Our story begins with Eugene Van Doren, a celebrated clarinetist with the Paris Opera during the Belle Epoque at the end of the 19th century. While all clarinetists made their own reeds at this time, Eugene’s reeds played so well that his colleagues asked him to make reeds for them. To save time, Eugene devised an ingenious reed-making machine, fashioned on a sewing machine-like foot treadle. Outgrowing the dining room of his home on rue André del Sarte, the business moved in 1905 (the year his son was born) to 51 rue Lepic.

Eugene’s son, Robert, also a clarinetist, embarked on a United States tour in 1928 after graduating from the Paris Conservatoire. Among the first French clarinetists to perform in New York City’s Radio City Music Hall, audiences and critics praised the beauty of Robert’s tone. During his tour American musicians discovered Vandoren reeds and their popularity skyrocketed. By 1935, the business had grown to the point that Robert left a promising concert career to manage the business, moving to their current address of 56 rue Lepic. About this time Robert introduced a mouthpiece he developed, the 5RV, still one of their most popular models.

Vandoren became a third-generation family business in 1967 when Robert’s son, Bernard, joined the firm. Bernard’s passion led him to develop a new line of mouthpieces that included the now famous B45. Blessed with his grandfather’s mechanical genius, Bernard capitalized on new manufacturing technologies that consistently produced mouthpieces to tolerances of less than one hundredth of a millimeter while increasing output tenfold – making the highest quality professional mouthpieces accessible to amateurs and students.

In 1990, manufacturing was transfered from Montmartre to Bormes-les-Mimosas in southern France, near the reed beds. Today the 56 rue Lepic address houses Bernard Vandoren’s office and provides facilities for visiting musicians to test mouthpieces and reeds, and practice and purchase specialty clarinet and saxophone music.




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