Two Percussion Pioneers Pass Away

Photo of Herb Brochstein

The percussion community recently mourned the loss of two pioneers: Pro-Mark drumsticks founder Irvin “Herb” Brochstein and Sabian founder Robert “RZ” Zildjian.

Brochstein founded Pro-Mark drumsticks in 1957 after discovering a pair of of oak drumsticks sold by a passing salesman. He chose the company name Pro-Mark, meaning “the mark of a professional,” and the company went on to great worldwide success. In addition to his drumstick business, he enjoyed a long music career of recording and performing, teaching, and owning a drum shop. D’Addario acquired Pro-Mark in 2011, yet they still operate as a family business in Houston, Texas.

“I had the privilege to know and work with Herb Brochstein in the early 1980’s,” said Rick Drumm, president of D’Addario in a press realease. “Herb was a mentor and friend throughout my career. We at D’Addario look forward to continuing to build on Herb’s goal of providing the best quality sticks available.”

The descendant of 10 generations of Armenian cymbal makers, Robert Zildjian worked under his father for many years and in many roles in the family business. After his father’s death, he founded Sabian in 1981.

“He makes the artists feel they’re really a part of the family, and that’s what Bob Zildjian instilled in every one of us at Sabian,” says Master Product Specialist Mark Love on the company website. “‘This is a family business,’ he would insist. And if you have a family business, you can’t help having the people that work with you become part of the family, too.”

Robert Zildjian also supported young musicians and percussionists whenever possible. He founded the Sabian Lifetime Achievement Award, given each year at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC), and the Sabian PASIC Scholarship, awarded to a Canadian student of percussion each year.

“I’d like to be the best cymbal company in the world,” he says in an early Sabian interview. “I’m not that worried about being the biggest. But if we are the biggest, that’s good too. But being the best is primary … that’s my motivation.”

Our condolences to the entire Pro-Mark and Sabian families.

About author

Elizabeth Geli

Elizabeth Geli is the assistant editor of Halftime Magazine and a journalist/communications professional in Southern California. Her 11 years at the University of Southern California (USC) Trojan Marching Band included time as a flute player, graduate teaching assistant, and student advocate. She holds a bachelor's degree in Print Journalism and master's degree in Specialized Journalism (The Arts) from USC.

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