Marching Southerners

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History of the 20J at JSU...

The Conn 20J Upright Recording Bass was the Conn Musical Instrument Company's answer to the perfect tuba in the mid-20th century. A concert instrument by design, the 20J produces a deep, sonorous tone. The bore size (diameter of the tubing) is larger than all others tubas created at the time. The horn has thick silver plating, making it not only heavy and cumbersome, but also strong, durable and resonant.

The 20J has three upright valves and a 24-inch recording style bell. They weigh approximately 52 lbs. each. We also have in our possession two 24J's. They have an added fourth valve (for those beasts who love to take everything down an octave). These horns weigh about 60lbs each...try lugging that around the field for 10 minutes!

The history of the 20J at JSU goes back to the founder of the Marching Southerners Dr. John T. Finley, who bought the first several 20J's in the mid-1950's along with many other large bored brass instruments as part of his goal to create a unique sound, which today has become the cornerstone of an icon. Dr. David Walters, Director of Bands Emeritus, and Mr. Kenneth G. Bodiford (a 20J alumnus) continued this vision collecting horns whenever possible throughout the 1960's, 70's, 80's and 90's. The newest addition to our stock was bought by the band in 2010. It has taken over 45 years to collect all the 20J's that we have today.

The school currently owns 32 horns. Luckily, almost all are in working condition. The test of time has proven the durability of these horns and they are a testament to the outstanding craftsmanship of the Conn instrument makers. As old as they are, they are in amazing condition. That does not stop us from having to constantly maintain them however. Since production of the 20J's halted in the 1950's, parts are scarce at best. We are forced to make do with what we can. Occasionally, a support brace will need re-soldering, or a valve will need readjusting, but the horns hold up wonderfully for their age. They truly don't make 'em like they used to!

Beginning in January of 2002 the University and state government aided the Southerners financially to have the Southeastern Music Company of Huntsville Alabama dismantle, stripe, repair and re-plate the 20J's. Approximately 8 horns were sent at a time, and the project was completed by the summer of 2004.


Who was C.G. Conn?

Col. Charles Gerard Conn was a respected musician when he came to Elkhart, Indiana, and opened a band instrument manufacturing business in 1875 after serving as a soldier in the U.S. Civil War. His legacy lives on today as Conn instruments are the best recognized and the oldest continuously produced brass instrument in the United States. Today, Conn is again the leader in innovation. With new professional model saxophones, trumpets, trombones, horns and low brass its no wonder that today's leading musicians look to Conn.

The name "20J" is simply the model of the instrument. Each instrument produced by the Conn Co. is designated a letter. The recording bass (tuba) was labeled with the letter "J." The "20" refers to a more specific horn. 20J's are bellfront, while 21J's are basses with upright bells. 24J's have the extra 4th valve, and are bellfront, while 25J's have four valves and an upright bell.


C.G. Conn

The full history of C.G. Conn.