Donated drums

Union High drummers try out their newly donated snare drums under the watchful eye of Michael Caimona, owner of 1710 Percussion. From left are Jaqueline Warren, Amy Friend and Emily Riggans.

A Union High graduate who owns a custom drums company donated some of his wares to his alma mater.

Michael Caimona, who graduated from Union in 1991, founded Maryland-based 1710 Percussion in 2012. The business, which makes drums for rock, folk, jazz, classical, funk, and gospel drummers, arose from Caimona’s hobby of building personal snare drums and refurbishing kits. Soon, it turned into an enterprise that focuses on bringing a detailed artistic approach to other drum enthusiasts.

Today, the craftsmen at 1710 Percussion use a combination of domestic and exotic woods coupled with high-quality hardware to provide a sound, style, and design that meets each client’s specifications.

In December, Caimona built three custom snare drums and donated them to the Union High School music department as a way to show his respect to the place where he learned to play the drums.

“This past fall, I discussed the idea of donating a few snare drums to the school with my family and we all knew it would be a great opportunity,” said Caimona. “My love for music took shape the moment I started drum lessons in elementary school. I had to give something back to the school.”

Caimona contacted Principal Mike Ross — with whom Caimona attended high school and college — and asked if he would accept the donation. Ross agreed, but only under the condition that Caimona visit the school and meet with the students.

“Mr. Caimona is a dynamic and impressive individual, and I knew he would deliver a captivating and meaningful message to our students,” Ross said.

So before the winter break, Caimona and his son, Adam, who also works for the family drum company, visited the school and spoke with the music department.

“It was a surreal experience,” said Caimona, who hadn’t been in the school since his graduation day nearly 24 years ago. “The staff was fantastic and the students were awesome.”

Caimona presented the snare drums to the music department and fielded questions from students for over an hour.

“We talked about music, my experiences in school and how I started building drums,” he said.

Ross believes the students “really bonded to the idea that Union High School alumni accomplish great things and reflect back on their time here at Union as having prepared them to meet the challenges inherently associated with any great accomplishment.”

Since its founding, 1710 Percussion has gained the attention of such notable drummers as Alessia Mattalia (drummer for Jeff Beck’s Grammy Award winning single, Hammerhead), Ben “Benzel Baltimore” Cowan of George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic (and 2014 Modern Drummer Readers Poll nominee) and Larry Shotter of Lovebettie (2013 Rolling Stone “Band to Watch”).

Although the company operates out of Maryland, Caimona and his team maintain their hometown ties by supporting several local New Castle musicians and have formed partnerships with lesson studios, music stores and percussionists throughout western Pennsylvania.

710 Percussion’s focus is not limited to creating drums tailored to their clients; charity is an equally important part of the company culture. 1710 has designed and auctioned drums to raise money for military families, cancer and ALS research and to support Maryland high school music departments. Several times throughout the year, the 1710 team hosts a charity event geared towards nonprofit organizations.

Thus, supporting the place where his passion for drums took root made perfect sense for Caimona. He hopes to return to Union this spring to see the donated drums in action.

“I am very appreciative, as are all the students here at Union, for the generous donations from Mr. Caimona,” Union High band director Mark Godwin said. “It’s great that someone gave back to the school in order to support these students and to show them that they can achieve success in whatever they apply themselves.”

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