Armand Zildjian–president and chairman of the renowned cymbal and drumstick company bearing his family name–died peacefully in his sleep Thursday–December 26 at his home in Scottsdale–Arizona at the age of 81.
Born in 1921 to Avedis III and Alice Zildjian in Milton–MA–Armand was the first Zildjian family member to be born in the United States. In 1929–after three centuries of manufacturing in Turkey–the secret Zildjian cymbal formula was passed on to Avedis–the oldest living Zildjian male heir. With the cymbals being made in the family’s hometown of Quincy–MA–Armand became active in the factory in his early teens while attending local schools including Thayer Academy. After attending Colgate University he was called to serve in the Philippines during World War II. On his return–he entered the family business full time; the business had become the world’s largest cymbal manufacturer and the oldest company in America. An amateur musician–Armand said he felt privileged to have been born into a musical dynasty–that dates back to 1623. As time went on he became involved in all angles of the business–from pouring of the molten alloy to matching pairs of HiHats. Appointed President two years before his father’s death–Armand took over the role of family patriarch in 1977 and lead the company for more than two decades.
Armand was known for his charismatic personality and warm personal relationship with drummers. In working closely with all the great drummers of the Jazz era–he became the company’s first "Cymbal Tester"–a position that remains held in the highest regard. Armand developed such faculty testing cymbals that he had the ability to play HiHats in his hand without the aid of a HiHat stand. He hand selected cymbals for such drummers as Gene Krupa–Buddy Rich–Max Roach–Jo Jones and many others and matched cymbals for the Boston Symphony and leading orchestras around the world. Together with his father he developed the tradition of working with drummers to create new cymbal sounds. The foremost authority in cymbal sound–Armand created new product innovations in response to the ever-changing needs of musicians and remained deeply involved in the operation of the company until his death.
Armand also undertook great efforts to modernize and update the production of cymbal manufacturing. He reinvested profits to finance such revolutionary advances in manufacturing such as the rotary hearth oven–double rolling mills–and computer controlled hammering. Under Armand’s leadership–the Zildjian Company made great strides to improve quality and consistency–research and development.
With his company’s great success in the cymbal business–Armand always felt it was important to give something back to the community which had helped sustain the company for so many years. Zildjian currently provides over one hundred thousand dollars a year in musical scholarships and sponsors student workshops with leading drummers and educators. In recognition for his many contributions to the music industry over the years–he received an honorary doctorate from Berklee College of Music–was inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame–and Guitar Center’s Rock Walk in Hollywood–and most recently received Modern Drummer Magazine Editors Achievement Award.