Everett "Vic" Firth, founder of the popular Vic Firth Company, has died aged 85. The industry loses one of the last great innovators, who for over 50 years worked in developing the world's best and most popular drum sticks, and who was a model and inspiration for generations of drummers.
Vic Firth was born June 2, 1930, in Winchester, Massachusetts, and soon after started his musical journey: Firth started learning the cornet at age four, turning later into an accomplished musician who could play percussion, trombone, clarinet, piano, and also create music arrangements. By the age of 16 he had already created an 18-piece band.
Firth played a wide variety of percussion instruments such as vibraphone, timpani and the drum set, and his talents led him to be hired by the respected Boston Symphony Orchestra, where he stayed for 12 years. It was during this stint that, in 1963, Firth created the company that would immortalize his name and make it synonymous with drum-sticks, after being asked to perform pieces which he felt required a higher-quality drumstick than those that were being manufactured.
On an interview for Musikmesse (read it in full here), he explained how it all came about:
"It was not only the quality of drum sticks, it was the lack of variety of drum sticks that were being offered. I was part of a very sophisticated chamber music group that played all kinds of pieces by modern composers that required a greater variety of drum sticks other than what was then commonly available."
Like all great innovators like Les Paul, it was his passion and knowledge as a musician which led him to develop his drum sticks:
"I was totally ignorant of anything that had to do with manufacturing, wood turning and getting the right source of wood. I... worked my way slowly, but very meticulously. I had no reason to rush, because I had a day job as a musician and was not dependent on what I did with sticks. In the beginning, it was not even intended as a business, but as it grew, I became fascinated with it and approached it in a more serious way."
Today, Vic Firth sells over 12 million sticks each year, a testament to the quality Vic Firth the man always worked hard to achieve, from the very beginning. Famous users include Charlie Watts of The Rolling Stones, Sheila E. (Prince), Carmine Appice, Steve Gadd and many others.
Vic Firth also has made a name for itself as a sponsor of seminars and clinics for aspiring drummers in the US and internationally. He was truly loved and respected in the musical instruments industry, and will be sadly missed not only by those who knew him, but also by those who never had the pleasure to meet him but who loved his excellent drum-sticks.
Let's finish now with these words from Vic Firth himself:
"I am not easily amazed, but I have learned that the solution for everything is hard work and persistence. The whole company abides by this doctrine and it has served us well...Loyalty is a rare thing in today’s work. The people who will run the company will continue to work in the same way, even if I am not around. I see nothing but growing success."