The Dämpfer Mitt Story
Origins of an Idea
 
 

of the horn players kicked their mute and sent it flying into the tympani.  These were the seminal events that triggered creation of the Dämpfer Mitt.   With the help of a friend in New Hampshire, I set about putting my ideas down on paper, and soon we had a prototype.  Originally of top quality leather, the original Dämpfer Mitt was very expensive, and I soon realized that despite the rich look of the unit, it had some impractical qualities and was simply too costly to manufacture and sell, particularly given the difficulty of getting horn players to adopt a novel approach to mute use.  We sought more help, this time from Kevin Woefel, the original owner of the Wolfpak case company.


Kevin was marvelous!  He came up with a  new prototype that we manufactured in the 90's and made from less expensive Cordura.  This priced the unit more favorably, and we sold a pile of them at the IHS conference in Rochester, NY even before we had gone to production.   People were buying them based on a single prototype that I showed at IHS! 

 

The Iltis Dämpfer Mitt was born out of  my own perceived need as a horn player.  (Actually prior to the picture below at left ... That’s a picture taken back in 1958 where I’m blowing into my dad’s 1945 Kruspe!  My dad, John Iltis was a great horn teacher and a wonderful player! Among his students, John Zirbel, Principal Horn, Montreal Symphony Orchestra and Sharon Moe of NYC.  The picture is in Gunneson, CO, and Max Pottag was actually teaching there at that time!)


I had never been comfortable with keeping mutes by my right foot, and had managed to kick them over more than once.  Further, when a quick mute change was needed, I found it extremely awkward to use the mute cords that go around the wrist.  The chance of "dinging" the bell was always present, and it was simply uncomfortable to grasp.  Further, I would often get pretty anxious about picking up and setting the mutes down quickly and quietly. 


During a performance with a woodwind quintet one evening in a castle with a huge room that had stone floors, I came to a passage requiring a quick change.  At the time, I was using a aluminum straight mute.  No, I didn't kick it over this time, but rather set it down on its side during a particularly soft passage with the flute and oboe playing alone.  Well, the mute started rolling on the uneven floor, emitting a rumbling, metallic sound in the worst place possible!   Then, as I witnessed an open rehearsal of Mahler 1 with the New York Philharmonic, I watched in amazement as one


(continued to the left, below my picture!)


Origins of an Idea, continued

We were gone for awhile, but we’re back!


I'm really sorry that we didn't stay active over the past 10 years, but the fact is we lost our manufacturer, and I simply didn't have time to keep the project alive.  Kevin Woelfel left Wolfpak, and with him went the project.  I just couldn't invest the resources and time into finding another solution.  I pulled out of business for a period of time, and didn't really do anything related to the Dämpfer Mitt for several years.


Over the years, I've had numerous e-mails from various places around the country from owners of the original Dämpfer Mitt, wondering whether we were still making them.  I tried making small batches for a few years, but realized that in order to really do justice to the project, I'd need to re-invest some money and time.  Hence, when the Oregon Symphony contacted me in 2010, I decided that we needed to find a new manufacturer and work on an improved product.  This led to our current working relationship with Fieldtex Products, Inc. of Rochester, NY.   This company had bid on our original design back in the late 90's, and in January of 2011, I decided to make a visit to their factory in Rochester.  Simply put, I was VERY impressed, and we began work on new prototypes for production.  With the help of my family, and in particular, my son John (johniltis.com) who had the idea for the shoulder strap, pencil holder, inner elastic pocket, and exterior padding, the design improved greatly. The resulting product, now featured on these pages is VERY GOOD.  This company does a wonderful job with quality control, and the Dämpfer Mitt now offered is vastly improved over ANY previous rendition.  We're thrilled to be back in business. and hope that our efforts will make many, many horn players happy as they adapt their methods to include this novel mute change device and its convenient transport bag. 


I've got a substantial supply of units available now, and I look forward to working with you as we strive to help horn players and trumpet players manage their mute changes more effectively!