Everett “Vic” Firth (June 2, 1930 – July 26, 2015) was an American musician and the founder of Vic Firth Company (formerly Vic Firth, Inc.), a company that makes percussion sticks and mallets.
Founded in 1963 and headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, the company bills itself as the world’s largest manufacturer of drum sticks and mallets, which are made in Newport, Maine. In 2010, the company merged with Avedis Zildjian Company; officials said at the time that the companies would continue to run independently.
Vic Firth was born June 2, 1930, in Winchester, Massachusetts. He was raised in Sanford, Maine by parents Everett E. and Rosemary Firth, where he graduated from Sanford High School. Son of a successful trumpet player, he started learning the cornet at age four, turning later to percussion, trombone, clarinet, piano, and music arrangement. When he reached high school, he was a full-time percussionist, and created an 18-piece band at age 16. He played a variety of percussion instruments such as vibraphone, timpani and the drum set. He held a Bachelor’s degree, as well as an Honorary Doctorate in Music from New England Conservatory in Boston.
On July 27, 2015, Vic Firth’s Facebook page announced that Firth had passed away at the age of 85.
Vic Firth Company
The company began when Firth, who had been performing with the Boston Symphony Orchestra for 12 years, was asked to perform pieces which he felt required a higher-quality drumstick than those that were currently being manufactured. Firth decided to design a set of his own sticks.
Firth hand-whittled the first sticks himself from bulkier sticks and sent these prototypes to a wood turner in Montreal. The two prototypes that he sent would become the SD1 and SD2, the first two models of sticks manufactured by Vic Firth, Inc. Firth said, “It came out of necessity, not of imagination or my ability to start a company.” Although the sticks were initially intended for Firth’s personal use, they gained popularity among his students and were eventually carried by retailers.
As of 2012, the company offered about 300 products, and made 12 million sticks a year. The company also produced a line of pepper mills, salt grinders, and rolling pins sold under the Vic Firth Gourmet brand for many years until those interests were sold to Maine Wood Concepts of New Vineyard, Maine in 2012 and re-branded under the name Fletchers’ Mill.
From Bob Rupp, Fb, 7/27/15: Vic Firth had a profound effect on my life. Talking drums, deep sea fishing off the coast of Maine, and drum stick design during a round of golf with Bob Zildjian!
RIP to a master, and someone I am humbled to call a friend. Your shadow will always cast upon me every-time I hold your sticks!
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Other Notable Musicians’ Deaths…
27: Rickey Grundy, 56, American gospel musician; Ivan Moravec, 84, Czech concert pianist; Ndidani, 39, South African Maskandi singer.
26: Bobbi Kristina Brown, 22, American media personality and singer; Vic Firth, 85, American musician and percussion mallet manufacturer, pancreatic cancer; Wolfgang Gönnenwein, 82, German conductor and music director, generalintendant of Staatstheater Stuttgart (1985–1992).
25: Iceu Wong (id), 30, Indonesian dangdut singer, breast cancer.
24: Mario Sereni, 87, Italian operatic baritone.
23: Doug Rowe, New Zealand musician and singer (The Flying Circus)(death announced on this date); Norbert Schwefel, 54, German rock musician (Schwefel); Cirilo Vila Castro (es), 78, Chilean pianist and composer.