Dr. David Nabb
UNK Department of Music and Performing Arts, 308.865.8606

The first Very Special Arts (VSA) Award for Achievement in Instrument Adaptation is being presented to Dr. David Nabb, a University of Nebraska at Kearney professor of music, and instrument technician Jeff Stelling of Kearney tonight (Thursday, May 5) at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Nabb and Stelling are being honored for their pioneering work in developing woodwind instruments for people with disabilities. In 2000, Dr. Nabb, an accomplished saxophone player, suffered a stroke that left him unable to use his left hand. Stelling, owner of Stelling Brass and Winds, working with Dr. Nabb, developed a “toggle-key” design, which makes it possible to play the saxophone with one hand. According to Scott Stoner, vice president of VSA Educational Services, Dr. Nabb is playing a brief piece at the awards ceremony tonight to demonstrate his artistry and the successful adaptation of his saxophone.

The award was made possible by a grant from the National Association of Music Merchants and is being presented in conjunction with the National Association of Professional Band Instrument Repair Technicians (NAPBIRT). Dr. Nabb and Stelling are receiving the award during the VSA International Young Soloists Award Program.

When the first one-handed saxophone was completed in 2003, Dr. Nabb was able to resume playing and teaching at UNK. And in 2004, the two established the One-Handed Woodwinds Program at UNK. The program makes one-handed woodwind instruments available to permanently disabled individuals.

The first person to receive a toggle-key saxophone after Dr. Nabb was Kyungsun Orr, who lost his left arm in an airplane accident in 2002 at the age of 14. Before the accident, he had been an avid saxophone player. With a toggle-key saxophone from the UNK One-Handed Woodwinds Program, he was able to play again, which he did throughout high school and while an architecture student at Clemson University in Clemson, S.C. In addition to playing in symphonic school bands, Orr often played for friends and family, including playing a solo at his own wedding in the summer of 2008.
To further knowledge about the toggle-key saxophone, Dr. Nabb has demonstrated the unique instrument at the World Saxophone Congresses in Minneapolis, Slovenia and Thailand. In addition, he has performed at the International Saxophone Symposium, the annual American Music Therapy Association Conference and the Biennial Conference of the North American Saxophone Alliance. In November, he will perform at the 11th Asia Pacific Wataboshi Festival in Bankok, Thailand.

Today, Dr. Nabb again maintains an active teaching and performance schedule. In February, he presented a two-day workshop for Ogallala (Nebraska) High School, which culminated with a high school band concert. Two days later, he performed a solo with the UNK Wind Ensemble. In April, he performed twice–once on a colleague’s recital and the second time on his student’s Senior Recital.

Dr. Nabb can be seen on Youtube performing “Blue Caprice” by Victor Morosco on the toggle-key saxophone. More information about the toggle-key saxophone is available at:

Stelling, who holds a bachelor’s degree in music business from UNK, began repairing instruments part-time in 1989 while a student at UNK. A member of NAPBIRT, he is regularly asked to present repair and customizing clinics. Stelling, also a musician, plays trombone with the Kearney Symphony Orchestra.

Very Special Arts, the international organization on arts and disability, was founded in 1974 to provide arts and educational opportunities for people with disabilities and increase access to the arts for all. Each year, 7 million people of all ages and abilities participate in VSA programs, in every aspect of the arts – from visual arts, the performing arts and the literary arts. VSA is an affiliate of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.