UNK One-Handed Woodwinds Program


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

The mission of the UNK (University of Nebraska at Kearney) One-Handed Woodwinds Program is to make one-handed woodwind instruments available to permanently disabled individuals.

The UNK One-Handed Woodwinds Program was created in 2001, when David Nabb returned to university teaching with a Bundy Prototype Toggle-Key saxophone built by Jeff Stelling. David Nabb used this saxophone until his current instrument (a Yamaha YAS 875) had been converted to the Toggle-key mechanism in 2003.

David Nabb and Jeff Stelling receive the first ever OHMi prize from Emma Pramm
David Nabb and Jeff Stelling receive the first ever OHMI prize


David NabbDavid Nabb is a member of the inaugural North American Saxophone Alliance DEIBA Committee, and is Professor of Music at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Born and raised in Iowa, he holds both B.M. and M.M. degrees in Multiple Woodwind Performance from Indiana University, and Ph.D. in Music Education from the University of North Texas.

Since surviving a catastrophic stroke 2000, David has worked with Jeff Stelling to develop a professional saxophone that can be played with the right hand only. 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. In 2011, they received awards from VSA, NAMM and NAPBIRT at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. More recently, Dr. Nabb was selected via a worldwide casting call to be featured in the cast and the musical soundtrack for BBC's 2016 Paralympics television commercial "We're the Superhumans." This video had more than 50 million views online, and won dozens of international awards, including Grand Prix at the 2017 Cannes Lions Festival.

Nabb has written articles on music making for people with disabilities for many national and international publications, including Teaching MusicMusic Educators Journal,  Medical Problems of Performing ArtistsFlöte AktuellThe Flutist QuarterlyThe Journal of the American Occupational Therapy Association, and The Journal of Research in Music Education.

Video of Nabb’s saxophone performance of Blue Caprice has been selected to go on permanent exhibition at the Museum of the Royal College of Music directly across from Royal Albert Hall in  London, England beginning summer 2020.

David Nabb is a Yamaha Performing Artist, and plays exclusively on Eugene Rousseau saxophone mouthpieces.

Jeff Stelling

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. Stelling 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.

toggle key system

In 2020-22, Dr. Robert Gross composed his Concerto 2022 for Saxophone and Orchestra and dedicated it to David Nabb. Dr. Nabb is now learning this major new work, and will premiere the concerto in the Fall 2023 with the Orchestra Amadeus in New York City.

Robert Gross
Robert Gross

Dr. Robert Gross received his DMA in music composition at University of Southern California where he also received a graduate certificate in Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television, and was the first person to complete two graduate-level programs in music at USC simultaneously.  He also received an MA in Music for Film, Television and Theatre from the University of Bristol in England; an MM in Music Composition from Rice University; and a BM in Music Composition from Oberlin Conservatory.  He has taught graduate and undergraduate level music theory at Rice University, and is currently a graduate student in music therapy at Texas Woman’s University.  He was half of Blind Labyrinth with the late Kenneth Downey, an experimental electroacoustic music duo, whose CD Blasted Light was released on the Beauport Classical label in 2014.  He has presented papers at the national Society for Music Theory conference, the Texas Society for Music Theory Conference, the West Coast Conference of Music Theory and Analysis, and both national and regional chapters of Society of Composers, Inc, and at the international One-Handed Musical Instrument Trust Conference and Awards.  His post-tonal analyses have been published in Perspectives of New Music and Journal of Schenkerian Studies, and his music therapy analyses published in Qualitative Inquiries in Music Therapy.  Awards and honors include winner of University of Georgia Arch Composition Award for Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments; special recognition award, First Music Competition, New York Youth Symphony; winner of tri-annual Inter-American Music Awards Composition Competition, with publication of winning piece by C. F. Peters; twice Margaret Jory Grant from American Music Center; ASCAP Grants to Young Composers Honorable Mention; orchestra work Halcyon Nights chosen for Whitaker New Music Readings by American Composers Orchestra; twice ASCAP Victor Herbert Award winner; twice ASCAP Grants to Young Composers Finalist.

Beginning in 2003, the program has leased the Bundy TKS Prototype saxophone to a series of musicians with disabilities, including Kyungsun Orr (amputee), Renee Weinstein (left arm paralysis from brachial plexus injury), Michael McNamara (brain tumor), 2018-2021, Tony Lo (spinal cord injury), and beginning in Fall 2022, Claire Bahensky (brachial plexus injury).”

Kyungsun Orr
Kyungsun Orr
Renee Weinstein
Renee Weinstein
Mike McNamara
Mike McNamara
Tony Lo
Tony Lo
Claire Bahensky
Claire Bahensky

Below is a video of Dr. Nabb's TEDx talk in Lincoln.

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

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.

Learn about one-handed recorders!

Learn about Edit van der Burg Mayer's one-handed flute!

Another Way to Play is a blog dedicated to information about adaptive technologies and techniques for music making for people with disabilities.

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

UNK News:

The Gift of Music: Lincoln girl receives one-handed saxophone through UNK programclaire-bahensky-2.jpg


Teaching Music October 2021

image of a magazine page showcasing the One Handed Woodwinds program

Saxophone Magazine featuring One handed Wind Instruments

Without Music my life was meaningless. So I found my rhythm again.


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

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

Stelling Brass Color Logo

ER Logo

yamaha logo

unk logo

Yandas Logo

vocational rehabilitation nebraska department of education

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

Upcoming Events

Date Event Location

February 3, 2023


Gainsville, Florida, University of Florida School of Music Creative Professional Lecture Series

February 17-19, 2023

North American Saxophone Alliance Region 9 Conference

University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada

March 30 - April 2, 2023

North American Saxophone Alliance Biennial Conference

The University of Southern Mississippi

October 7, 2023

World premiere of Saxophone Concerto 2022 by Robert Gross

New York City with Orchestra Amadeus