Thursday, July 23, 2009

Frederick Fennell's Moeller Drum and Terry Cornett's Connection with Fennell

[Ed. Note: This article was originally posted March 9, 2009, but has been supplemented with clarifying and correcting information from Terry Cornett and Robert Ubaldo for which we thank them. The clarifying information largely concerned certain design features of Moeller drums (e.g., the widened portion of the top counterhoop near the carry point, and the material from which the legs were made).]

Frederick Fennell
with (probably) a Moeller Drum

Note the perfectly centered tight circle denoting the location on the batter head (above) where Fennell's sticks struck repeatedly -- the mark of an accomplished drummer, which Fennell was.

Frederick Fennell
with a Cooperman reproduction
of a Civil War Eagle Drum

Greetings Ellis,

I enjoyed the article and detail of WFL’s drum "[Wm. F. Ludwig's 1864 Rogers Eagle Drum", this blog, March 2, 2009] and the mention of Frederick Fennell. I first met Dr. Fennell, when he conducted me in Honor Band, back in 1971. Later, I became friends with his wife, Elizabeth*, as we would see each other at Percussive Arts Society conventions. I got to work with Dr. Fennell at the National Civil War Band Festivals (2000 & 2003).
[See clip below from the 2003 festival.]

Here [above] are a couple of photos of Dr. Fennell from 2000 with his Civil War snare and his Moeller drum. If my memory serves me, The CW drum was a gift from WFL II, and is a Cooperman reproduction. Neither am I sure of the vintage of the Moeller snare. It may be an original, as it sure has lots of wear.

Terry Cornett**
4021 Apollo Dr. SW
Huntsville, AL 35805

Terry supplemented his email with a note:

The more I look at Fred’s Moeller drum, I am thinking it might have been made by Bob Ubaldo at Old Glory Drum Shop. (Note that in a July 23, 2009 email to Terry Cornett, Mr. Ubaldo reported that he did not make that drum and said that it looks like it is a Moeller drum.) (Mr. Ubaldo also reported that Moeller drums had aluminum feet).

Ed. Note: However, see the drum in Leo J. Brennan's Buck Soistmann Drum (ca. 1964), not technically a Moeller drum but a Moeller derivative. It has metal feet. So, the question for the cognoscenti out there is "did Moeller drums have metal feet?"

In response, cognoscentum ANONYMOUS answered the call and chimed in with this piece of information:


Moeller's drums did have brass feet [Ubaldo says in his email to Terry Cornett dated July 23, 2009 that the feet were aluminum]. A little history of Gus Moeller and his drums can be found in George Carroll's "American Drums of War". Photos of the drum Moeller made for Buck Soistman can be found in this book, which every rope drum collector should find interesting. The book is not on his website yet, but can be purchased by contacting Mr. Carroll at 703-836-7287 and sending $40 ($36 price plus $4 shipping) to:

Mr. George Carroll
203 North Fairfax Street
Alexandria, VA 22314

A photo of three generations' worth of Moeller style drums (Moeller, Soistman, Reamer) can be found at Lancraft's website,

Three Generations of Drums
All Constructed using the same techniques and equipment.
(Jack Mcguire with Moeller, Ed Salerno with Soistman, Bill Maling with Reamer)
ANONYMOUS continued:

I have heard several versions of a story about Moeller making a set of drums for Lancraft in the 1950s. When Moeller learned that they had taken his drums apart and fitted them with cloth strip mufflers (a new idea at the time), he wrote a letter threatening to go to Connecticut and take them back (a copy of this letter is preserved at the Company of Fifers and Drummers library). Moeller was quite upset about the Lancraft drummers using "rags" as "tone sharpeners" in his fine drums. He said that "no good drum needs one." I agree.



Terry Cornett responded with this clarification:

As mentioned, the Leo Brennan drum [Leo J. Brennan's Buck Soistmann Drum (ca. 1964)] is by “Buck” Soistmann; which has brass loops for feet. My friend Bill Hinger has 2 Soistmann drums from the mid-late 1960s, and both have these same brass loops.

A Soistmann Design Feature -- brass loops

Terry continued:

From the looks of the short, fat, aluminum feet, I would venture to say Dr. Fennell’s drum may have been made by Robert Ubaldo (Old Glory Drum Shop). [Again, Robert Ubaldo's July 23, 2009 email says that Fennell's drum is not a Ubaldo but a Moeller.] Besides the similar aluminum feet, the batter hoop of Fennell’s drum has a wider section where the sling hook goes, which is characteristic of Ubaldo’s version of “The Grand Republic” drum. (Ubaldo's email, on the other hand, reports that the wider section was a Moeller design feature.)

A Ubaldo Drum

Close-up on Fennell's Drum -- note the counterhoop's widening at the sling clip, a design feature most observers would have missed and attributed the uneven hoop width to wear or breakage instead of an intentional beefing up of the hoop at a stress concentration point -- the carry point. Robert Ubaldo attributes that design feature to Moeller.

July 23, 2009 Additions to this Story:

Terry Cornett emailed me today with additional information, including interesting feedback from Robert Ubaldo:


Greetings Ellis,

After many months, Robert Ubaldo finally made his way to your website. Robert is the owner/operator of Old Glory Drum Shop. He noticed errors in our discourse about the Moeller drum and Frederick Fennell. I present his letter and my response.


Hello [Terry],

I do not get to use the computer much but did find the [] site and [I found an error] in [the discussion concerning] the intentional beefing up of the hoop [near the sling attachment point]. ... This [design feature] was a trademark of Gus Moeller. Soistman didn't do it and neither did Reamer.

