I admit to being a bit of a Francophile since my introduction to Français in the third grade. I continued with the lovely romance language through high school and loved, much more than the conjugations and diagrams, hearing my teachers, who were almost always French nationals, talk about their culture with their beautiful, velvety French accent.

It is an accent that I have never come close to replicating though my son, Mitchell, comes close after spending two years working in Bordeaux. His stint there afforded me a visit to Paris and Bordeaux. It was a magical time of embracing a culture that I had only heard about while patient French venders politely responded to my high school French. I think that they appreciated my attempts.

Having Buffet Group, a French-based wind instrument company, choose the First Coast, and Jacksonville specifically, as their North American headquarters takes me back to my first introduction to France and the French language. Buffet Group encompasses nine world-renowned wind instrument brands: Buffet Crampon woodwinds, Besson brass, B&S brass, Antoine Courtois brass, Hans Hoyer French horns, Julius Keilwerth saxophones, Melton Meinl Weston low brass, J. Scherzer rotary trumpets and Schreiber bassoons.

Seeing how the company’s team, some of them French, has embraced the First Coast delights me. Hearing his harmonious French accent as François Kloc, CEO of the North America Headquarters for the organization, describes the company’s instruments just adds to that delight.

Their Southside headquarters, unobtrusive on the outside, amplifies with beauty once you enter and see the magnificent instruments that adorn the walls. When you talk to the musicians and Buffet Group leadership their excitement to be here on the First Coast is palpable and contagious. It makes you want to take another look at the beauty and artistry that surrounds us here.

Musician approved

On a recent tour of the Buffet Group’s warehouse, Marc Dickman, longtime Jacksonville musician and professor of music at the University of North Florida, even experienced a thrilling first. He saw, touched and played an Antoine Courtois Saxhorn, a rare treat as Courtois is the only company in the world currently manufacturing that historic instrument. Along with the personal joy, Dickman says that the instrumental treat exemplifies why musicians on the First Coast have a fabulous opportunity with Buffet Group in their own back yard. From the beauty and finesse that Buffet Group instruments are known for to the expertise of the musical engineers and the pride of all who represent the Buffet Group, the organization is a model for unparalleled customer service and expertise.

Dickman plays a Besson euphonium, a low brass instrument from one of Buffet Group’s nine brands.

Why does he play Besson?

“They are simply the best,” he replies.

Clearly Buffet Group provides a feast for discerning musicians; local musicians are delighted to have access to these fine instruments and the personal treatment that comes from a relationship with Buffet Group. Couple that with the constant influx of global musicians who travel to Jacksonville to receive the fabulous customer service offered and it’s easy to see that Jacksonville is a musical mecca for those who prefer Buffet Group instruments. While Buffet Group instruments are handmade all over the world, the instruments make a stop in Jacksonville for fine tuning.

The French and the First Coast have merged to make beautiful music together. “We are ingrained in the community – we are not just a French company trying to find its way here. That says a lot about Buffet Group and a lot about Jacksonville,” he adds.

“Jacksonville is a great destination for musicians,” says Kloc. “I think Jacksonville is underrated – There is vibrancy here and the people I’ve met have a passion for what they do.”

“Eighty three percent of the world market for clarinets is from Buffet Crampon, the woodwind brand most associated with Buffet Group,” says Kloc. “We want the best artists playing our horns.”

Most wind musicians prefer Buffet Group wind instruments.

Sound the horns!

Local musician Peter Wright echoes the sentiments of many First Coast seasoned and talented musicians when describing the wonders of a Buffet Group instrument. “I have played Buffet Crampon clarinets for most of my playing years,” says Wright, who teaches the clarinet and is Principal Clarinet in the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra. He switched to another company’s clarinets for two years and says that switching back to a Buffet Crampon clarinet was the smartest thing he has ever done. “Every Buffet Group instrument is finely made – they know what they are doing, everything is well constructed, they provide expert quality work and they treat their musicians incredibly well.”

Buffet Group caters to musicians of all calibers with the same care and precision. “They make several different models all handsome and precisely made – from more affordable student models to professional models,” says Wright, who plays a $6,000 Buffet Crampon Tosca clarinet. “These instruments are my pride and the musicians playing them are my friends,” adds Kloc.

Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra clarinetist Artie Clifton appreciates the orchestral standard that Buffet Group provides. “Buffet instruments have a long, outstanding reputation and a beautiful sound,” says Clifton. “Having the Buffet Group’s headquarters here in Jacksonville is of great benefit to area clarinetists, who can try out the full range of instruments. Exemplary service, repair and support are what the Buffet Group is known for.”

Marci Gurnow played her first Buffet Crampon clarinet her junior year of high school. Now a bass clarinetist for the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, she echoes the others.

“They are the best,” says Gurnow.

UNF professor Boja Kragulj agrees. “I love the quality and robustness of sound of the Buffet Crampon clarinet.”

For Wright, a native Floridian, the love of music came from his mother, a church organist, who introduced her son to both classical and big band music. “I had the best of both worlds,” says Wright. “I heard Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and even the goofy guy with the big glasses on the Lawrence Welk show – all brilliant musicians.”

