I sometimes wonder about how people make a living in the arts. When it comes to musical instrument making, there is a fairly constant demand for guitars and so on, but what about very rare, high end instruments that are only occasionally used, are difficult and expensive to manufacture, and almost never actually need to be replaced? I’m thinking especially about tuned percussion instruments like orchestral bells, xylophones, and celestas. Not to mention the ultimate tuned percussion instrument: the carillon. It’s true that these objects sometimes break or need maintenance or repair. But they don’t really wear out.
When it comes to celestas, individual musicians are rarely owners. Instead, they are generally owned by orchestras (or schools) and are played by a pianist hired for the rare occasion that the instrument is called for. It’s safe to say that, were it not for the “Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies” in Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker ballet, there would be far fewer celestas and celesta players in the world. A celesta rarely needs tuning or regulation unless it has been abused. Even a basic new celesta by Yamaha costs over $15,000, comparable to the cost of a grand piano.
So how does a maker find enough buyers for high end hand-made celestas to have a viable manufacturing operation with artisan employees having the specific skillsets required? My guess is that all it takes is creating a superior product and having almost no competition worldwide.
Here is an interesting video about the German maker Schiedmayer. You may notice towards the end that the instrument is crated up and shipped to a dealer in China.