With photos of esteemed endorsers including bluegrass mandolinist Jimmy Gaudreau, banjo player Tom Adams and guitarists Ralph Stanley II and Melvin Goins lining its wall, Saga Musical Instruments’ space at Toy Fair looked more like the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) music product trade show.
Then again, the entry level music instruments shown by Saga “aren’t toy instruments at all,” noted the South San Francisco-based company’s marketing/artist relations director David Gartland, adding, “It’s just the pricepoint that makes people think they’re toys.”
That and the fact that some of their student instruments like ukuleles and especially violins are available in various colors.
“Children don’t think classical music is cool,” says Gartland, “but these violins have personality, sparkle and excitement. They’re not toys, but they’re priced like toys.”
If you’re looking for a pre-war Martin guitar sound, for instance, Gartland says that you can spend $30,000 for a vintage Martin, or “a couple thousand” for a Saga guitar that offers comparable sound.
“We’re all musicians, and we make professional level instruments at an every-person price,” he says.
At Toy Fair, Saga was also looking to expand its customer base.
“Buyers here need to know that buying toy instruments is different than buying real instruments,” said Gartland.
As for its traditional music instrument clientele, he noted that “ukes are the boom [instrument] now.”
“You can’t make enough of them!” he said. Also big are Saga’s “Appalachian Pickin’ Packs” bundling together a country or bluegrass instrument with accessories and instructional DVD.
Saga Musical Instruments manufactures numerous brands of stringed instruments including Blueridge and Regal guitars, Kentucky Mandolins, Gold Star banjos and Cremona violins. It also makes ethnic and folk instruments via brands like Trinity College, which makes Irish bodhrans and concertinas; additionally, Saga supplies music instrument accessories product.
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