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Zig Kanstul: Last of the Great Masters, by R. Dale Olson


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The story of Zig Kanstul is also the account of brass instrument development from the mid-20th century to the present day. Now this incredible narrative is brought to life in a book: “Zig Kanstul: Last of the Great Masters”. It is authored by R. Dale Olson, a respected member of the international trumpet elite, and a long-time associate of Zig’s. World-renowned artist Arturo Sandoval provides the foreword. Brass designer, historian, and restorer Robb Stewart is editor, with Scott Birdsall providing the cover photograph and book design.

This exceptional book outlines Zig’s personal biography as it relates to brass instrument design and production.  Zig’s apprenticeship under Foster Reynolds, his R&D and production management of F.E. Olds & Son, and roles with the Benge Company and C.G. Conn are also explored. The founding and management of Kanstul Musical Instruments has been the culmination of one of the truly remarkable careers in the history of contemporary brass instrument design and production.

The story is not restricted to Zig Kanstul, but provides invaluable information concerning the historic figures who constitute Kanstul’s professional genealogy. His documented heritage includes the great masters such as William Graves, Elbridge G. Wright, James York, Frank E. Olds, and Foster A. Reynolds. Each are extensively discussed. Additionally, friends, colleagues, and clients—some of the most prestigious brass players, educators, and authorities of the past six decades—offer their personal insights into the work of Zig Kanstul. Over ninety photographs and graphics, many published here for the first time, underscore the depth of historic and technical elements of all brass instruments over one and one-half centuries in the United States.

Zig Kanstul: Last of the Great Masters has quickly become a “must-read” for brass players, educators, scholars, designers, researchers, and anyone else interested in a personal, inside look at the often opaque, but fascinating, world of the art of brass instrument design and production, as viewed through the prism of one of its great geniuses. The 258-page book is available in softcover.

Arturo Sandoval wrote, in the Foreword:

“When I first arrived in the United States, I began working with Zig Kanstul and it was he who designed the exceptional flugelhorn I played for decades. Although I knew that Zig was one of the foremost instrument makers in the country, I did not know that he was one of the most famous in the history of instrument making. As we worked together I came to appreciate his skills and insights in producing some of the best brass instruments in the world. He created instruments that were of the best quality and that possessed an outstanding sound! This was something that not only I appreciated as a musician, but that was inevitably transmitted to the audience as well. I feel very lucky and honored to have known and worked with Zig throughout the years, and I am eternally grateful for his support and for what he contributed not only to the players of his exceptional works of art, but to the industry as a whole.”

One of the most prominent orchestral trumpet players active today wrote, to R. Dale Olson: “Zig should be remembered for all of his creativity and tenacity, and your book eloquently gives him that respect”.  

Zig Kanstul: Last of the Great Masters

In this account of the lineage of the great masters of American brass musical instrument making, culminating in the story of Zig Kanstul, R. Dale Olson walks the reader through the history of significant brass design innovation and manufacturing in the United States, from 1824 to 2016.

Being a complex, often mystifying, melding of art and science, the creation of fine brass instruments has involved the passing down of knowledge, hand-to-hand, from one master craftsman to the next, in the ongoing quest for higher quality and more artistically idealized instruments. This book traces that development with both a technical and very personal focus.  Includes detailed historical information and photos by Robb Stewart.  Paperback, 258 pp.

R. Dale Olson, Author

Born in Houston, Texas in 1935, R. Dale Olson lived on Galveston Island, Texas from the age 5 until entering University of North Texas in 1952.  From that University he was awarded the B.A. degree in Music Education in 1956, and the first M.M. degree in Trumpet Performance in 1957. In 1987 he earned an M.A. degree in Experimental Psychology from California State University, Fullerton. He was named Distinguished Alumnus by the University of North Texas in 2007 in recognition of his career in music.

Olson continues to lecture at Universities and International Trumpet Guild Conferences, and is currently engaged in writing Chronology of Innovation, a critique of every United States patent ever granted related to trumpet. Retired from professional performance since 1990, Olson and his wife, Diane, have residences in Galveston, Texas, and Orange County, California. He maintains his own collection of classic English automobiles.

Over a period in excess of sixty years, Olson has been co-researcher in brass instrument acoustics and design with Dr. Robert W. Young (then President of the Acoustical Society of America), acoustician William T. Cardwell, Jr., and instrument maker Zigmant J. Kanstul.

He has delivered lectures at numerous Universities and over ten presentations at International Trumpet Guild Conferences.  Although now retired from performance, Olson performed professionally on trumpet for over 60 years in all genres.

Olson was Director of Research for the firm, F.E. Olds and Son, Inc. for nearly a decade, and later consulted on instrument design and testing for firms such as Besson and Kanstul.

His writings are examples of in-depth, deeply researched, precise works that expand the boundaries of the subjects at hand, and are not simplistic restatements of previous authors. Olson’s works typically carry large numbers of references, indices, and appendices to assist in future scholarly investigations.

Robb Stewart, Editor

Born in Chicago, Robb has lived in Southern California since 1973.  He started learning the brass instrument repair trade at 17 and launched his own shop in 1979.  Always aiming for the best repairs possible including restoring and preserving antiques, Robb also custom builds instruments not otherwise available.  His restoration work has included projects for several museums, but mostly for the burgeoning community of brass instrument collectors. contains hundreds of pages covering brass instrument history and technology including a section devoted to the mechanics of brass instruments.

Scott Birdsall, Book Design

Having played for years alongside Zig Jr. and Jack in the Scouts and Velvet Knights under Zig's direction, Scott went to work at F.E. Olds & Son immediately after high school, with a later stint at Benge.  He heads a graphic design business in Lake Forest, CA.

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