Hi Group, I too would like to say how much I enjoyed the AMICA
Convention in Chicago. I got to meet in person MMD members I had only
known through emails and others that I had done business with but had
never met. I got see those I knew but had not seen for about 20 years.
I thought that some of you who are now wondering if you should have
attended might like to hear some of what you missed. Here is an
outline of the activities.
Wednesday: A welcoming breakfast was provided before boarding busses
for tours to the Krughoff's or the Museum of Science and Industry.
I attended the tour of the Krughoff Collection. The group was divided
with half going to house and half to the music room. We were provided
with a program listing the instruments and the pieces to be played.
Each instrument was described and then played. The groups rejoined for
a delicious lunch and then traded places.
I was able to hear instruments I had only read about in books or seen
in videos and some instruments I had never seen before. This was my
first "Wow!" I used up half of the video cassettes I brought with me.
That evening we were treated to a piano concert by Nathan Bello.
He introduced "Windy City Blues", the tune he had composed and played
to become the convention souvenir piano roll. In addition to his
compositions he played 26 other transcriptions of great unknown jazz
piano roll artists. We received a copy of the souvenir piano roll at
the end of the concert.
Thursday: Busses loaded for tours to the Krughoff's or the "3 in 1"
tour, which was a tour of the Choffnes Collection, Schaff Piano Supply
Company, and the Volo Auto Museum. The group was divided into three
buses, one going to each site. At lunch time we were provided a nice
box lunch. Following lunch Al Choffnes gave a tour of the collection
tracing the development of the music box from a variety of small snuff
boxes to larger and specialty (pianoforte) cylinder boxes and then to
disc boxes. Among the disc boxes were ones that used discs with and
without projections and disc shifters for longer play or multiple tunes
on the disc.
At Schaff Piano Supply we were given a tour of the warehouse facility
and then we got to see how strings were wound and the hundreds of scale
sticks that hey have on file. The string winding machines are driven
from an overhead shaft with large leather belts. The only thing
missing was a steam engine driving the shaft.
The Volo Auto Museum consisted of five showrooms with some 300 cars
on display, 25 of which were movie and TV cars, many autographed by
That evening was the Foot Pumper Contest. There were 12 contestants,
including Larry Norman in a complete Indian outfit! It was a close
contest. I had narrowed it down to three and the judges had narrowed
it to two and after a lengthy discussion selected a winner of the
Golden Footsie Award. Following the contest was an ice cream social.
Friday: We had a choice of nine workshops. No matter how I tried
I could not attend all that I wanted to. I was able to attend "Valve
Construction and Special Tools" by Bennett Leedy, "Archival Preservation
of Music Roll Content" by Terry Smythe, "Saving the Musical Heritage"
by Jack Breen, and "Working and Playing With Music in Electronic
Formats" by Spencer Chase. Fortunately for me, Robert W. Taylor had
a DVD of most of his presentation "Getting to Know the Aeolian Pipe
Organ" for sale. I got to see it on the plane ride home.
After lunch the Mart was opened for the afternoon. A wide variety of
items were available for purchase. Following the mart we had a New
York Deli Buffet. After dinner we were treated a presentation of Ron
Bopp's "A Musical History of Patriotic Music." The music was played on
a variety of band and dance organs which were listed in a program with
pictures. This was a large screen Power Point presentation. Following
the presentation we were given our convention favor. It is beautifully
cast and hand painted Nipper Victor Dog with a piano roll around his
neck that says "2006 Chicago AMICA." All 300 were hand crafted by one
couple in the sponsoring chapter.
Saturday: Started with a breakfast buffet followed by the Annual
Meeting. A full color flyer promoting the 2008 AMICA Convention in
Southern California was at every seat. Activities listed include the
Gene Autry Museum, La Brea Tar Pits, the Nethercutt Collection, and
the Nix Collection.
We then boarded busses for the Sanfilippo Collection. We toured the
main residence and theater. Three levels with instruments placed
everywhere. It is almost like having the "Encyclopedia of Mechanical
Music" come to life in front of your eyes. After the morning in the
house we walked to the Carousel building which features the Eden Palais
I had seen pictures of it but nothing had prepared me for its actual
size. They should have had a Disney style camera to photograph peoples
faces as they enter the building to have caught my mouth dropping as
I entered. We were allowed to ride it. Another "Wow!" The rows of
horses race each other. You surge ahead and then fall back. There
were coach-like chariots that rocked back and forth and units like
teacups that spun in a circle. We had lunch here while many different
band, dance and fairground organs played.
This building also contained an 1881 steam locomotive with coach cars
and a caboose. On the other side of the train is a completely restored
steam driven antique power plant and many other steam engines. After
touring this building we returned to the main residence to the theater
which features a 5-manual 80-rank Wurlitzer pipe organ for a concert by
Jelani Eddington. That evening was the closing banquet featuring the
"West End Jazz Band."
Sunday: Featured four local collections as open houses. A slide
presentation was given on the AMICA 2007 tour/convention to be held in
Germany and Holland. Registration is limited to 100.
If you haven't guessed I had a great time and had a chance to see and
hear instruments I may never see again. Thanks to all in Chicago who
worked to make the convention possible.
Jack M. Conway, Los Angeles, California, USA