Everett “Vic” Firth, the legendary musician, educator, and entrepreneur who performed with the Boston Symphony Orchestra for fifty years and founded the Vic Firth Company, died July 26 at age 85.
Born in Winchester, Massachusetts, and raised in Sanford, Maine, Vic Firth was the son of Rosemary and Everett E., a successful trumpet and cornet player who started the younger Firth on the cornet, the first of a variety of instruments he would learn, when he was four. By high school, he was playing percussion full-time, and by age 16, had formed the 18-piece Vic Firth Big Band, which performed throughout the New England area.
At age 21, Firth became the youngest member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra by 30 years. Not yet finished with his bachelor’s degree from the New England Conservatory of Music, he had to make special arrangements in order to complete his course work and degree. While still a student at the New England Conservatory, Firth also began to devote himself to teaching, which would become one of his lifelong passions. He started first in the preparatory department at the school, and eventually became head of their percussion department, a title he held for 44 years.
Firth was obsessed with the quality of sound, and this led to the birth of the Vic Firth Company in 1963. Firth hand whittled his first pair of sticks in his garage, and when word got out about his sticks’ quality, the company was born. Firth is credited with inventing or standardizing many of the key manufacturing processes used today in the drumstick world.