The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.

Front and Center: Avedis Zildjian CEO, Craigie Zildjian

As the 2015 She Rocks Awards draw near, we are thrilled to share interviews featuring the amazing honorees. Next in line is Avedis Zildjian CEO, Craigie Zildjian.

The 2015 She Rocks Awards take place Friday, January 23 at the NAMM Show in Anaheim, Calif. Tickets are on sale here.

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As the CEO of iconic cymbal company Avedis Zildjian, Craigie Zildjian carries the weight of a 392-year-old company — and she carries it with tremendous grace and confidence.

Craigie first joined her father (Armand), and grandfather (Avedis III) in 1976, making it the first time three generations of Zildjians would work side by side in the family cymbal business.

In another first, 23 years later, Craigie became the first woman to be appointed CEO of the company in 1999. Since then, the company has experienced unprecedented growth strengthening its position as the global market leader in cymbals, while becoming the largest drumstick manufacturer in the world through a merger with the Vic Firth Company.

Craigie has a relentless commitment to education, and initiated the Avedis Zildjian Percussion Scholarship program in memory of her grandfather, the Kerope Zildjian Concert Percussion Competition and the Armand Zildjian Artist In Residence Program at Berklee College of Music. She has sponsored the Zildjian Family Opportunity Fund (administered through the Percussive Arts Society) as well as the Zildjian Percussion Facility at Berklee College. Zildjian is also a Gallery sponsor of the Museum of Making Music and the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Ariz.

For those reasons and many more, it is with great honor that we present Craigie with a 2015 She Rocks Awards. Learn more about her in our interview below, and at www.zildjian.com.

WiMN: You are the first-ever female CEO of Zildjian since its inception in 1623. What would you say to other women aspiring to lead a large, reputable company?
 
CZ: I’d say, ‘Go for it.’  It can be very rewarding.
 
WiMN: Since you started working in the music industry, have you seen any changes in gender inequality? 
 
CZ: When I entered the music industry in 1976, the country as a whole was grappling with gender inequality. There seemed to be very little room for women to participate in business.

If a woman wanted a career, she might have been viewed as a ‘Women’s Liber.’ Thankfully that’s a term no one uses today. And, no longer are women viewed as stealing jobs from men. Society has come to appreciate and value the diversity that women bring. I think this is also true for the music industry. So, we certainly have come a long way although we may still have farther to go.

On a personal level, my grandfather was very progressive in believing that my sister and I could play an important role in business. And, I appreciate that my father gave me the opportunity to be the first woman to head the family business.   
 
WiMN: What is the culture like at Zildjian?
 
CZ: I think that the Zildjian culture has always been one of ‘continuous improvement.’ This is especially true with respect to the product itself. But, it’s also been about continuously trying to become a better company, a better business partner, a better employer and so on.

Obviously the family business dynamic extends to the broader family of artists, customers, employees and vendors. I’d say we’re collaborative. We work hard. At the same time, we’re able to have fun because it’s a fun industry and it’s exciting to be interacting with some of the world’s greatest drummers.
 
WiMN: Who are some of your favorite drummers?

CZ: This could be quite a politcal question, so I’d like to plead the ‘Fifth.’

Naturally, I have favorites from each genre. But, one common denominator I’ve found is that drummers are dedicated, caring people who want to give back.

WiMN: What are some of your most memorable experiences working with Zildjian artists?

CZ: I’ll never forget celebrating the company’s 375th anniversary by honoring drumming legends Max Roach, Elvin Jones, Roy Haynes and Louie Bellson. That was certainly memorable.

And, I’ve enjoyed seeing how some of our Avedis Zildjian Scholarship recipients (such as Antonio Sanchez) have become successful musicians in their own right. Finally, collaborating with artists on product launches is very rewarding.   
 
WiMN: If you had a magic wand and could instantly change one thing in our industry, what would that be?
 
CZ: I’d be tempted to turn everyone into a drummer. But, seriously I’d like to see more opportunities for musicians to perform live, to flourish professionally as well as financially.
 
WiMN: Tell us why music education is so important to you?
 
CZ: Well, I feel it’s the future, creating that next generation of music makers.
 
In addition, it’s essential that great music is passed along to the next generation. And, the best way to do that is through education. So, that is why Zildjian is committed to supporting education.
 
WiMN: How excited are you to receive a She Rocks Awards?
 
CZ: Of course, I’m honored. But, I’m more excited that the She Rocks Awards will exist next year, and the year after in recognition of the contribution women are making in music.

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