In Memoriam - Robert Zildjian (1923-2013)

zildjianIt was a huge challenge, not one that many men would have chosen to take on. At the age of 57, Bob was faced with having to build a brand new cymbal company and pit it against a cymbal company that was 350 years old. “It was not the easiest thing in the world, but I had an awful lot of good friends in the business.” SABIAN thrived under his direction. Bob Zildjian had the ability to bring out the best in people. Employees, dealers and musicians alike were honored to be associated with him.

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”, comments Master Product Specialist Mark Love, who has been with the company since 1980. Indeed, to say that family was important to Bob would be an understatement. “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.

Bob Zildjian has taken us all on a trip that we would never have realized — many of us never even realized what we were good at in life, until Bob took us and found it in us”, comments Nort Hargrove, who began his career at the Azco factory factory in 1973, and is currently Sabian VP of Manufacturing — a true-life testament that Bob’s philosophy of family was much more than just words.

This philosophy would extend to musicians as well, especially young musicians and percussion students. Bob believed strongly that he could play an important role in helping young people’s dreams come true. “I think the music business is one I would encourage young people to take very seriously. It’s a great medium in which to work.” And so he funded the SABIAN PASIC Scholarship, awarded to a Canadian student of percussion each year.

Bob also believed it was important to honor the achievement of gifted percussionists — those whose performances had shaped the future of sound. He would set up a Sabian Lifetime Achievement Award, awarded each year at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC). Past winners include musical luminaries such as Jack DeJohnette and Vic Firth.

Bob would also be on the receiving end of many an award throughout his illustrious life, but he was most proud of the two bestowed by his adopted province of New Brunswick, the place he had sought refuge and the place he chose to build his legacy. First was the 2009 New Brunswick Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame Award, which honored the brightest business minds in the province while raising money for Junior Achievement programs. And second was the honorary degree he received from the University of New Brunswick in 2010. The Citation read: “An advocate of ‘thinking the unthinkable’…he has led his family of artisans and workers with what his friends call a supreme passion for the music and the people in the music industry…and for moving the art form forward in as many ways as possible with modern vision and creative innovation.”

“I’d like to be the best cymbal company in the world,” said Bob Zildjian 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.”

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