Friday, March 3, 2023

Cymbal Scion

Photograph of Robert Zildjian examining a cymbalFour hundred years ago, in the city of Constantinople, an alchemist named Avedis discovered a revolutionary means of treating alloys. Avedis belonged to a family of metalsmiths and cymbal-makers, and his innovative process immediately became a closely-guarded secret that was passed down from father to son over the centuries. Today, the family business is thriving: it is the oldest manufacturer of musical instruments in the world, one of the oldest continuously operating global companies still in existence, and the largest cymbal and drumstick maker in the world. The organization is still family owned and operated, and does business under the surname originally bestowed upon Avedis by the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire: Zildjian or, in Armenian, "Family of Cymbal Smiths". Numerous legendary 20th-century drummers use or have used Zildjian cymbals, including such musical luminaries as Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Ringo Starr, Keith Moon, Neal Peart, Dave Grohl, and many others.

Interestingly enough, one of the scions of the house of Zildjian attended Dartmouth College before returning to the family business. Robert Zildjian was a member of the class of 1945, where he majored in History and Philosophy, was a member of Chi Phi fraternity, and participated in Le Cercle Francais. In 1981, after a dispute with his brother over the company, Robert left the Avedis Zildjian Company and founded Sabian Cymbal in New Brunswick, Canada. Sabian Cymbal is today considered one of a handful of dominant cymbal makers, alongside Zildjian, Meinl, and Paiste. To read more about Zildjian, both the company and the man, come to Rauner and ask to see the alumni file for Robert Zildjian '45.