Roy Hempley has passed

  • The unequaled expert on all things Bach, Roy Hempley, passed away last week after a long illness. I'll post here what I added to the thread at TH:

    The last conversation I had with Roy was one of our rare actual conversations. Those who know me, know I am an email and IM person, but when Roy responded just saying “it’s too hard to deal with the computer, just call me”, I knew things had gotten bad and, of course, switched to the phone.

    When he invited me to join him at the Bach plant in late 2017 to look over all of the new investments Paulson was making with Tedd as our host, he was already struggling and the sense of urgency, as if it might be his last time at the plant he loved, told me what he would shortly after, that the situation was indeed not good.

    Roy was an immense help to me with my research, website and book - and really to all of us. He was our conduit into Conn-Selmer and the now faceless Bach corporation that with Tedd’s retirement and Roy’s illness and now passing, will simply be less open to the community it depends upon. The debt Conn-Selmer owes to Roy for being their connection to the Bach community all these years is something that no company can possibly hope to repay.

    I encourage everyone to read, make notes on, and maybe even save your own cached copy of all of the papers at These papers are the history of Bach. If you want to understand Bach, these are the foundation on which to build. Roy’s engineering precision allowed him to develop an understanding of the technical differences that only Vince himself would have been able to match.

    So long as Conn-Selmer continues to respond to requests for shop cards, Bach owners will keep benefiting from Roy’s dedication to the art and to Bach. Every shop card you have seen with a black background, that is thanks to Roy. It was Roy who spent the countless hours to scan 30,000 shop cards for Conn-Selmer. With his passing, I don’t know if I will ever buy another vintage Bach – I always went to Roy to find out how it was built before I bid. . . (he had his own copy of the data)

    Roy was an engineer – but he was a musician behind that veneer. When the two came together, we all got a music historian with the technical mindset and discipline to both not accept anything as fact without data, and the experience and resources to then go get the data. Roy taught me the three key things every Bach aficionado, and every instrumental historian for that matter, needs to always remember:

    1. Bach was a tinkerer and a perfect blend of engineer and blacksmith. He always was looking to see what would happen if . . . . And there are a lot of horns out there manifesting that curiosity.
    2. Great playing horns are rarely preserved in original condition. Vintage Bachs more often than not have been significantly altered from the original. You cannot draw any firm line in serials or time for any Bach feature, as both Bach, and owners, constantly tinkered.
    3. Should you not fully accept #2, Roy’s great quote I use on my website: “Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, a horn comes along to prove you wrong”.

    I was working on trying to better quantify the significant break-points in Bach’s design with Roy’s help. It is far more difficult than you can imagine as there simply are not break points. Roy was cautious for that reason, but generously provided me with tremendous support even while fighting his illness. At a minimum I will have to follow through on my commitment to rewrite the Bach page on Wikipedia to more accurately reflect that approach rather than factory locations defining periods. (just have to get to it). There simply is no-one else who truly understands the mind of Vincent Bach the way Roy did, and for those of us in the field of instrumental history, his loss is immeasurable. Now we will have to figure it out for ourselves. Roy’s dedication of his experience, skills, considerable funds, and most of all so much time, is something I don’t think we will see matched again soon – and so far beyond what even any maker was ever willing to commit to support its loyal customers.

    Roy’s only reward for dedicating his post-employment life to the legacy of Vincent Bach, and let’s make no mistake, he gave the majority of his retirement hours right up to his final days to that endeavor, was not in any recognition (sorely lacking) from Conn-Selmer, nor in any form of profit (he spent a fortune), nor even in more than passing recognition by fellow enthusiasts. Roy found his reward for his actions in his personal interactions with, often very young, new trumpet players, often with their first hand-me-down Bach, who found joy in better understanding their instrument, or in his help in discovering one that fit them even better. Roy manifested the exact opposite of the selfishness endemic in the American society he has just left.

    Roy was a mentor, a colleague and a friend. I will miss him greatly.

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