UNK One-Handed Woodwinds Program

Without music, life would be a mistake. - Friedrich Niezche

The mission of the UNK One-Handed Woodwinds Program is to make one-handed woodwind instruments available to permanently disabled individuals.

The program was inspired by Dr. David Nabb and his continuing success with his Stelling Brass & Winds "toggle-key" saxophone.

Together with Stelling Brass & Winds of Kearney, Dr. Nabb developed a "toggle-key" saxophone that can be played with only one hand. In 2003, his new instrument allowed Dr. Nabb to resume performing and all of his pre-stroke teaching activities.

The University of Nebraska at Kearney One-Handed Woodwinds Program maintains the philosophy that music is a necessary element of the human experience.


David Nabb is a Professor of Music at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Born and raised in Iowa, he holds both a Bachelors of Music and Masters of Music degrees in Multiple Woodwind Performance from Indiana University, and a Ph.D. in Music Education from the University of North Texas.

Since surviving a catastrophic stroke in 2000, Nabb has worked with Jeff Stelling to develop a saxophone that can be played with the right hand only.  Nabb has demonstrated his toggle-key saxophone throughout the world and is often asked to speak and write about music for persons with disabilities. In 2013, David Nabb and Jeff Stelling received the first-ever OHMI/Ars Electronica prize for their work on the toggle-key saxophone at Bruckner Hall in Linz, Austria. Previously, they received awards from VSA, NAMM, and NAPBIRT at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Nabb has written articles on music making for people with disabilities for number of national publications, including Music Educators Journal, Flöte Aktuell, The Flutist Quarterly, The Journal of the American Occupational Therapy Association, and The Journal of Research in Music Education.

Nabb has performed with his toggle-key saxophone at important venues around the world, including the Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C.; Westminster Palace, London; Abbey Road Studios, London; National Theater, Bangkok, Thailand; Bruckner Hall, Linz, Austria; and Colston Hall, Bristol, England.

Nabb's teaching experience include several years as a public school band director and three years as Director of Instrumental Music at Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. He served as Associate Instructor of Saxophone at Indiana University and was selected to be a member of the Teaching Excellency Fellowship Program at the University of North Texas. Many of Dr. Nabb's students have gained state, regional, and national recognition. In 2004, University of Nebraska President L. Dennis Smith named Dr. Nabb one of the University of Nebraska's "New Pioneers." David Nabb is a Yamaha Performing Artist and plays exclusively on Eugene Rousseau saxophone mouthpieces.

Jeff Stelling is the owner of Stelling Brass & Winds, a complete instrument repair and custom horn-building shop in Kearney, Nebraska. He has given numerous presentations and clinics concerning maintenance, repair, and customizing instruments throughout the United States and was recently contracted to evaluate several lines of instruments for an international instrument wholesaler.

Stelling earned a Bachelors Degree in Music Business from the University of Nebraska at Kearney in 1993 and completed an apprenticeship with an Allied repair technician following graduation. Stellig lives in Kearney, Nebraska, with his wife Kandi, and daughters Mariah and Cassidy. He enjoys playing trombone in a number of musical groups.

The concept of a "toggle-key" system for woodwinds was developed from 2000 to 2003 by Stelling Brass & Winds and Dr. David Nabb. The toggle-keys allow the entire instrument to be played using only one hand.

Learn more about the "toggle-key" system.

Jeff Stelling is currently converting a saxophone to the toggle-key system for Michael McNamara.

Michael McNamara began playing saxophone at the age of 10. He began private lessons and playing in school bands throughout middle and high school. Mike was the featured saxophone player in the jazz band and wind ensemble under the direction of Marc Kaplan. McNamara undertook music studies at Providence College in Rhode Island and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education with a K-12 certification in music. Studying under Dr. Chris Kelton and Dr. Jennifer Bill, Michael was awarded the college's Rev. Leo W. Canon Award for Excellent Musicianship in 2008.

