At Zildjian, 400 years later, the beat goes on

By Amy C. Cosper

A strong focus on core values, good music and kickass leadership is their secret sauce

This year, iconic cymbal maker and 15th-generation family business Zildjian celebrates its 400th anniversary. Yes. You read that right. 15 generations. The company, which today remains family-owned and operated, started in 1623 and has been based in the United States since 1929 (The cymbals are made in Norwell, Mass.). 

The company’s story begins in a sultan’s palace in the 1600s, where founder Avedis I developed “cymbals for the Janissary bands.” Now, centuries later, “We partner with Travis Barker on his upcoming world tour, and the tradition of musician collaboration continues to drive our sound creation and innovation,” explains Cady Zildjian, 15th-generation vice chair of the company’s board of directors.

Important to note, after 390 years of male leadership (serving sultans and such), the company is now under the helm of Cady’s aunt, Craigie Zildjian (14th generation). Craigie was named CEO in 1999, becoming the first female CEO of the company. She is now the Executive Chair of the company.

There's  lot to unpack in the Zildjian story. 400 years is a long time to be in business -- in any business. And oh yes, there will be celebrations. Lots of celebrations, concerts, merch and all the other cool things that go along with being a company that serves creatives in the music making business. It's a milestone worthh marking for sure, but the company has seen its fair share of challenges.

“Over the past four centuries, the Avedis Zildjian Company has overcome many challenges, including world wars, the Great Depression, and most recently the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite these challenges, we continue to advance our legacy as the world’s leading and oldest cymbal maker,” explains Cady.

The secret to the company’s success, according to Cady, is an unwavering focus on ensuring the company’s core values remain central. And those values? They have changed very little.

“Frankly, our core values haven’t changed. Our family values drive our corporate values. We strive for excellence in all that we do with a mindset towards continuous improvement. This means exploring issues that are important to our organization and customers,” she says.

Innovation continues to be a guidepost at Zildjian. “We recently created a new division of the company called New Ventures. Creating a New Ventures department has allowed us to be deliberate in our innovations, while also maintaining focus on our core businesses in cymbals and drumsticks,” she says.

To succeed in business for as long as Zildjian, Cady has some advice for other family businesses. “Challenge each generation to revitalize the family business.  Instill core values in order to develop emotional equity amongst family members early in their lives. This will strengthen the pride of family ownership.”











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