You are here

National Music Museum 'celebrates the Saxes' with world-class summer exhibition


Vermillion, South Dakota  – The National Music Museum (NMM) in Vermillion, South Dakota, is joining the worldwide celebration of the 200th birthday of the great Belgian musical-instrument inventor Adolphe Sax (1814-1894), with a limited-time exhibition of some of the finest Sax instruments (made by his hand or in his workshop). Sax, who invented far more than his famous namesake saxophone, made an indelible impact on almost all modern musical genres with his creations. “Celebrating the Saxes” opens at the National Music Museum on Friday, May 23, and closes after Labor Day, September 2, 2014.

This privileged look into the NMM’s Adolphe Sax collection would be a draw alone. But the Museum’s world-class instrument holdings extend also to the other brilliant craftsmen of the Sax family: Adolphe’s father, Charles-Joseph (1790-1865) and Adolphe’s son, Adolphe-Edouard (1859-1945). Says NMM curator Deborah Check Reeves: "The NMM’s exhibit is 'everything you wanted to know about Sax (but were afraid to ask). It’s got major 'sax appeal.’ It's a battle of the Saxes."

Museum visitors will see Adolphe Sax’s popular saxhorn and the short-lived saxotromba, as well as masterworks like his soprano ophicleide, a grand-parade trumpet,a valve trombone in B-flat with six independent valves, a trumpet in F with six independent valves, and a petit saxhorn (soprano flugelhorn).

One of the highlights of the NMM’s permanent collections is an Adolphe Sax bass saxophone — one of only five bass saxophones that the master made and which was part of his personal collection.
“Celebrating the Saxes” will chronicle the feats and fortunes of the Sax family. When Antoine-Joseph, “Adolphe,” was still quite young, he began accompanying his father, Charles-Joseph, to his instrument workshop in Brussels. NMM visitors will see a cornet à pistons and a keyed bugle in B-flat by Charles-Joseph.

By 24, Adolphe Sax had patented a new design for the bass clarinet. By 29, he had opened his own workshop in Paris and was engineering instruments that would bring him broad acclaim. But renown and success were accompanied by controversy, rival lawsuits and patent challenges. In spite of his achievements, Sax died bankrupt and destitute.

Adolphe’s youngest son, Adolphe-Edouard carried on the musical legacy and took over his father’s workshop. Visitors to the NMM exhibition will see a soprano saxophone and a flugelhorn (contralto saxhorn) by Adolphe-Edouard. In 1928, the Sax dynasty came to an end with the sale of Adolphe-Edouard’s business to Henri Selmer.

Visitors to “Celebrating the Saxes” can take advantage of the National Music Museum’s extended summer hours. From May through August, the NMM is open Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays from 9:00am to 5:00pm; Thursdays and Fridays, 9:00am to 8:00pm; and Sundays, 1:00-5:00pm. The Museum is located in Vermillion, on the campus of the University of South Dakota. Admission is free on Fridays. More information at


Patricia Bornhofen
Manager of Communications
Phone: 605-677-3971