On graduation weekend, Michael was diagnosed with medulobalstoma, a brain tumor typically found in children. After surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, Michael has diligently fought his way back to health and music. McNamara returned to playing saxophone in 2014 with a Bundy II saxophone adapted to a right-handed toggle-key mechanism by Stelling Brass & Winds. He is renting the Bundy from the UNK One-Handed Woodwinds Program while his own adapted toggle-key system saxophone is in production.

Renee Weintein (above right) played a one-handed toggle-key saxophone from 2010 to 2014. This is the same horn that was formerly played by Kyungsun Orr. Renee, age 14, experienced a complete avulsion, or tearing, of her left brachial plexus nerves in 2008 when learning to ski for the first time with the Girl Scouts. She suffered many injuries, but the brachial plexus injury has remained and caused a flaccid paralysis of her left arm. Her left arm, hand, and fingers are unable to move. Her sensation ends close to her left elbow. Many nerve grafts have been attempted in the last two years but all have been unsuccessful. Thankfully she is right hand dominant.

Prior to the accident Renee played the piano and clarinet. She excelled at the clarinet and as a 6th grader (after just one year on the instrument) was placed first seat in the Fairport Martha Brown Concert Band amongst many upper classmen (the school houses students from 6th-8th grade). This award-winning band is extremely competitive and entry is allowed only after audition. She received perfect scores on her New York State Music Association (NYSSMA) solos. After the accident, she missed her arm and fingers terribly and really wished she could play the clarinet again.  But, there were no options available for a one handed person to continue with the instrument.

Kyungsun Orr (below right) lost his left arm in an airplane accident in 2002, when he was 14. Previous to his accident, Kyungsun had been an avid saxophone player. With the toggle-key saxophone he leased from the program from 2003-2010 he was able to once again play the saxophone. Throughout high school and in college, he participated in symphonic band. In addition to his involvement in school bands, he often played for friends and family, even giving a solo at his own wedding in the summer of 2008.

Below is a video of Dr. Nabb playing Bernhard Heiden's Diversion.

 

VSA Nebraska is a state-wide organization dedicated to supporting arts in the lives of people with disabilities.

Below is a video featuring a euphonium with valves operated by solenoids and controlled by a joystick built by Robin Amend and Andrew Coleman.

One Handed Musical Instrument Trust.The world's most comprehensive clearinghouse for information on one handed musical instruments.

Click here for a link to learn about one-handed recorders!

To learn about Edit van der Burg Mayer's one-handed flute, click here!

"Another Way to Play" is a great website for further research about "instrument adaptations for musicians who play differently."

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The following news stories highlight the UNK One-Handed Woodwinds Program:

Saxophone Magazine featuring One handed Wind Instruments

The July - August 2011 issue of the Journal of the National Association of the Professional Band Instrument Repair Technicians featured a cover photo and article about the toggle-key saxophone:

Napbirt Technicom Magazine


Other Articles:

Halftime Magazine - November/December 2008

Lincoln Journal Star - August 18, 2013

Individuals and/or institutions interested in supporting the program should click here. This takes you to our University Foundation.

Use the "search for a specific fund" blank that comes up to search for "UNK one-handed woodwinds"

THANK YOU!!!

If you would like to speak to a Foundation representative, contact:

Rich Brodersen
308-698-5274 direct
800-432-3216 toll free
rich.brodersen@nufoundation.org

Stephanie Kaczor
308-698-5282 direct
800-432-3216 toll free
stephanie.Kaczor@nufoundation.org

If you are interested in playing a one-handed woodwind instrument, send an email to Dr. Nabb (at nabbd@unk.edu) and include the following information:

  • Name

  • Email Address

  • Instrument Requested (Example:  If your left hand is able-bodied and you would like to play alto saxophone, enter "Left-handed alto saxophone")

  • Nature of impairment (examples:  left side hemiplegia, right upper limb loss)

  • Precipitating cause of your impairment (examples:  stroke, auto accident)

The following have supported the UNK One-Handed Woodwinds Program:










If you would like to support the UNK One-Handed Woodwinds Program, please see "Make a Donation."