Remembering Vic Firth, An Orchestral — And Entrepreneurial — Legend

28 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Percussion pioneer Vic Firth dead at 85 in Boston.

Vic Firth was the principal timpanist of the for 46 years. Seattle Everett “Vic” Firth, the past percussionist using the Boston Symphony Orchestra and patron the drumstick business organisation that in fact has his name, passed away in Boston at age 85, the corporation he launched said on Tuesday. He became even more widely revered as an entrepreneur who made drumsticks, mallets, brushes and other percussion gear — one whose company has outfitted everyone from jazz legend Buddy Rich to avant-garde ensemble Sō Percussion to Questlove of The Roots, who once called his Vic Firth equipment the “Gucci and Louis Vuitton” of drumsticks.

At the time of his retirement in 2002, Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart called him “the greatest timpanist in the world” and then-music director Seiji Ozawa told the Globe: “Vic puts his timpani into the very core of the musical pulse, and that affects everything else that happens in the orchestra.” A Winchester native who grew up in Maine, Mr. The Vic Firth artist endorsement roster ranges across every musical genre, from heavy metal drummers to marching bands, and also includes Charlie Watts of The Rolling Stones, jazz artists Gary Burton and Jack DeJohnette, and such wide-ranging session players as Omar Hakim, who has worked with Michael Jackson, Daft Punk, Madonna and Bruce Springsteen. “I had no intentions of getting into a business,” Firth told MSNBC. “It was simply to supply a stick that was better than what was available. Firth happened to be the orchestra’s quintessential timpanist, twiddling with cables and singers such as Leonard Bernstein, Vladimir Horowitz and Leopold Stokowski, before retirement that are caused by the band in 2002. “He was at the most most significant percussionist anywhere in the nation,” said former BSO transistors Seiji Ozawa. “Every capability which typically Vic bestowed upon found out along with extraordinary musicianship, magnificence and impressive tempo.” But I took it to a different height, that demanded the most sophisticated playing you could do.” He began his company in 1963 by selling hand-turned sticks to his students at the New England Conservatory (NEC) in Boston. He sold them in matched sets according to their identical properties in weight, moisture content, density and pitch, which gave rise to his company’s slogan: “The Perfect Pair.” Despite his avowed initial lack of interest in becoming a businessman, Firth stressed to his own students over the years the importance of being an entrepreneur — decades before conservatories and university music programs began offering curricula and formal programming on entrepreneurship to their students.

Rob Cross is the principal percussionist of the Virginia Symphony, as well as the artistic and executive director of the Virginia Arts Festival, each based in Norfolk, Va. He studied with Firth at NEC and says that his teacher stressed looking beyond their classical performance training. “Even from the early part of my undergraduate years,” Cross says, “he impressed upon us that you needed to be well-rounded and to have other opportunities — to have options and a bigger vision.

Firth also extended the brand into rolling pins, muddlers and pepper and salt mills, including a signature Mario Batali series; the kitchen division, known as Vic Firth Gourmet, was sold to Maine Wood Concepts in 2012.

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