New information on the Octavin

One of the more unusual instruments in our collections is an octavin. A relatively small instrument, it combines a shape almost like the boot joint of a bassoon, and a single reed like you would find in a saxophone or clarinet. Patented by Oskar Adler and Hermann Jordan in 1893, it never became popular, and is very rarely heard today. While we enjoy displaying our octavin for tours as a wonderful example of instrument innovations, the instrument is a bit of a mystery! It has no date, no maker’s name, and only a card describing it as “Octavin: donated by George N. Huffman in memory of Carl H. Huffman (1901-1970), Band Director at Harvard High School (1929-1956).”

Inspired by this card, we decided to do some digging. Searching for information on George N. Huffman (1933-2006) and his father led to a discovery of the family’s rich musical life. Besides directing band at Harvard high school (Harvard, IL), Carl Huffman performed with a variety of ensembles—including Herbert L. Clarke’s Ango-Canadian Concert Band. He also composed music, and one of his first compositions, “Trumpet Trilogy” (a cornet trio) was performed by the Sousa Band while on tour. Huffman’s father, I.N. Huffman, directed the Knox Glass Associates band, an industrial band, and his son, George Huffman, was also an educator. After teaching at a variety of schools in Illinois and Wisconsin, George settled in Palatine, IL, and taught instrumental music at Winston Park Junior High School for twenty-five years.

We enjoyed learning more about this musically talented family, and hope to explore more about the octavin soon!

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