model 55 selmer


I hope this note finds you well. My name is Ralph Scaffidi…by way of introduction, I am an active (and older) amateur clarinetist. And before I go any further, please let me apologize up front as this note may go on a bit long…I just felt so excited to pass a few comments to you (which if you might indulge me. my reasons should become clear below).

My background in-brief. I started studying clarinet when I was 25 years old (long story), with my initial year with Mr. Edward Golashesky at the Philadelphia College for the Performing Arts; and then after many years of minimal activity, for four years privately with Dr. Bruce Hardy (then a professor of jazz studies at Pepperdine University). For the past 24 seasons, I have been a clarinetist with the Ventura County Concert Band (VCCB), in Ventura, California…playing second clarinet as an avocation to my primary careers as a U.S. Navy civil service systems engineer, and as a U.S. Naval Reserve commissioned officer. I retired from both of these positions between 2008 and 2012, and now pursue my musical interests with a lot fewer distractions [although with no delusions regarding my overall possible future clarinet accomplishments…but I love the instrument and enjoy playing the ensemble wind designs (both classic transcriptions and original wind compositions)]…as well as some occasional jazz-type engagements.

As I have now had more time during the past few years to pursue more in-depth study of all things clarinet, I have had the pleasure of discovering your website. I have found it extremely interesting and informative…of note your experience with SELMER clarinets, and specifically your knowledge of and familiarity with the SELMER-55. In 1992 – 94 I came to posses two very wonderful instruments:

First, a 1947 B-Flat BUFFET Professional;

and Second, a 1945 B-Flat SELMER-55.

I have very much enjoyed the BUFFET (I completed my fourth year of study with Dr. Hardy using it…it really helped in accelerating my playing development). However, when I purchased the SELMER-55, I was just thrilled with it…the larger bore (almost 0.6) makes for much easier blowing with enhanced volume, which I greatly appreciate in a concert band format. I keep both instruments in excellent repair at all times, and they both play beautifully (that is keeping in mind that they are both 70 year old instruments, and that I am an intermediate amateur player…I would expect that a seasoned professional might find them somewhat lacking).

As I learned of the brief history of the SELMER-55 (1945 production only, and a transition between the Balanced Tone and the Centered Tone) I came to cherish it even more. As I continued my research, I found your web postings regarding the all-SELMER clarinet section of the BSO in the 1960s, all playing Centered Tones, but with the principal, Mr. Cioffi, playing 55s…I presume the only All-SELMER section in any major U.S. orchestra (?). From reading your posts, it sounds like Mr, Cioffi played Full Boehm 55s (both A and B-Flat).

I read the postings on your site by Mr. Cioffi’s grandson (from 2008), and appreciated his difficulty with deciding how to properly pass on his grandfather’s / father’s clarinets. I am curious if he ever came to a satisfactory resolution…perhaps these instruments were passed to you?

My mother was a world renowned jazz guitarist (Mary Osborne), and since her passing in 1992, we as a family have maintained ownership of her three first-class guitars (one of which was custom made for her in 1964 by Stromberg-protege guitar maker Bill Barker). And while my brother has performed with two of the three guitars on a somewhat infrequent basis, the time is soon approaching that we will need to determine a new future for the instruments (like the Cioffi family, none of our offspring have neither the ability nor interest in either the music or the instruments…sadly, I do not see leaving any of these to them).

Similarly, I have the same problem facing me with my clarinets, as I begin to think about my own inevitability…not anytime soon, but I know that day will come. As I mentioned above, I have continued to maintain both clarinets in top working condition, and play them regularly (although the 55 gets most of my time…and of course, I am the only SELMER player in the entire section of 11 players).

– I have attached the following pictures:

* both clarinets together / the SELMER-55 is on the left…the BUFFET is on the right

* one of the SELMER alone, and one close-up of the SELMER mechanism

* one of the BUFFET alone, and one close-up of the BUFFET mechanism

– My SELMER-55 has the 4-ring upper joint of the Full Boehm, but no articulated G-Sharp…the lower joint is Standard Boehm.

– I obtained both clarinets from George Borodi Music in South Euclid (Cleveland), Ohio. I had them completely overhauled, with the mechanisms gold plated, at the time of purchase.

– The gold plating took much better to the BUFFET mechanism than the SELMER. Additionally, since the SELMER is my primary performing instrument, the gold plating has worn significantly more, but is still apparent.

If I may ask…only if you would have the time and that it would not be of any inconvenience…I would be most appreciative and grateful if you might please pass on any websites or book titles where I might find further information / history on the SELMER-55.

An additional note. For the first time since I moved to Ventura County 30 years ago, I have finally been able to attend clarinet master classes as an audience member, during the Spring Festival at The Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara. Just being able to listen and observe has broadened my approach to playing…it has been a wonderful experience. Clarinet classes are mentored by Prof. Richie Hawley of Rice University…just a marvelous player and a wonderful teacher / mentor.

OK…I have taken up way too much of your time, and I suppose my story has become tiresome. But in any case I did want to tell you how much I appreciate your musical career accomplishments, as well as your willingness to share your experiences with us all via your website. And again, thanks so much for your time in reading my note.

With my most sincere best regards,
Captain, U.S. Navy (Retired) the model 55


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