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Vic Firth, Legendary Drumstick Creator and Percussionist, Dies at 85

By Ian Holubiak i.holubiak@classicalite.com on Jul 29, 2015 09:40 PM EDT

Even if you aren't a percussionist, the name Vic Firth — the world's most prolific drumstick maker — is still in your vocabulary. For the man who started it all, Mr. Everett Joseph "Vic" Firth has died at 85 years old.

The cause of death has been reported as complications with pancreatic cancer, according to Rob Grad, a spokesman for the Vic Firth Company.

For the greater measure of popular drummers, Firth has been the single largest outfitter of drumsticks. From the legendary jazz drummer Buddy Rich to the avant-garde ensemble Sō Percussion to Questlove of the Roots to Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones.

His outreach for legendary performers is, as one would imagine, unparalleled.

Having begun his company more than 50 years ago, he spent nearly 40 of them as the principal timpanist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, playing under famed conductors such as Leonard Bernstein, Serge Koussevitzky, Erich Leinsdorf and Seiji Ozawa.

Mr. Ozawa has even gone insofar as to dub Firth as "the single greatest percussionist anywhere in the world."

In 2002, The Boston Globe dubbed Firth a "debonair, affable, intelligent" performer and entrepreneur. By the early 1960s, while playing with the BSO, Firth had grown weary of the drumstick currently on the market.

Feeling as though they couldn't complete a wide variety of tasks required of a concert percussionist, once he discovered the merits of sticks that are fleet and perfectly straight he was sold on a new concept for drumsticks.

According to The New York Times, Firth began his company in his garage, producing sticks that had a certain lightness and versatility to them. He thought they'd be strictly for his own use but his students fell into a great demand for the product.

Today, the company resides in Boston with a factory in Newport, Maine and turns out some 12 million sticks and mallets annually.

A most unfortunate loss for the music community, we send our condolences to Mr. Firth's family and loved ones.

Remember him fondly with a short segment of the drumstick aficionado below.

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TagsVic Firth, So Percussion, Charlie Watts, Questlove