The Other Side of the Bell – A Trumpet Podcast; Episode #29: Tom Crown

Episode #29 — Tom Crown

Tom Crown - trumpet podcast logo
Welcome to the show notes for Episode #29 of The Other Side of the Bell – A Trumpet Podcast. This episode features Tom Crown, owner and founder of Tom Crown Mute Co. and trumpeter with the Chicago Lyric Opera for 30 Years.

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About Tom Crown

Tom and Donna Crown. Photo courtesy of Tom Crown Mute Co.
Tom and Donna Crown. Photo courtesy of Tom Crown Mute Co.


Tom Crown started playing trumpet at a young age. His teachers include Renold Schilke, Adolph “Bud” Herseth, and Arnold Jacobs.

While in high school, Tom auditioned and won a chair in the Chicago Civic Orchestra, the training orchestra for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Tom graduated from Roosevelt University-Chicago Musical College with a Bachelor and Master’s degree in music education.

Tom Crown’s professional experience includes positions with the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra, Chicago’s WGN Radio TV (as first trumpet replacing Eldon Benge), the Boston Pops under Arthur Fiedler, and the Chicago Lyric Opera for 30 years.

A small selection of Tom Crown mutes for various brass instruments.
A small selection of Tom Crown mutes for various brass instruments. Photo courtesy of Tom Crown Mute Co.

In 1969, inspired by a mute that Adolph Herseth used on the D trumpet, Tom Crown started producing mutes, with an original production of 10 mutes. With help and feedback from friends in the Lyric Opera Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, he developed other trumpet mutes, piccolo trumpet mutes,  tenor and bass trombone mutes and a French horn mute.

The Tom Crown Mute Co. now has three co-workers, William Camp, Chitaka Nishikiori and Gene Arnold, all  professional trumpet players.

Tom Crown’s Addendum to the Interview

My Army service was at the end of the Korean, not the Viet Nam war. I should have mentioned Vincent Cichowicz, who was my best friend when I was taking lessons from Renold Schilke. He was a Schilke student also. With his brother Walter we worked on orchestral excepts as a section, every week. In the fall of 1951 Vince and I were the two finalists for the 4th trumpet opening in the CSO. I thought I played well at the audition, Adolph Herseth and Rafael Kubelik presiding, but Vince obviously did better and got the job. I was not sorry as he was a good friend and I thought he would do better than I would have. I was right. He had an illustrious career as a player and teacher.

At Grant Park in 1952 we played a series of concerts with Arthur Fiedler. I was playing 1st trumpet and must have made a good impression as Fiedler’s contractor called me to join the Boston Pops for a ten week tour in spring 1953. We played 69 concerts in 70 days, traveling by bus. It seemed like fun to play a concert every night and leave the next morning to play somewhere else. Looking back, it could not have been that much fun.

Because of choosing to go on this tour I lost my college deferment. I was then just staring at Northwestern U., in a master of music education program.This led to me being drafted in the fall of 1953.
Skipping ahead, when we started the Tom Crown mute co., in 1968, my wife Donna was very intensely involved. She packed mutes and delivered them to many customers, including our distributor, Leblanc Co. in Kenosha Wisconsin. She did all the paper work, payroll, taxes,correspondence etc. Thanks Donna. I couldn’t have done it without you. During this time I continued at WGN. I also played a 14 week run of West Side story, playing the D trumpet part. There was a tour with the CSO and occasional extra work with the orchestra.

In 1974 I went to Berlin Germany for a year long exchange with trumpeter Arno Lange of the Deutsche Oper. He played at the Lyric Opera in Chicago and taught at Roosevelt U., I played in the opera orchestra in Berlin.. Needless to say it was a gamut of experiences. Learning the language, playing music I didn’t know and often had not even heard of, sometimes without rehearsal. At the end of this year I went on tour with the Berlin Chamber Orchestra, playing the Bach B minor Mass. We played in Berlin, Paris, and Vézelay, France. The other two trumpets were Carole Reinhart and her husband Mannfred Stopacher, lifelong friends since then.

The mute business has continued to do well. We are, I guess, ubiquitous. We sell about 15,000 mutes a year in the US, Europe and Japan. Our distributor in the US is now Conn-Selmer and overseas we are our own distributor. I speak several foreign languages, Spanish, Italian, German and French and this has been a tremendous help with customers . I am 86 this year and Donna is 88, so we are gradually becoming less involved. Bill Camp is now president of the company and will continue running things.

Tom Crown Trumpet Links

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