Retiree donates 55-piece collection to music department

INDIANAPOLIS - Thanks to the generosity of a local collector, top music students at the United Methodist-related University of Indianapolis now have access to some of the finest saxophones and clarinets ever made.

Visitors to campus can see them too, after a recent unveiling ceremony.

Retired local businessman Norman Cohen and his wife, Maxine, have donated 55 instruments - which Norman collected and lovingly restored over the course of more than two decades - to the UIndy Department of Music.

The collection spans the 20th century and includes 19 instruments from the Selmer company, including several specimens of the coveted Mark VI line preferred by such jazz legends as Sonny Rollins, Stan Getz and John Coltrane.

"Aesthetically, they have a sound capability, to folks who have played them, that no other horn ever has," said Associate Professor Harry Miedema, director of UIndy's Jazz Studies program.

"Our students would never have the opportunity to experience instruments of this quality if it weren't for the Cohens."

A saxophonist himself, Miedema has selected the rarest pieces - some more than a century old - for a permanent display in the university's Krannert Memorial Library. An unveiling ceremony was held Feb. 25, which kicked off UIndy's inaugural Jazz Week.

Norman Cohen originally made his name in furniture and floor coverings but then entered the commercial real estate business when he and a brother formed Norle Investments in 1954. The company, now headed by a nephew, has played a significant role in restoring historic buildings in Indianapolis' downtown Wholesale District and elsewhere.