Thursday, June 15, 2017

Make it in Massachusetts. (Rimshot, please…)

Yesterday evening, my walk took me through the Boston Public Garden where, as it happens, there’s a concert every summer Wednesday at 7 p.m. The group performing was the Saxyderms – five brass players (mostly saxes) and a drummer. (The roots of the Saxyderms trace back to Tufts University. So, given that the Tufts mascot is Jumbo the Elephant, the name makes punning sense.) 

I hung through a few of their numbers – very entertaining: I’ll be back. But didn’t get close enough to see what kind of cymbals were part of the drum kit. I’m guessing they were Zildjian, a local company that, in Norwell, Massachusetts, makes about 2/3rds of the world’s cymbals.

Now, this isn’t a huge market. But still…

Zildjian has been making cymbals for nearly 400 years. Not in Massachusetts, of course. Yes, there were Europeans here starting in 1620 – they landed in Plymouth a few years before Zildjian was founded in 1623 – but the Pilgrims don’t strike me as the sort of folks in any need of any instrument of joy and pleasure. They were plenty content with a set of stocks and a dunking zildijianchair. I don’t recall ever reading about musical entertainment at the first Thanksgiving.

No, Zildijian immigrated its cymbal business to the Boston area in the 1920’s.

Sarah Hagan works at Zildijian, and has what I can only imagine is a very cool and interesting position. She’s director of artist relations. And, among the artists she relates to (or that Zildjian has related to) are Ringo Starr, Ginger Baker, and Buddy Rich. How’s that for gear fab, fab gear.

Her top priority is showcasing the Zildjian brand on stage. She works with 2,500 artists worldwide and is constantly scouting and signing new performers to endorsement deals. Hagan also represents the company at music trade shows, drum festivals, and awards shows. (Source: Boston Globe).

Hagan is herself a drummer, and still has the first set of Zildjian cymbals she got as a kid.

She’s a local, and grew up near the Zildjian factory and pretty much always wanted to work there. When she joined the company, she was familiar with the product, but along the line got to learn about the manufacturing process.

Making a cymbal from the Zildjian alloy is a very skilled process and involves the work of many master craftsmen. Our cymbals are made out of copper, tin, and silver, and the cymbal passes through 15 sets of hands as it’s hand-crafted.

Hagan also gets to drum on the job, either officially “testing cymbals in the drummers’ lounge, or pre-show at a venue.”

Then there are the informal times:

“Lunch breaks here are fun — sometimes employees get together and have a little drum jam.”

This sounds like the perfect job, and how often does that happen?

I have a former colleague who played bass guitar in rock bands from high school on – through college, through B-school, throughout his quite successful career in the tech world. After he left his last tech company, he became CEO of a Massachusetts cool guitar company – among his artists were Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) and Joni Mitchell. The company was eventually sold, and the product line is in some sort of limbo. But when my colleague was at the guitar company, it was a perfect fit. He was definitely in his element, and I had the pleasure of getting a tour of the factory. The one thing that sticks out in my mind was that they used pizza ovens to bake the paint on the instruments.

I never had a job that was perfectly consonant with their personal interests, but I sure enjoy knowing that they actually do exist out there.

Rim shot, please.

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