In Memoriam

Lenny DiMuzio

When Lennie DiMuzio died this past March 7 after a long battle with cancer, the phrase “end of an era” was truly appropriate. During his decades working at Zildjian and then for Sabian, DiMuzio defined what artist relations could mean. “You weren’t just clients who played their cymbals,” Kenny Aronoff says. “Lennie really cared about the endorsers.”

DiMuzio was born on May 4, 1933, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. After high school he studied at the New England Conservatory and the Schillinger House. He was drafted into the army during the Korean War and sent to Germany. After he returned, he was working as a drummer when Armand Zildjian heard him playing in a Boston bar. “He was a damn good drummer,” Armand told MD in 1986. “He knew what he was doing, and he was a very likable, affable fellow.”

DiMuzio spent over forty years working for the Zildjian company, where he started in 1960 as a cymbal tester before becoming artist relations manager. For the past ten years he was a consultant with Sabian. In 2010 he published his memoirs, Tales From the Cymbal Bag, cowritten with his friend Jim Coffin.

Drummers could tell that DiMuzio knew what he was talking about when it came to cymbals and drumming—and it wasn’t just talk. “One favorite memory I have of Lennie took place in a hotel room after a Zildjian Day,” Steve Smith says. “The room was packed with hotshot drummers demonstrating their chops for each other on a practice pad. After a while Lennie said, ‘Let’s see who can play the quietest press roll.’ He played a beautiful triple-pianissimo roll. We all gave it our best attempt, but none of us had the control to play as quiet as Lennie.”

However much drummers respected DiMuzio’s musical knowledge, it was his personality that endeared him to so many players. “It’s almost impossible to think of Lennie and not smile,” Peter Erskine says. “The man’s limitless joy and love transcend all that I know about grief. Lennie was always there for us, whether in the form of kindly assistance, encouragement, or the best, worst-timed, politically incorrect joke he could manage to pull out of his hat or his pants or God only knows where else. Lennie opened our eyes and hearts to the big cosmic joke of life’s absurdities, and in doing so he bestowed that gift of the gods: insight into our own foibles and compassion for the idiot artist in all of us.”

In a note that was read at DiMuzio’s funeral, Vinnie Colaiuta said, “He always made you feel good about yourself. That was a great gift of his: He made you feel good—made you feel better—all the time. He could attend to someone in any way: If you were sad, he’d be a balm; if you were happy and joking, you’d feel even happier; and he’d be so funny that he could put you on the floor. I have so many fond memories of him imparting cherished wisdom, making me laugh until my stomach hurt, and just making me feel better after being around him and better for having known him.”

DiMuzio’s speech was punctuated with hipster lingo from the 1950s, delivered with a distinctive Boston accent, but he could relate as well to young rock drummers coming up as to the older jazz players he had grown up with. “Lennie saw the drum industry as one big family,” Colin Schofield, who worked with him at Zildjian, says. “If you were a drummer at any level, to Lennie you were part of the family, even if you endorsed a competitor’s product. He loved the drum community, and everybody loved Lennie and wanted to hang out with him. As his daughter Cecelia said so eloquently at his funeral, ‘What do you do when your father is more fun to hang out with than your own friends?’”

Like many drummers, Steve Gadd especially appreciated the relationship between DiMuzio and Armand Zildjian. “Armand and Lennie worked great together, and we had a lot of good times,” Gadd says. “They took their work seriously, but they had a lot of fun. They knew the importance of enjoying what you do and doing what you love.”

“To say his passing marks the end of an era is an understatement,” John DeChristopher, who worked with DiMuzio at Zildjian, says. “If ever there were a Mount Rushmore for the drum industry, Lennie’s smiling face would surely be included.” Rick Mattingly