winter 2016 the trombonist
Rath turns 20 by Jane Salmon
The iconic capital letter ‘R’ has become a symbol of great craftsmanship among the trombone world thanks to Michael Rath; the man behind Britain’s only trombone manufacturer. Michael’s journey began at his childhood home in Windsor, in the garden shed that he and his father built together. It was here that he developed his skills, built his tools and began his career repairing instruments on a freelance basis. After leaving school, Michael served an apprenticeship for 10 years with the Paxman French Horn Company, where he further established himself as a fine instrument repairer. In 1990 he moved North and set up shop in Bradford where his highly skilled repairs and coincidental network of trombone playing friends quickly earned him a reputation as a specialist in trombones. An invitation then followed from a friend and leading British artist, Mark Nightingale who asked Michael when he was going to make his own trombones. After many designs and a lot of trial and error, the first ever Rath went into production in 1996 and Mark Nightingale became the first ever customer of Rath trombones. Word quickly spread and tenor trombones went in to steady production. Michael, with fellow technicians Andy Hutchinson and Adrian Davison began to develop the full trombone line up that is so popular today; the small bore jazz models, symphonic instruments, bass, contrabass and alto models. Sadly, in 16
2006 the company lost Adrian Davison, their highly respected slide specialist, in a motorcycle accident. Today, the Rath shop and factory is proudly based in Honley, Huddersfield and is home to a small team of technicians that Michael has built up and mostly trained himself. Rath’s excellent reputation is now represented across the world, and in 2015 their success was highlighted when the site was selected for a royal visit by Princess Anne.
piece Soul Tubes. A sterling line up that echoed the high quality of his own work. The British Trombone Society are delighted to have heard from so many musicians who are all keen to pass on their congratulations and thanks to Mick and his team at Michael Rath Trombones. “I first got to know Michael Rath around 1994 whilst a student at Leeds College of Music and became aware of his intention and relationship with Mark Nightingale in developing the R1.
From day one, the company has existed to offer players bespoke instruments as well as providing top quality repairs and customisation. Once a tuba player himself, Michael has a wonderful understanding of the needs of a musician, each artist’s individuality plus the technical understanding to make everything work. He is a true specialist.
Upon graduating in 1997 I part exchanged my trusty Bach 16LTM to start my professional career with a hand made R1 Rath Trombone! At that time there was only a small handful of trombonists playing them so there was always a lot of interest in the instrument whilst I was working in the USA and Europe.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the company and the Rath story continues to develop. The line of instruments now includes popular student models, developed in partnership with John Packer and Rath’s entire range of instruments continues to be sought after worldwide. To celebrate this 20-year milestone, an Anniversary edition is in production and is set for release later this year as an addition to the Pro Series.
Twenty years on, continuing a busy playing schedule and now a lecturer at Leeds College of Music I still continue to have a great relationship with Michael. I now play on his latest addition models, the R12 and R3F. Throughout the past twenty years I have seen his profile go global, and rightly so, his integrity and passion in producing a consistently high quality trombone has never changed.” - Kevin Holbrough
In August, Michael held his own celebrations, which included an evening of entertainment from various Rath artists including Dennis Rollins’ and his Velocity trio and the fantastic five-
“I’ve had my R4 for over 5 years now. Still feels like new and still blows like a dream. Best trombone I have ever played.” - Kevin Morgan, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra