A custom trumpet shop opens in Denver

Categories: Jazz, Profiles

Jason Harrelson, of Harrelson Trumpets, performing.

While studying trumpet performance at St. Olaf College in Minnesota two decades ago, Jason Harrelson, owner of Harrelson Trumpets, became consumed with learning how the trumpet works and understanding the physics of playing one. In 1993, he began experimenting with trumpet mouthpieces, enlarging throats, backbores and adding mass, and before long, he started doing trumpet modifications on eBay in 2001. Over the last decade, he's been working in Minnesota, and he just opened a shop in Denver. We spoke with Harrelson about why he set up shop here and what makes his horns different from those of other makers.

See also: The ten best trumpeters of all time

Westword: Why did you decide to set up a second shop in Denver?

Jason Harrelson: Well, there are quite a few reasons. Mostly it's because I'm from Montana, and I wanted to come back to the Rockies. I really miss home. It's good to be back in the mountains. Minnesota is cold and flat. Also, because Denver is a lot like Minneapolis. It's a really happening city, and there's a great music scene. I like to be right in the middle of that.

You just opened the Denver shop a few weeks ago, right?

Yeah, I just moved in about a month ago, and I really just opened up last week.

What are your plans for the new space? Is going to be kind of along the same lines as your place in Minnesota?

Well, most of the production is going to happen here. My heavy equipment is here. My machining centers are both here. So I'm just building the trumpets here. My goal is, in a year or two, to either buy or build a building and expand here.

You've done a lot of innovations with your trumpets. What makes them stand out against those of other more independent makers?

My goal has always been to make the trumpet as efficient as possible. The more efficient the horn is, the easier it is to play. But then, really, what makes me different than a lot of the other companies out there is that we build our trumpets exactly to our customer's specifications.

That's really what we've always done. I say "we," but I build everything myself, and I have a team that helps me with the front end -- website and cleanup and things like that. But, yeah, it's always been to build exactly what the customer wants. The new generation of horns I'm building now, you can change components after the horn has been built. So now we can keep customizing the horn after it's finished.

Are you one of the few companies that do customizing?

We off more custom options than all the other companies combined in the whole world. It sounds kind of crazy, but the reason that's true is because other companies don't really want to mess with custom work. Aside from Monette Trumpets, there really aren't any custom trumpet companies in the United States. And Monette only builds custom horns if you have a couple of Grammys. I mean, he doesn't build them for anybody, whereas we build a custom horn for anybody who wants one.

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