Made in Massachusetts: Cymbals

A symbol of excellence in the music industry– the Zildjian Cymbal Company has a rich history that predates the United States.

“Anytime you think of a cymbal sound, you think of a Zildjian cymbal sound,” said Director of Research and Development Paul Francis.

Back in 1623, Armenian alchemist Avedis Zildjian came up with a special blend of copper and tin, but not in an effort to make an instrument. He was trying to make gold.

“As far as I’m concerned, he did make gold,” said Francis. “Ask any drummer that plays Zildjian and they think he did.”

The combination of copper and tin is a closely-guarded secret. Only four trusted employees are allowed into the melt room where the special alloy is created.

The cymbals are meticulously crafted. First, castings are put into an oven at 1,500 degrees. Then they go into a machine that rolls them flat, and the thin metal sheets are treated to make them strong.

“It’s much like taking a piece of wire, and turning it into a spring,” said Francis.

Machines and a hammer bend and press the metal discs into the shape of a cymbal. This is the most important job on the factory floor.

“If you do not lathe the cymbals properly, you ruined all the other work that came before you,” said Francis.

Some employees have worked at Zildjian for decades. One employee, named George, has been with the company for 40 years.

“Zildjian is number one,” said George.

The company is also number one with top talent. Zildjian has a Hall of Fame outfitted with the world’s best drummers through the decades, including artists like Ringo Starr, Buddy Rich, Mick Fleetwood, Questlove, Tommy Lee and Max Weinberg.

Before the stars can play them, each cymbal goes through a minimum of 15 people’s hands, but it’s Leon Chiappini’s ears that are the most important. He’s been with the company for 54 years and tests every single cymbal.

“We have a lot of pride in the product,” said Chiappini, “and we have a lot of pride that it’s made in the United States, right here in Massachusetts.”