7133, 7136, 7140, and 7190.
The Vito line of saxophones was discontinued in 2002, although the equivalent models continued to be made by Yamaha and KHS (Jupiter). The Vito line of brasswinds was discontinued in 2007.
Sale and reorganization
The company was sold on 1 August 2004 to Steinway Musical Instruments, followed by closure of the Kenosha facility and the movement of their French operation to the US. Leblanc's French clarinet plant was sold to the Buffet Group in 2008
Holton (brass instruments) Martin (brass, woodwinds) Leblanc (woodwinds) Vito (student brass and woodwinds) Woodwind (accessories)
Leblanc brand is currently manufacturing one model of Bb Clarinet, an intermediate model named the L210. It was designed in collaboration with Leblanc artist Julian Bliss. They also manufacture a plastic Alto, Bass, Contra Alto, and Contrabass clarinet and a wooden Bass Clarinet.
- Leblanc official website
- Vito Pascucci NAMM Oral History Program Interview (2003)
- Leon Pascucci NAMM Oral History Program Interview (2011)