How did you get started making ocarinas as a business?
Well, let’s see… Growing up, I wasn’t familiar with ocarinas. In fact, until about 9 years ago, I’d never heard of one. I did love music, though, and as a kid I played the saxophone and a little blues harmonica. When I went away to college, my saxophone stayed behind, and I just never picked it up again.
As an adult, I started missing instrumental music, so over time I dabbled a bit in the tinwhistle, the recorder, I played the harmonica kind of seriously for maybe a year or so. But, for whatever reason, I didn’t stick with those instruments.
Then one day I was visiting Boston with my family –we had gone to the Children’s Science Museum-- and on the way back to our car there was this, uh, street vender, a Honduran guy, with his colorful blanket spread out on the sidewalk. So I stopped to talk to him, and he had these little clay things that I’d never seen before. He told me they were ocarinas, little flutes, and I was instantly smitten with the idea of a pocket-sized flute. I thought, "Wow! This is the instrument I've been looking for! A flute I can fit in my pocket and play anytime."
To me, it’s kind of like with my Palm Pilot. I use it because I carry it with me, and I thought, "Wow, it’ll be that same way with the ocarina." Well, sure enough, I really took to the ocarina even though that first one was so poorly made that I couldn’t even play a scale on it. But it got me started searching for a really good ocarina, and I eventually found some nice ones. I guess my disappointment, though, with the best one’s I could find was that they needed a little more range or a more fluid fingering pattern, and in general, they needed more sound because I wanted an instrument that I could play with other musicians.
I mean, here was the instrument that I wanted to, in a sense, dedicate myself to musically, but I felt like I wanted a really good one. So, I went through a period there of dreaming about making my own. I remember my wife saw me out in the barn one time just staring at a piece of wood with a far off look in my eyes, and she said, "Honey, what's up?" And I said, "Well, I was just thinking about how I could make an ocarina out of this piece of wood."
| It's been quite amazing and inspiring to see the tireless dedication over the years that Karl has worked to develop a superb ocarina for his clients. Off the record... Karl is a bit of a tempered perfectionist, which has contributed to his tireless dedication to developing such an amazing ocarina and furthering ocarina science. |
My chance to start prototyping came when I was I was taking some time off teaching Bilingual Ed. and Spanish to finish a Master's thesis. Actually, when I first started prototyping, my thought was to make just one really good ocarina for myself, but as I got more into it and saw what a complex task it was, what an exciting task, it kind of took over, and it wasn’t too very long before I started thinking about doing it full time. Sometime around New Year’s of 1996 was when my wife and I had a conference and decided we would give ocarina making a try.