Drum Corps International
Percussion innovator Remo Belli passes
Remo Belli (R) is presented with a sponsor recognition award by DCI Executive Director Dan Acheson during the 2007 DCI World Championships in Pasadena.Photo by: Drum Corps International

Percussion innovator Remo Belli passes

by Michael Boo

Percussion visionary and innovator Remo D. Belli passed away Monday at the age of 89. He was the founder and leader of Remo, Inc., one of Drum Corps International’s longest-tenured corporate sponsors.

Belli invented the first successful synthetic drumhead in 1957, which forever changed the face of drum corps. Prior to this advance, natural-material drum heads were prone to breakage and were known to fluctuate in tone quality with changes in weather; especially humidity.

According to Mark Branson, Remo, Inc. Marching Percussion Product Manager, “He revolutionized how marching heads were manufactured for today’s modern marching percussion. The developments of Kevlar®, Technora® and Crimplock® took drum corps to a whole new industry standard.”

DCI Hall of Fame member Dennis DeLucia has long been a close friend of Remo. He calls Belli, “a visionary … committed to providing drummers the world over with quality products and programs."

Beyond drumheads, Belli was known for his interest in health and wellness, in particular how rhythm and drumming can serve as an integral component of an individual's wellbeing. According to an article this week in the Santa Clarita News, “Remo, Inc. has partnered with leading neurologists and drum education experts to develop evidence-based wellness programs that use rhythm as a tool to support better living. These programs are often used as tools by music therapists to improve the quality of life of individuals with autism, Alzheimer’s disease and PTSD.”

Branson says that Belli “was a great supporter of the marching arts and music education worldwide. With the advancement in marching percussion instruments, he always looked ahead and thought about what else could be done. That’s the passion he brought to Remo, Inc. every day.”

According to DeLucia, “Belli was an iconic figure in the world of percussion and an ardent supporter of the arts, especially the marching arts and DCI corps in particular. He was a founding member and supporter of the Percussive Arts Society, the most-significant global entity for percussionists of all genres.”

DeLucia first met Belli in 1974, when Remo, Inc. signed him as an artist/clinician pioneering the use of Roto-Toms in drum corps and marching bands. Longtime drum corps fans may never forget the Bridgemen drum line winning the percussion caption award for the third consecutive year at the 1982 DCI World Championships. During Joseph Zawinul’s “Black Market Juggler,” the snare line came to the front of the field to perform on eight Roto-Toms of different pitches. The line brought back the feature in 1983 and made it even more exciting by playing blindfolded.

DeLucia remains an artist/clinician with Remo, Inc., stating, “We will all miss his gallant presence, caring demeanor and passionate belief in the benefits of drumming as a positive contributor to people’s wellness through music. Rest in Peace, Mr. Belli, and thank you for everything.”