By Louise Lee
Craftsman Jeff Meyer remembers the order well: The customer, a harpist, wanted a wood music stand designed and finished to match her harp. The request sent the owner of Cedarmont Woodworking scurrying, studying photos of the harp and contacting the instrument’s maker to learn more about its color and finish. After some back-and-forth with the maker and the client, Meyer produced the stand, which had a fluted shaft with a bronze-and-black finish matching the harp’s pillar. Although he was nervous as he shipped off the stand, the client loved it, Meyer recalls.
Not all requests are as involved as the harpist’s, but Meyer, whose workshop is in Franklin, Tennessee, takes pains to create each to order. “I’m not mass-producing stands,” says Meyer, who is 51 years old and makes each stand himself.
“I’m super-picky about curves. They have to be smooth and flowing.”
Wood music stands are a niche product, used both to hold scores, pencils, and metronomes during practice and to serve as decorative pieces. Weighing between 15 and 20 pounds, most wood stands are too heavy and bulky to take to concerts and gigs, and so tend to stay put in the studio or living room.
Music stands are a competitive business. Folding stands, available in a rainbow of colors, sell for just $20 or less, and sturdy black aluminum-and-steel models cost $20 to $40. Wood stands are also readily available; Florida-based online seller Handcrafted World Instruments offers a range of stands made of rosewood, from the $179 “Roosebeck” stand to the “EMS King Albert” double stand for $419.
Other vendors plug customized wood stands. Mister Standman Music Stands, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, uses a laser to engrave initials, dates, or images such as musical or religious symbols onto its stands. And, of course, Amazon offers wood stands from a wide range of suppliers.
Inspired in part by stands and other furniture he has seen for sale by art dealers, Meyer created all of the eight designs offered on the Cedarmont website. The “George II Classic” features a scrolled desk reminiscent of styles from the early-18th-century Queen Anne period. The “Gaillard” model was inspired by the early-20th-century French furniture designer Eugène Gaillard. Other Cedarmont models include the “Regency” and the “Tiger Tulip,” named for the flower. “I’m super-picky about curves,” Meyer says. “They have to be smooth and flowing.”
From a functional standpoint, a good music stand, Meyer says, must be sturdy and keep the shaft at a stable height no matter the weight of the score on the desk. He uses brass hardware with a spring-loaded mechanism to lock in the height of the shaft and angle of the desk—a system that, he says, won’t wear out. Structurally, a wood stand needs to be solid but not clunky and incorporate materials that last. Meyer sources his wood, including walnut, cherry, and maple, from lumberyards near his workshop.
Woodworking is a second career for Meyer, who was formerly a professional French horn player. Winning his first job at age 19, Meyer spent years in professional orchestras, subbing in the St. Louis Symphony, playing with ensembles in Florida and Mexico and coming close to landing a spot in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Later, facing burnout, Meyer wanted a change. As a birthday gift for his wife, a violinist, he ordered a wood music stand. When he opened it, he thought, “I can do better than this.” He says he thought the base of the stand was clunky and the finish could have been prettier.
Meyer had never taken shop class in high school, but as the son of a band teacher who was also a union carpenter, he already had some exposure to woodworking. He started reading about the craft, and after moving to Tennessee, learned woodworking from a local master craftsman. “He did period furniture, and I translated it into stands,” he says.
Meyer set up shop on the property outside his home, purchasing an array of saws, sanders, lathes, and other equipment. He designed a spring-loaded mechanism and a way to detach the base of a stand for transport and shipping. Working alone, Meyer needs anywhere from two to eight weeks to complete a stand.
Working with a natural material carries challenges. Wood is full of irregularities, such as unexpected knots that make a piece unusable. Making wood stands is intense, painstaking work; small mistakes in cutting or sanding a piece can force Meyer to start over. “You really have to keep your wits about you from beginning to end,” he says.
This article originally appeared in the April 2018 issue of Strings magazine.