Interface Monthly interviews ARTCRAFT Music Rolls

Published on the Internet for the week of May 11, 1998

[Return to Home Page] [Jump to a 12-4-98 "Update" for this published article]

Interface Monthly is currently changing their Website, which has temporarily put previous interviews into the 'under construction' category. While you can access the current edition of Interface Monthly/Weekly Interview at this address: many articles are off-the-air until the publication completes its Website upgrade.

We have copied the May 11, 1998 interview as originally published by Interface Monthly and reproduced the text below. (When the magazine completes their Website changes, we'll restore their original link for the interview with ARTCRAFT Music Rolls.) Happy Reading!

Each week, Interface Daily interviews an individual in Northern New England's
business community. This week's interview is with:

Douglas Henderson, owner of ARTCRAFT Music Rolls in Wiscasset, Maine.
For almost fifty years Henderson has produced music rolls for player pianos and during
that time has used various technologies in doing so.

ARTCRAFT Music Rolls


What does ARTCRAFT do and how long have you been in the player piano business?


ARTCRAFT Music Rolls began, officially, in 1982 - as a sideline to our museum of mechanical musical instruments
in Wiscasset, Maine: The Musical Wonder House - but by 1986 the player roll business had grown to the point where a special Studio was set up, around the corner. Here, I have old Steinway player grand pianos and ancient perforators side-by-side with Tandberg analogue tape decks and modern electronic equipment, since musical analysis through audio replay is the essence of my system for creating the Master Rolls.

My interest in player pianos began in the early '50s, and I began cutting music rolls at that time - some 46 years ago.
(The Musical Wonder House reopens for its 35th Season on Memorial Day, but I'm not involved with its operation at this
time.) Rolls are very labor-intensive!


Since you've been dealing with player pianos, what is the range of technologies you've used throughout the years?


Unlike the traditional roll arrangers, who used graph paper methods (and often MIDI layouts today), I have never been
tied to sheet music notation - which these systems employ for their perforation standards. I began with a Wilcox-Gay Tape Recordio (an early open reel deck) and eventually progressed to my present (Norwegian) Tandberg Cassette and open reel equipment - plus a variable-speed Sony-Marantz deck which allows me to "tune" audio recordings to my 2 Steinway player grand pianos. Instant replay is part of my perforating method, so audio plays a major role in these activities. The actual perforators date from 1911 and are cast iron manually-operated machines.


Are your clients local, national or global?


ARTCRAFT Rolls has been global from the very beginning. My Paris representative has played ARTCRAFT releases at
The Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay. I have cut player rolls for Swedish TV-Radio and my rolls were even used for the
soundtrack of a French film shot in Russia (which was doubling for the Yukon in the 1920's on the screen). Since we have improved the perforated paper roll from its "sheet music transfer" beginnings to something with virtuoso 'keyboard attack', ARTCRAFT has no competition in the World. If people desire special music or rolls which can be played for concert hall audiences, they seek me out.


How has technology helped you market your services/product?


The Internet has literally doubled the interest in ARTCRAFT Rolls, and about half of it comes from foreign countries. My
URL was launched at the end of 1997 and life hasn't been the same since, making me wonder why I published elaborate printed catalogues for so many years. Our roll descriptions on-line are the equivalent of 102 pages - if everything is printed with default type in Navigator 2.0 or higher. (No printed catalogue could complete with that)! The business operates on 2 Toshiba laptops, one of which has a PCMCIA modem. Both have SCSI cards and my data is shared between them, via Iomega ZIP drives and stacked external SCSI hard drives. I also have a cellular 'phone setup which allows me to send and receive E-Mail in our automobiles, and with rechargeable battery power as well. We don't have - or want - desktop computers.


What are some of the benefits and disadvantages of being located in Northern New England?


The only disadvantage of living and working in this area - save the winter weather conditions - is that everything has to be shipped out-of-state, for the most part, which creates a lot of parcel wrapping for this two-person business. The pace of life in Maine - still clinging to the "two lane road" lifestyle in this region - is well-suited for the tranquility one needs for this specialized artistic work.


What advice do you give to small businesses in Northern New England who are trying to market themselves outside of the region? Also, are there any particular technologies you would suggest in doing so?


Anyone who needs to start a small craft business in Maine should have about 5 years of a "buffer" income, due to the time it takes to get a new enterprise running. Our museum took about 8 years before it became well-enough known to attract a flow of tourists. I already had a network of player piano roll collectors - going back to 3x5" index card files dating from the early '50s. (Happily, the current database is on my SCSI drives now)! The higher-than-average electric rates and other utility costs
have to be considered when moving here. Ditto for the water which - for Wiscasset - means purchasing bottled water for all our drinking and cooking needs. Outside of that, Maine is an excellent choice for a small craft enterprise, if one is on the Internet. The aura of "Maine" as a name seems to attract customers from outside the area. It suggests a personal resolve and individualism which is lacking in so many products from other regions.

To learn more about ARTCRAFT Music Rolls visit their web site at
See the text at the bottom of this page for an UPDATE concerning the Interface Monthly article!

Interview conducted by:
Sarah Jane Slezak Online Editor

Previous Interviews:
Dan Brown, L.W. Packard Mill, Ashland, New Hampshire
Christine Glade,, West Pawlet, Vermont
Mark Johnston, Saco, Maine; Main Street/Island Committee Chair
Michael Mancini, Executive Director of the Center For Economic Development in Nashua, New Hampshire
Marilyn Moss, President of Moss Inc. in Belfast, Maine
William K. Phillips, District Director of New Hampshire's Small Business Administration
Paul LeBlanc, President of Marlboro College and founder of its new Graduate Center in Marlboro, Vermont
Jay Gowell, President of TekSupport in Portland, Maine.

© copyright 1998 Interface Media Group

NOTE: Since the interview above was published, ARTCRAFT Music Rolls now operates 3 Toshiba laptop computers (2 of which are on-line) and the Internet has tripled business, especially in the sphere of export sales.

Also, thousands of water wells throughout Maine including many near the village of Wiscasset were discovered to contain traces of the controversial gasoline additive MTBE, causing the State to issue a ban on the fuel. [Update: December 4, 1998]

[Second Update: January 28, 1999] Governor Angus King moves to ban the MTBE additive in gasoline fuel. ARTCRAFT adds a 'satellite' URL to the Internet (Check it out!)

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ARTCRAFT Music Rolls Virtuoso "Interpretive Arrangements" for the Player and 'Reproducing' Piano
Wiscasset, Maine 04578 USA Telephone: (207) 882-7420