In 1952 at the age of 21, Mr. Firth joined the Boston Symphony Orchestra. During his distinguished career with the BSO, Everett Firth has taught at and been head of the percussion department of New England Conservatory and the Tanglewood Music Center. Further contributions to the field of percussion have been through extensive compositions and instructional material. He has been the recipient of many honors for his unique contributions to music.
Mr. Firth is also founder and president of Vic Firth Inc., a company that manufactures and distributes the highest quality percussion products available worldwide today. Along with millions of young percussionists, many professional artists use his custom drumsticks, including Anton Fig of the David Letterman Show and Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones.
Maestro Seiji Ozawa of the Boston Symphony has called Vic Firth, "The single greatest percussionist anywhere in the world."
SANFORD - Vic Firth never set out to become the largest distributor of drumsticks in the world; he just wanted high quality equipment for his own personal use.
However, as more people saw Firth's sticks, they wanted them for their own, and his business, as Firth says, "just grew on its own."
Today, in addition to performing as the principal timpanist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Firth is the president of Vic Firth, Inc., one of the world's leading manufacturers of drumsticks and other high quality percussion equipment.
It is for his dual accomplishments as a musician and a businessman that Everett J. "Vic" Firth has been chosen as an inaugural member of the Sanford High School Hall of Fame.
While he was growing up in Sanford, Firth says "I had music all around me."
Firth's father, Everett Sr., was a trumpet player who led the Sanford Mills Band from 1910 until 1954. He was also a music teacher in Sanford. Firth recalls that one of his father's prize students was fellow SHS Hall of Famer Randy Brooks. Firth recalls Brooks as "One of the greatest (trumpet) players of the time."
Everett Sr. wanted his son to follow in his footsteps, and encouraged him to learn a musical instrument. "My first instrument was the trumpet, and boy was I lousy," laughs Firth.
In fact, Firth tried many different instruments, not finding one which suited him, "until I got to the drums," says Firth. "I guess I had a talent for them."
Firth discovered his love for the drums when he was "around 10 or 12 years old."
While he was in high school, Firth played in a dance band headed by another member of the SHS Hall of Fame, Carl Broggi.
Broggi had originally started the band with Firth's father, calling it the Broggi-Firth Band, renaming it the Carl Broggi Band when Firth's father decided to leave the band.
Firth says that while he enjoyed playing in Broggi's band, it was a heavy workload. "I was about 14 years old, and we were playing three or four nights a week," says Firth.
Despite the workload, Firth enjoyed playing for Broggi, who he calls "a sweetheart of a gentleman, a wonderful person." It was his mother, however, who finally put an end to Firth's time with the Carl Broggi Band.
"We were working a job in Rutland, Vermont, when we hit a blizzard and were stranded," says Firth. "We were stranded in the car and didn't get home for two days. My mother said 'no more'."
Undaunted, Firth formed his own band, which "got booked all over New England."
Graduating from SHS in 1948, Firth went on to the New England Conservatory of Music. After graduating from the Conservatory in 1952, he joined the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Firth was only 20 when he joined the BSO, and he says, "I was lucky, because when I joined, the average age was 55."
In 1956, Firth was named the principal timpanist, becoming the youngest person to be named a principal player with the BSO since 1898.
It was during this time that Firth started having his drumsticks custom-made to his specifications.
"I used to go into rehearsals and I saw people using the best available equipment," says Firth.
Unsatisfied with the quality of the drumsticks that were available at the time, Firth designed his own. "I started making drawings and designs," says Firth. "I found a wood turner in Montreal to make the sticks."
While Firth initially intended to custom make sticks for his personal use only, students in a New England Conservatory class taught by Firth saw his sticks and wanted to buy them for themselves.
Through word-of-mouth, news of Firth's quality drumsticks spread throughout the country. "The students used to go into drum shops, and say that they used Vic Firth sticks," says Firth.
Eventually, a distributor in Chicago contacted Firth to order drumsticks to sell in their stores, and a business was born.
"The first thing that I did, I guaranteed them (the drumsticks) to be straight," says Firth. This was a claim that no other drumstick company made at the time. However, Firth says that he was able to make that claim because "I had the advantage of being in a musical organization that worked at the highest of standards."
Firth says that his high standards for the quality of his sticks have been good for the industry as a whole. "Drumsticks have all gotten better as a result (of Firth's work)," says Firth.
Today, Vic Firth, Inc. makes approximately 110,000 pairs of drumsticks per week. Firth's sticks are distributed all around the world, and the company has distributors in 175 countries, including China.
"We're the biggest in the world, which is crazy because I didn't try to be," says Firth.
Firth's drumsticks are endorsed by many notable drummers, such as Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones. Firth calls Watts "the most sane" member of the Rolling Stones. He says that while Watts is in one of the world's most famous rock and roll bands, he would rather be doing something else. "Charlie plays rock and roll music, and all he wants to do is be a jazz drummer," laughs Firth.
Between his drumstick manufacturing company and the BSO, Firth keeps a busy schedule, though he doesn't seem to mind. "It's work, but I have fun doing it, so it's not taxing to me," says Firth.
Indeed, Firth's dual careers have allowed him to travel all around the world. He has played in London, Paris, Rome, Tokyo, all throughout Australia, and Germany, to name a few countries. "I've been privy to have a private meeting with the emperor and empress of Japan," says Firth. He has also played at the White House. Firth says that while he enjoys his lifestyle, it is not as glamorous as it seems, "It's fun, but you don't know where you are half the time."
Firth says that attributes his success to the fact that "I'm not afraid of hard work." However, he doesn't see what he does as work. "I've never done anything in my life that I didn't have fun doing," says Firth. "I've had a lot of laughs and a good time since day one."
Comments? Corrections? e-mail
© 2004 Sanford High School