John Beck's 1922 Leedy Snare Drum


CHARACTERS: 6 1/2” X 15” Leedy snare drum with 14 single tension rods and gut snares Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra Eastman School of Music “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band William G. Street Oliver “Ollie” Zinsmeister John H. Beck

PLACE: Rochester, NY

DATE: 1922 to present

STORY: This Leedy snare drum belonged originally to William G. Street who in 1922 was the percussionist for the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. The Eastman Theatre was opened in 1922 and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra performed the first concert heard in the new Eastman Theatre. The first sound that was heard in the Eastman Theatre was the snare drum roll performed by William G. Street on the Leedy snare drum to announce the Star Spangled Banner. This drum was Street’s pride and joy.

The first graduate in percussion from the Eastman School of Music was Oliver “Ollie” Zinsmeister in 1935. Ollie was a resident of Rochester, NY. Besides performing in the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, William G. Street was also the Professor of Percussion at the Eastman School of Music and Ollie was his first student.  Street continued to teach both timpani and percussion at Eastman until 1968.

When Ollie graduated he was selected for “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band in Washington, DC. Street was overjoyed with his first student’s success. Ollie joined the Marine Band and became part of the “Dream Team” - Charles Owen/ Oliver Zinsmeister. They performed on marimba and xylophone not only in Washington, DC but for 20 years all over the United States as the band toured once a year for nine weeks in various parts of the United States. They also did weekly radio broadcasts. As you can imagine, Street was proud of Ollie to the point that he gave the Leedy snare drum to him while he was a member of the United States Marine. I imagine Ollie used it many times for concerts with the band.

When Ollie’s 20- year enlistment was up in 1955, it was my turn to graduate from the Eastman School of Music (1951-55). I took the audition with the band to replace Ollie and was successful. For four years (1955-1959) I was a member of the band and played marimba solos in Washington, DC and on tour. Essentially I was continuing what Ollie had done. Street was also proud of me for my accomplishments. Now he had two of us who did him proud. I only stayed for four years because a call from Street telling me he was going to retire from the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and would I like to audition. I said “yes” and got the job. I also became the teacher at the Eastman School of Music in 1968 when Street retired.

Ollie and I kept in touch with each other over the years. The Leedy snare drum was still in his possession. Because I continued teaching in the tradition of William G. Street, continued Ollie’s tradition in the United States Marine Band, and Ollie’s affection for Street and the Eastman School of Music, Ollie gave the drum to me with the idea that I would continue the tradition of the drum.

Since the drum has been in my possession it has been used for a celebration of the renovation of the Eastman Theatre in 2004 in a percussion fanfare that I wrote. I also used it in 2009 in a performance of the Downfall Of Paris for a celebration to announce an addition to the Eastman Theatre. I have used the drum many times to tell the story that you have just read - and will continue to do so.

John H. Beck

Professor Emeritus of Percussion Eastman School of Music Retired Timpanist of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra