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#121 Neil Larrivee- Vice President at Vic Firth & Zildjian/Staff at The Cadets Drum Corps

#121 Neil Larrivee- Vice President at Vic Firth & Zildjian/Staff at The Cadets Drum Corps

This week’s guest is Neil Larrivee. Neil is the Vice President of Drumstick & Mallet Innovation for the Avedis Zildjian Company. For the past 32 years, Neil has played a unique role in the overall growth of Vic Firth while also coordinating its music industry leading education program. Most recently, he was responsible for bringing together both the Zildjian and Vic Firth Education staffs into a single, fully integrated department. Today he is responsible for drum stick and mallet product innovation for Zildjian, Vic Firth & Mike Balter Mallet brands.

Outside of Zildjian, Neil has over 35 years of music teaching experience. He is the former Front Ensemble Director and Arranger for the Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps. There, he was part of four DCI championships and four High Percussion Awards during his 16-year tenure, resulting in his induction into the Cadets Hall of Fame. Additionally, Neil served as the Front Ensemble Coordinator and Arranger for the Blue Stars Drum & Bugle Corps from 2010 through 2012.

From 1985 – 2002, Neil was the Co-Marching Band Director, Percussion Director & Arranger at King Philip Regional High School of Wrentham, MA. During his time at King Philip, the Marching Band attained 15 MICCA State Marching Band Gold Medals, eight NESBA Championships, 10 NESBA High Percussion Awards, four USSBA Championships, six USSBA High Percussion Awards, 2 BOA Regional Championships, 2 BOA Grand National Semi-Finalist placements and the 2000 BOA Grand National AA Bronze medal. The Indoor Marching Percussion Ensemble captured the 2000 WGI Scholastic World Championship and placed second in '97, '98 & 2001. Additionally, the Concert Percussion Ensemble placed second in the 2001 Scholastic Concert World Class.

From 2004-2010, Neil was the front ensemble arranger for the Dartmouth High School Indoor Percussion Ensemble. During that time, Dartmouth won the 2008 and 2009 WGI Scholastic World Championship, placed second in 2006 & 2007 while also placing 3rd in 2004 & 2005. Neil served on the WGI Percussion Advisory Board & Steering Committee from 1997 – 2002 and was inducted into the WGI Hall of Fame in April of 2016. And in April of 2017, he was inducted into the Massachusetts Drum Corps and Music Educators Hall of Fame

R.I.P. to Dave Samuels. Grammy winning vibraphonist of Spyro Gyra and The Caribbean Jazz Project. He was 70 years old. As mentioned in the episode, he is featured in the book, Masters of the Vibes.


The books and videos Damon mentions by Dave are Mallet Keyboard Musicianship and Contemporary Vibraphone Technique. There are others that he has published as well, including the Double Image duo of music by him and David Friedman.

The Iconic Recording for this week…..

The song, El Guarachero Intrigozo (The Scheming Party Animal) from the album, The Gathering (album credits), by the Caribbean Jazz Project.

Gig Alerts for this week…..

The Rhythm Retreat at the Brazil Barn in Bucks County, PA from July 26-28. This event is produced and hosted by (friend of the show) Scott Kettner (and Anita Jacobs Arts). The three day retreat is an immersive experience into the music and culture of Northeastern Brazil and beyond. The weekend combines a robust schedule of intensive percussion workshops, blowout dance parties, inspiring presentations, musical excursions and family activities.

The website with all the summer music festivals listed is JamBase.

Educational Spotlight for this week…..

NYU has partnered with Billboard for a New 'Music Industry Essentials' Educational Program. More specifically, the NYU Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music to launch a unique educational program focused on the music industry. The program explores all areas of the music business and related careers with this new online program from NYU, featuring Billboard and leaders from across the music world. You will gain insider knowledge around key areas of the industry with 50+ on-demand video lessons, and build real-world skills through self-paced projects and assignments. The program includes 6 modules. Each module is 2-3 hours, and is broken into several shorter lessons that you complete at your own pace. Upon successful completion of the program, students receive a non-credit certificate of completion from NYU.

