Music Box Society International
This website has graciously offered to spread the word about organizations world-wide, whose members love mechanical music. I would like to tell you about one of those organizations, the Musical Box Society International.
At MBSI you may hear us refer to mechanical music instruments as “automatic music instruments.” This includes musical boxes (instruments which play music via the plucking of teeth on a tuned steel comb through various mechanisms); musical automata; orchestrions; player and reproducing pianos and organs; phonographs; and self-playing stringed, wind, and percussion instruments of any kind. So, you can see that the scope of the instruments we love is broad. The photograph at the head of this article gives a hint of this. The antique instruments we love and collect can be as small as a thimble or as big as a billboard.
Our Society began in 1949 among a small group of people in Ohio who had a passion for automatic music instruments. The group included Dr. Byron P. Merrick, a collector and connoisseur of fine musical boxes and musical automata. Dr. and Mrs. Merrick offered their home in Berlin Heights Ohio for the initial meeting and the date was set, October 15, 1949. Thus, the Society was born. The Society has grown over the years and now includes 11 regional chapters in the United States, as well as an international chapter in Japan.
We express our mission this way:
- Foster a genuine public interest in the collection, restoration, preservation and creation of automatic music instruments.
- Publish information about automatic music instruments.
- Cooperate with individuals and other organizations in exhibiting automatic music for the education of the general public.
- Collect and preserve for posterity examples of automatic music instruments and historical and current information about automatic music including books, pamphlets, catalogs, manuscripts, films, tapes and other recordings and make such information accessible to museums, educational institutions, students and collectors.
- Disseminate information regarding the mechanism and the repair of automatic music instruments.
- Generally stimulate interest in automatic music.
MBSI members receive a journal, Mechanical Music, six times a year full of interesting and educational articles and news about chapter and national events. They have full access to our database of automatic music instrument articles and videos and our lending library.
In my experience, the real heart of MBSI is in relationships. Our chapters hold meeting several times a year and these meetings afford opportunities to get together with other people to learn about automatic music instruments, how to acquire them, where to get them restored or repaired, and how to operate them and look at some instruments members may have. There are normally visits to members’ homes during these meetings where you get to see and hear authentic examples of automatic music machines of all kinds. We also have a large gathering once a year, our “annual meeting,” where members can experience some of the larger and more unusual collections, attend workshops put on by knowledgeable experts, see hundreds of instruments for sale at an associated “mart” and just have fun! Members often form friendships at these gatherings that last for a lifetime.
Our website, www.mbsi.org, is a great place to learn more, including information about chapters and how to contact them, a calendar of upcoming events, a gallery of photographs of all kinds of automatic music instruments, some classified ads about instruments for sale and from persons wanting to buy instruments, a listing of automatic music instrument museums that you can visit around the world and other helpful resources.
We welcome newcomers. You don’t have to know about automatic music instruments or own any to attend a chapter or national meeting for the first time. All you need is a little curiosity. You may find yourself bitten by the automatic music bug, just as we were, and decide to join.
If you think automatic music might be of interest to you, contact a chapter in your region and ask about the date, time and location of the next chapter meeting. Who knows, it might lead to a hobby to enjoy for a lifetime.
Clay Witt, President