Drum Corps International
Percussion icon leaves lasting legacy
Vic Firth at the 2009 DCI World Championship in Indianapolis.Photo by: Drum Corps International

Percussion icon leaves lasting legacy

by Michael Boo

Drum Corps International extends its sympathies to the family and friends of Everett “Vic” Firth, founder of the Vic Firth Company, a manufacturer of drum sticks and mallets and one of DCI’s cherished corporate partners. Firth passed away this week at the age of 85.

At the age of 21, Firth became the youngest member ever of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and maintained the position of principle timpanist for more than four decades. In 1963, he started to manufacture his own line of drum sticks and mallets, and ultimately created many of the manufacturing processes now considered standard.

Along the way, Firth’s company became the largest drum stick manufacturer in the world, now producing more than 12 million sticks and mallets each year. Due to his continued success and his fame as a performer and educator, he was inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame in 1995.

Vic Firth products are used by a wide variety of drum corps, including the Blue Knights, Blue Stars, Cadets, Carolina Crown, Cascades, Jersey Surf, Madison Scouts, Mandarins and Pacific Crest.

Neil Larrivee, who has worked with the Cadets, Bluecoats, and Blue Stars, had worked closely with Firth for almost three decades. As director of education and new product development for Vic Firth, Inc., he was instrumental in Firth’s increasing involvement in the marching arts.

“He was a great musician, educator and businessman, and yet, that all paled in comparison to what a great person he was,” Larrivee said. “His talent and wisdom was only superseded by his kindness. I have been fortunate enough to be with Vic for 29 years. How lucky I have been, to be along for the ride, with the greatest of all time!”

“Once you were with Vic and the company, you were part of his family,” said Colin McNutt, percussion caption supervisor and arranger for the Cadets. “What I will miss the most was the personal investment he made in me when I joined the Vic Firth artist team. I was young and unproven, yet he would make you feel like a superstar. At every DCI World Championship, he would come and sit with the Cadets’ percussion section and connect with both marchers and staff.”

DCI Hall of Fame member Dennis DeLucia remembers that in 1992, Firth called both he and former Santa Clara Vanguard instructor/arranger Ralph Hardimon and asked if they would consider designing marching sticks that would bear their names. DeLucia enjoyed a long relationship with the company and saw firsthand how Firth supported the percussion arts and the rest of music education in “unparalleled and generous” ways, adding, “Most, if not all, of the non-profit entities such as DCI, WGI and the Percussive Arts Society, would not and could not survive without the generosity of the percussion industry.” Vic Firth was certainly at the forefront of that generosity.

Longtime percussion instructor and DCI Hall of Fame member Ralph Hardimon remembers Firth with fondness. “Vic meant the world to DCI drummers and percussionists, always there to chat with the kids at the DCI Championships with super fine info and plenty of jokes to break the ice,” Hardimon said. “He just loved being around the kids, and of course, they loved him as well, enjoying the Vic Firth T-shirts, sticks, and plenty of swag to go around."

Neil Larrivee sums up the impact of Vic Firth, the man and the mentor. “Words do little justice to describe the impact of Mr. Vic Firth, personally and professionally. The outpouring of emotions we have experienced from the music performance, business and education world has been staggering. While we are so saddened by the loss of our leader and personal friend, we are uplifted by the love shared for this icon.”

Learn more about Vic Firth's legacy at VicFirth.com.

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