The book Damon references is called The Big Payback, by Dan Charnas.

Music News for this week…..

Bandcamp Announces a Vinyl Record Pressing Service. Musicians on Bandcamp can offer vinyl-pressed music to fans, though a certain number of consumers must commit to buying them before manufacturing starts.  After artists hit the necessary number of orders for vinyl versions of their work, Bandcamp ships them to customers, takes a small cut, and forwards the rest to artists. If you’d like to check out Damon’s album, it is called “Prevailing Melodies” and you can order it from him on vinyl (as well as CDs or digitally)

George Goodrich of Playlist Push has witnessed thousands of successful Spotify playlist campaigns. He partnered with Digital Music News to share the most important tips he’s learned.

Beyoncé’s Lemonade Arrives on All Major Streaming Music Platforms. Six days ago, Netflix unexpectedly released a Beyoncé documentary dubbed Homecoming.  The documentary coincided with an unexpected live album release. The Homecoming documentary — and its 40-song accompanying live album — center around Beyoncé’s performance at last year’s Coachella festival.  This includes rehearsal footage and other previously-unseen backstage moments. In addition to both releases, the singer has also signed a three-part deal to produce multiple projects with Netflix.  That mega-deal is rumored to be worth a cool $60 million. In addition to her current projects, Beyoncé will voice Nala in Disney’s upcoming live remake of The Lion King.

Philadelphia Flyers Officially Remove Kate Smith Statue After Racist Songs Surface, and will no longer play the singer’s rendition of ‘God Bless America’ at games.. Also, the Yankees have stopped using her version of the song.

The music leading into the interview is from this clip here……

Neil started his drumming career with his Uncle, the drummer for the band “The Crying Shame”, which his father was the manager for. Once he got into the school bands, he played with a various amount of ensembles in and out of school, including the Beverly Crusaders (also known as the St. Mary’s Crusaders and the Cardinals).

Towards the end of high school, Neil was nominated to become the tympanist for the United States Collegiate Wind Ensemble and got to tour Europe with that group. After this tour and high school, Neil attended Boston University and studied with Tom Gauger and the late Charlie Smith.

After school, Neil started teaching percussion at several high school programs like: Ipswitch, Lynnfield, and Norwood High School with Paul Alberta the director at the time. From there, Neil went on to teach at King Philip High School with his best friend Peter Tileston.

In 1986 Ed Harrison mentioned to Neil to look into Vic Firth sticks and mallets as a job opportunity and what was supposed to be a 3 month summer job has now turned into an over 30 year career.

One of Neil’s first jobs at Vic Firth was a “pitch pairer” of sticks.

Neil brings up the residency that the Boston Symphony Orchestra has at the legendary Tanglewood.

Neil is a Hall of Fame inductee at both the Cadets drum corps as well as WGI (Winter Guard International).


Neil is now back at The Cadets in a more refreshing atmosphere than the last time he was involved with that drum corps.

Neil connected with Tom Aungst and worked closely with him not only in his previous 16 years at The Cadets, but also at Dartmouth High School.

An Educated Consumer is Our BEST Customer” -Sy Syms.

You can check out the full range of products at Vic Firth, Zildjian Sticks, and Mike Balter Mallets.

See how the sticks are made (short version)…..

Here is the full 17 part playlist of videos with regard to how the sticks are made up at the factory in Maine.

The music leading out of the interview is the quarter finals drum judge tape of the Cadets percussion section done by Glenn Fugett.

Neil with Leonard Bernstein

Neil with Leonard Bernstein

Lastly, Damon is featured on episode 6 of the Latin Percussion, We Are Rhythm Podcast (available wherever you listen to your podcasts).

#122 Wilson "Chembo" Corniel- Latin Jazz Conga Master, Educator & More!

#122 Wilson "Chembo" Corniel- Latin Jazz Conga Master, Educator & More!

#120 Ben O'Brien Smith-Co-Host of the Sounds Like a Drum Video Series, Marketing & Media Guru & More!

#120 Ben O'Brien Smith-Co-Host of the Sounds Like a Drum Video Series, Marketing & Media Guru & More!