For one reason -- it is hard to do. I make ... exact cop[ies] of the Moeller drum, down to the last measurement as he did it. My wood is not 1/8 inch Ash in veneer form but a modern day 1/8 inch laminate. Other than that the parts are the same.

Please have this error corrected as soon as possible.


Robert C. Ubaldo



Hello Mr. Ubaldo,

I apologize for the confusion. Before I saw Mr. Fennell’s drum, the only time I saw such a hoop was when I met you at a fife & drum muster at Westbrook (my only foray into New England).

As an expert in the field, would you say the drum carried by Mr. Fennell is an original Moeller, or could it be one of your impressive reproductions? The conversation initially concerned the metal feet on the counterhoops to distinguish these from Soistmann drums, which had bent brass feet. Finding a genuine Moeller “Grand Republic” to make comparisons is difficult for me. So your metal feet are exact copies of Moeller feet, as well? Are they cast zinc? They almost look like aluminum, which I mentioned in my comments.

When I contacted Ellis Mirsky [], I mentioned that I had only seen this characteristic design feature on one of your drums ... .

While you are certainly welcome to add your own comments to the website, I can contact Mr. Mirsky with your details. Ellis desires to make his blog as accurate as possible and he needs the help of knowledgeable persons/historians such as you.

For clarity, please provide information on the origin and make-up of the drum feet; origins (if known) of Mr. Fennell’s drum; the widening of the counterhoop was a trademark feature of Gus Moeller.

Following your response, I will see to it that corrections are made.

Thank you for all you do,

Terry Cornett




From what I could see on the drum that Mr. Fennell is carrying, I would say it is a Moeller. It certainly is not one of mine (a Ubaldo). I believe that he (Fennell) just passed away in the last couple of years.

My workshop has a bunch of Moeller hoops bent, broken and otherwise for I do all the work for Dickerson [Charles W. Dickerson Fife and Drum Corps] and they have a set of Moeller drums and I keep them with Moeller parts. Other people worked on them and put their [!@#$%^] on the drums which I took off.

I repair ... Soistman drums, ... Reamer drums and, of course, ... Moeller drums. Those hoops require a lot of work and time. The feet were not cast zinc but aluminum. I keep replacing the Soistman-type brass feet for the screws come off and the crown nuts get lost. Moeller had the best snare strainer of all. Soistman and Reamer didn't.


Look at the site and the Army Drum used at the funeral of President Kennedy. The hoop has Moeller feet and what looks like a raised section on the hoop. [From] the blurred picture I have, it looks like the Moeller snare strainer. Soistman had a poor hook-up that wore out on his drums. I could tell you what is what if I could get close to the drum. There is no Soistman hook up on the drum [nor] any of his work on this drum [which is, nonetheless] credited to him.

[Robert C. Ubaldo]

(N.B.: Mr. Ubaldo had more to say, but for the sake of harmony and tranquilty we'll leave it at that. He is reachable at

* Elizabeth Ludwig Fennell (no relation to William F. Ludwig) was the widow of Carl Ludwig (no relation to William F. Ludwig), president of Ludwig Music Publishing Company (not affiliated with any Ludwig drum company).

In 1989 Elizabeth Ludwig Fennell was presented the OSMA (Outstanding Service to Music Award) at the closing banquet of the 1989 National Convention of Tau Beta Sigma, National Honorary Band Sorority. At the time, Mrs. Fennell was the president of the Ludwig Music Publishing Company. Her and her late first husband Carl Ludwig had built the publishing company and it has become one of the prominent music publishers in the country. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, her business skills were notable, especially in a male-dominated field. Early in her career at Ludwig, Mrs. Fennell composed beginning band level music under a pseudonym, fearing that band directors would not buy music written by a woman. She penned music with the junior high band in mind, since that was not a common audience that composers were writing for. When Mr. Ludwig passed in 1982, Mrs. Fennell gained control of the company. She continued to promote quality band literature and repertoire. In 1985 she married fellow Interlochen alum Fredrick Fennell. Mrs. And Dr. Fennell founded ELF Records in 2000. Mrs. Fennell was the first woman elected to the Music Publishers Association. The 1990 composition by Robert Foster Crest of Allegiance was commissioned for Tau Beta Sigma with funds donated by Mrs. Fennell.

** Terry Cornett has served as principal percussionist for the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra since 1975. An excellent and versatile freelance musician with 33 years professional experience, Mr. Cornett enjoys "first-call" status for regional theater, chorus, ballet and church productions, as well as touring Broadway musicals.

Terry is also the sole propietor/maker of Heritage Drums, which specializes in historically accurate, custom hand-crafted, rope-tensioned drums patterned after 17th- through 19th-century models. He also performs restorations for National museums. Drums built by Mr. Cornett have been used in films such as "Last of the Mohicans," "The Class of '61," "The Blue and The Grey," "Gods and Generals" and several Smithsonian productions. Turner Broadcasting Company purchased a drum for use in advertisements for the NBA play-offs.

Mr. Cornett's early exposure to classical music began in Germany, where his father was stationed with the U. S. Army. "It was the only thing on the radio," he recalls. His formal musical studies began with piano lessons from his Cub Scout den mother in Oklahoma, Mrs. Cook. The family relocated to Huntsville when he was eight; he began studying drumming at age 12.

Here's Terry in uniform as he played with Olde Towne Brass:


See also "The Sousa March: A Personal View" by Frederick Fennell.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, Bob Ubaldo, the original Ye Olde CT Yankee. . . he may be brash, but he tells it as he sees it, and he usually sees things right. . Hey, Bob!



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