Wright believes that a musician either chooses the instrument or the instrument chooses the musician; in his case, the clarinet chose him because he got his sister’s hand-me-down. “The clarinet made a good choice,” he says. When, as a young teen, his family moved from Tallahassee to Fernandina Beach one summer, Wright practiced his clarinet all summer because he did not know anyone. “That was a turning point in my life.”

Clearly Buffet Group on the First Coast is a turning point for First Coast arts. Pay a visit to the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra and hear first hand the French handiwork a la Buffet Group.

FRENCH HISTORY IN JACKSONVILLE

By Joanelle Mulrain, member, France-Florida Foundation for the Arts

When the renowned French-based wind instrument company and workshop, The Buffet Group, moved its North American headquarters to Jacksonville, a beautiful pas-de-deux continued between the two communities. While The Buffet Group maintains its French heritage and roots, it also embraces its First Coast connection and the French connection that is already a part of the First Coast heritage.

French History – The Buffet Company

In 1825, Denise Buffet Auger opened a musical instrument workshop in Paris and produced the first model for a 13-key clarinet. His son, Jean-Louise Buffet, married Zoe Crampon, and a brand name for the business was born—Buffet Crampon. Twenty years after the saxophone was invented by Adolphe Sax, Buffet Crampon started making saxophones and in 1889 won awards at the Universal Exposition in Paris. The next year they displayed 220 wood and brass instruments for the first time at the World Exposition.

Buffet Crampon expanded to America in 1918 and continued its reputation as the world’s leading manufacturer of professional quality clarinets. The logo was often spotted on the instruments of the world’s leading orchestras.
Buffet Crampon became a member of the famous Boosey and Hawkes in London and world-class musicians often chose them as their instrument of choice. In 2006, Buffet Crampon became an independent company and acquired Antoine Courtois Paris and Besson.

Buffet Group celebrated a rhapsody of 250 years of expertise in instrument manufacturing with distribution primarily in the U.S., Japan, Germany and China. Buffet Group’s North American Headquarters also opened in Jacksonville.
Synonymous with the most highly sought after wind instruments, Buffet Group represents the highest technical expertise and craftsmanship in the world.

Jacksonville welcomes the Buffet Group

While in Jacksonville, local dignitaries, Buffet Group officers and His Excellency François Delattre, Ambassador of France to the United States, cut the ribbon for their new headquarters. In attendance were Honorable Gael De Maisonneuve, Consul General of France; Honorable Alvin Brown, Mayor of Jacksonville; Honorary Consul François Kloc, CEO of Buffet Group’s North American operations; Antoine Beaussant, President of Buffet Group and Xavier Marin, managing partner and co-founder of Fondations Capital. The new 20-thousand-square-foot warehouse and operations facility was referred to by the Ambassador as a “national champion,” that embodies “the best of France!”

This historic moment was the first time a French Ambassador visited Jacksonville. Afterwards, Ambassador Delattre and General Consul De Maisonneuve were hosted by Superintendant Barbara Goodman at the Fort Caroline Memorial, Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.

French history is actually a hallmark of the First Coast, thanks to former U.S. Congressman Charlie Bennett, who created national legislation to secure 46,000 acres for generations to enjoy the Preserve.

First Coast French Roots

On May 1, 1562, French Huguenot Captain Jean Ribault arrived at the St. Johns River and named her the River of May. He place a large stone incised with three French fleur de lis into the ground and claimed the land as New France. In 2012, Jacksonville commemorated its French history roots with Sesquiquadricentennial (450th) events, such as Ribault’s Mayport landing, French Week, the Downtown mooring of French Navy ships, Jacksonville Historical Society’s and UNF archaeologists’ lectures along with a major painting restoration and installation at the Downtown Public Library of artist Lee Adams’ “Ribault Landing,” featuring the first meeting of Ribault and the Timucuan chief.

The French Ambassador returns in November 2014 for Fort Caroline’s Sesquiquadricentennial commemoration of the first French colony in the United States, where colonists and the indigenous Timucua Indians celebrated the “First Thanksgiving,” on June 30, 1564.

Present Day French Presence

François Kloc leads Buffet Group in Jacksonville. He, his wife, Sheila and their three children live in Jacksonville near the beach – quite a way from Beauvais, France, where at age seven Kloc started playing the oboe and won a national Radio France award. At age 14, he realized his real love was musical instrument production, so he obtained advanced diplomas in oboe and bassoon performance and accepted intensive apprenticeships in Paris, where he learned the art of manufacturing instrument keys.

After serving in the French Infantry 8th Division, Kloc worked as a woodwind and brass instrument technician and oboe final finisher. In 1995, Kloc joined Buffet Group.

Kloc moved to the United States in 1997 and worked as a Woodwind Product Specialist, Director of Marketing, manager of the roster of the performing artists and artist-clinicians and then as a master woodwind technician. He was named Vice President and head of North American operations in 2011. He lectures on Music Business and Instrument Manufacturing History at world-class institutions, including Northwestern University, Eastman School of Music, Boston Conservatory, New England Conservatory and University of Florida. Although he has little time for woodwind adjustment and manufacturing, he still finds time to make acoustical and technical adjustments on clarinets and oboes for members of world-class orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic and Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra.