This past weekend marked the advent of what I hope is only the first of many juried mandolin tasting/competitions. First Quality Music sponsored the event which was a "tasting" of sorts. It involved a judging of sound of mandolins by three judges who were placed approximately 10 feet away and with their backs turned, from unamplified mandolins that were played by Mike Schroeder. Mike performed the same series of noting and tremelo and chord sequences with each mandolin.
There were two initial categories for this years event, mandolins with a retail value below $2000 and mandolins with a retail value above $2000. There were 10 mandolins entered in the first category and 11 mandolins entered in the second category. Not all instruments were new, though most were, and most mandolins were and are available currently from First Quality of Louisville, KY. In the first category, valued at $2000 or under the three top finishers based on these judges ears were" 1st: an Eastman "F" model mandolin valued at around $850; second place was a Herb Taylor mandolin in the $2000.00 range; and third place: a 1940's used Gibson A-40 valued at $1250. There were two vintage Gibson's in that mix and the other was a 1930's or 1940's A-50.
In the second category of mandolins valued over $2000, there were mandolins furnished by First Quality including some Collings, a Ratliff, some Gibson's, two Sumi's, two Dave Cohen C# models, an Eastman, and probably something else. Third place went to the satin finished Collings, and in what must make Dr. Cohen feel very satisfied, his two entries took top honors with second and first place with values in the $3800. I attended the event and can attest to the remarkable sound of his entries, they had volume, superb tone, great chop, and were my choices for tops.
Mike Schroeder asked the audience if they saw value in this exercise and I would say there was a resounding confirmation of his question. Hopefully he said, the future will include vintage instruments, CMSA members chosen instruments, and instruments from other builders. And I hope it would include the prior years winner, and a sort of multiplier if you will, taking into account the ease of playability of the respective instrument. Congratulations to Dr. Dave for some fine sounding instruments and to relative new comer, Herb Taylor for his entry in the under $2000 category.