Rob Taggart turns love of music into a hobby
At an elementary school in a small town in southwestern Pennsylvania, Green Bank resident Rob Taggart was introduced to musical instruments and from that point, he became a musician.
ﾓIn third grade, some of the older kids came into my class with their instruments and I said, 'oh, I like that trumpet,'ﾔ Taggart said. ﾓThat was my first instrument and I played it in fifth, sixth and seventh grade.ﾔ
While he enjoyed playing the brass instrument, Taggart found himself intrigued with the flute.
ﾓWatching the other kids in band play, I always liked how the flute didn't have a mouth piece you buzzed in to,ﾔ he said. ﾓIt just had a hole that you had to master to blow across to get the sound.ﾔ
That Christmas, Taggart received a copper flute which he still has.
ﾓI spent the whole day trying to master getting a nice solid tone out of it and then I just started playing Christmas songs by ear,ﾔ he said.
On top of playing in the school band and learning to play the flute by ear, Taggart was taking bagpipe lessons in the sixth and seventh grade.
ﾓThe end of seventh grade is when I stopped being musically involved with school because back then, it wasn't cool,ﾔ he explained. ﾓYou got made fun of and your manhood was taken into question.ﾔ
Although he stopped playing music in school, Taggart's love of music and instruments never dissipated.
As he entered adulthood, he began collecting instruments and mastering the art of playing them.
With flutes, penny whistles and chanters in his collection, Taggart was searching for a fife, which landed him a spot in a fife and drum corps.
ﾓMy wife, Andrea, and I went to a festival and I heard fife and drum music while we were walking around,ﾔ he said. ﾓI made a beeline, and lo and behold, there was a fife and drum corps performing on stage. After they were done, I went up to talk to them and one lady gave me her contact information. A week later, I went to her house and got a black plastic fife, a music book and a fingering chart and I started learning.ﾔ
Three months later, Taggart had several songs memorized and was performing with the corps for the first time, much to his chagrin.
ﾓMy first time performing in front of people was in Bedford, Pennsylvania, at the fall foliage festival, I'll never forget it,ﾔ he said. ﾓIt was me, another fifer and a drummer and they said 'let's warm up,' so I chose Battle Hymn of the Republic. We started playing and I was so nervous. My knees were shaking. The knickers I was wearing were too big for me and I could feel them vibrating against the back of my legs and my lips starting quivering.ﾔ
After getting more performances under his belt, the nerves went away.
ﾓNow, I can play in front of people,ﾔ he said. ﾓIt's not if you will mess up, because you will, it's how you recover and not have people realize you messed up.ﾔ
In the early 90s, Taggart found himself looking for a job and ended up at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank.
ﾓSince I'm a veteran, I went to the VA (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) and looked through the government jobs,ﾔ he explained. ﾓI narrowed the results down to three and only heard back from the NRAO.ﾔ
After an interview, Taggart was hired as a computer-aided draftsmen.
Once he and his wife were settled into their new abode, Taggart continued his collection of instruments and search for new flutes.
A recollection of a flute he saw in a catalog led Taggart on another search. This time, for the maker of puny tunes, Bryan Mumford. Puny tunes are one octave whistles with four holes.
ﾓI looked them up online and he said on his website he no longer made puny tunes,ﾔ Taggart said. ﾓI gave him a call on the off chance he might have one lying around that he would sell me and he didn't. He said 'the business is for sale if you're interested in that.' A week went by and I called him again and asked how much for the business and I said I was very interested.ﾔ
Soon after, Mumford sent Taggart a booklet on how to make puny tunes and they set up a time to meet to transfer the business. Taggart traveled to Santa Barbara, California, where Mumford taught him the process of making puny tunes.
ﾓI bought tooling and set up shop between the middle of April and the beginning of June in 2004,ﾔ he said. ﾓWhen I first started making them, I was using maple, cherry and walnut, leftover materials from when I bought the business. When I ran out of those, I bought a material called DymondWood, a natural wood laminate made in Vermont.ﾔ
Now that he was perfected the art of making puny tunes, Taggart has created a variation, called the GemsTones.
ﾓIt's made out of acrylic,ﾔ he said. ﾓI buy scrap pieces from a gentleman in Iowa who makes acrylic walking canes. I get six colors ﾖ black, red, blue, green, orange/yellow and violet. I call them GemsTones because of the diamond shape on the bottom and the acrylic looks like gemstones. I call them ruby, emerald, sapphire, onyx, topaz and amethyst.ﾔ
Taggart's puny tunes and GemsTones are available at the Pocahontas County Artisan's Cooperative in Green Bank.
For more information on Taggarts whistles, visit www.punytunes.com.