Sunday, July 5, 2009

William H. Reamer, Drummer, Drum Instructor, Drum Maker

This article is reprinted from CADRE's Website:

Bill Reamer passed away on February 21, 2007. Bill was the drum instructor for The Archer Epler Drum & Bugle Corps of Upper Darby PA which many of us had the privelege of competing against in the 1950's and 60's. Bill was the propieter of DRUMMERS SERVICE located in East Earl PA. As a master craftsman he produced custom rope drums that are legend. His hand crafted custom drum sticks are collectors items. Paul Mosley and myself purchased several pairs of Bill's sticks a few years ago and continue to use them.

An obituary and pictures of one of Bill's custom rope drum's built for Dick Filkins, a Reamer student, is attached. Bill Reamer made a significant contribution to the rudimental art form. His accomplishments will not be forgotten. On behalf of all CADRE members and associates, our condolences to the Reamer family.

Fred Johnson,
(Canadian Associates Rudimental Drumming Excellence)]
William H. Reamer, 85, New Holland, PA died Wednesday, February 21, 2007 at his home. He is survived by his wife Elizabeth (Sinclair) Reamer with whom he shared 59 years of marriage.

A lifelong drummer and instructor, Bill taught rudimental drumming to many who later became champions. He picked up the baton from "Buck" Soistman upon his death and carried on the tradition of the "Grand Republic Drum," following in the footsteps of Gus Moeller and others. He also did fine restorations of historic drums for many museums. After retirement, he had pursued drum making and drum restoration full time. His drums are used by many major orchestras throughout the world, as well as by the U.S. Military, including the Old Guard Field Music of Ft. Meyer, VA. He was a member of Archer Eppler Drum & Bugle Corps of Upper Darby and a founder of Independence Fife & Drum Corps of Broomall.

Bill served in the U.S. Army during WWII in New Guinea, Philippines, and Japan. He was a member of the V.F.W. and American Legion of Upper Darby and also enjoyed camping.

Surviving in addition to his wife are two sons, William S., married to Karen, of Ithaca, N.Y., and Andrew L., married to Ruth Ann, of Pittsburgh; six grandchildren, Billy, Jessica, Dana, Christine, Elizabeth, and James; and a sister, Elizabeth, married to Jack Ritchie, of Newtown Square.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, February 24, 2007 at 2 p.m. in the Garden Spot Village Garden Towers (3rd Floor) with Pastor E. Clair Martin officiating. The family will greet friends on Saturday from 1 to 2 p.m.
Drummers are invited to bring their instruments. "Downfall of Paris" will be played in honor of Bill.

Kindly omit flowers. If desired, memorial contributions in his memory may be sent to Hospice of Lancaster County, PO Box 4125, Lancaster, PA 17604-4125; Garden Spot Village Benevolent Fund, 433 S. Kinzer Ave., New Holland, PA 17557; or to Cedar Grove Presbyterian Church, 4833 Division Hwy., East Earl, PA 17519. The Groff-High Funeral Home, New Holland is in charge of arrangements. Online condolences may be sent at:

Edmund W. Boyle


This article reprinted from Memorial Websites.

Full Name: William H. "BIG" Reamer
Date of Birth: October 26, 1921
Date of Death: February 21, 2007
Country of Birth: United States
Place of Birth: Philadelphia, PA
Place of Death: New Holland, PA
Biography: William H. Reamer, affectionately known as "BIG," was a well known snare drummer, instructor, drum judge, drum & drumstick maker, mentor, loving husband, father and grandfather.

Bill started drumming in 1933 with a Boy Scout drum and bugle corps and worked weekends (between the years 1935 and 1938) at the drum shop of William A. Barry, located at 3426 Market Street in Philadelphia, PA, a youthful precursor to the establishment of his drum making business 41 years later. He studied drumming under Joseph L. Walters, Charles S. Walton (drum maker of Philadelphia), prior to W.W.II, Al Moffat (Connecticut drum instructor) and Benjamin Podemski - 1st Chair Percussionist with the Philadelphia Orchestra. In 1936, Bill was a member and drum instructor of Archer Epler Jr. and Sr. "Musketeers" Drum & Bugle Corps of Upper Darby, PA. Many times this corps was V.F.W. and A.L. State and National Champs throughout his approximately 27 years with the group. From the years 1938 - 1941, Bill had the prestigious honor of winning the V.F.W. National Snare Drum Championship (Jr.) for 4 years. During his Army years, 1942-46 (where he served in New Guinea, the Philippines and Japan), he played with the Army Field Forces band under Edwin Franko Goldman and later went on to coach several national champion individual competitors. From 1946 - 1956 he instructed Howard W. McCall "BlueBirds" Jr. Drum & Bugle Corps of Philadelphia (A.L. Jr. National Champions) - the first junior corps to play Ratamacues - and the Osmond Hurricanes in 1948 and 1949; 1947 - 1968 he instructed the National Champion Audubon "Bon-Bons" All Girls Drum & Bugle Corps of Audubon, NJ (See YouTube video of 1972 Bon Bons' "Reamer" Drum Solo). From 1950 - 1958, Bill was a judge for the All-American Drum and Bugle Corps and Band Association and also served as Chief Judge of the Mid-Atlantic States Assoc. He organized "Patriots of Broomall" Fife & Drum Ancients in 1969, "Drums," a rudimental drum group, in 1971, and "Company of Drummers" in 1972 (all located in Broomall). In 1974, along with with fifer Edmund Boyle, Bill was co-organizer, President and Assistant Drum Sgt. of the Independence Fife & Drum Corps of Broomall, PA. This award winning corps had the honor of entertaining a number of dignitaries such as U.S. Presidents Gerald R. Ford and Jimmy Carter, Queen Elizabeth, President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing of France and King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden and performed numerous times at Independence Hall in Philadelphia (including in 1976 for the Bicentennial), as well as a plethora of fife and drum musters from Virginia to Connecticut and appearances on television & radio. Though the group never competed, the Independence Fife & Drum Corps was well respected among the fife & drum corps elite, worldwide.

From the years 1968 - 1971, Bill Reamer enjoyed a teaching career as drum instructor for the award winning Marple-Newtown High School Symphonic Marching Band, as result of band director, Larry McGriff, seeking out the best drum instructor he could find, which began a long tradition of superior rudimental drumming skills being taught on a level not found in any other high school band drum sections at the time. Due to the geographical location of M-N High School, both of Bill's sons, Bill & Andrew, were members of the band, as well as most of his private drum students. McGriff was also one of the pioneering band directors, in the country, who began featuring the "drumline" during performances and competitions, many years before the influence of Drum Corps began to permeate the styles of what we see in high school & college bands today. The influence of Reamer's rudimental drumming adroitness was obvious with the M-N High School Band Drumline - introducing rudiments never before seen on the high school level, such as the "6 Stroke Roll," which Bill coined as "Troublemakers" and had taught for many years to his Drum Corps drumlines. Under the unique & innovative musical direction of Larry McGriff and along with Reamer's drum instruction, the Marple-Newtown High School Symphonic Marching Band had the privilege of winning a myriad of 1st Place trophies in high school band competitions all along the East Coast and Northeast Corridor.

In 1976, Bill bought Charles "Buck" Soistman's "Rolling Drum Shop" drum making equipment and established the rope drum and drumstick manufacturing business he named "Drummer's Service" - in tribute to the name used by C.S. Walton for his drum making business in Philadelphia. In 1978, Bill finally retired from the Philadelphia Electric Company after 36 years of service as Clerical Supervisor, so he could devote all of his time to drum & drumstick making. With the volunteer help from many of his faithful drum students, the "shop" was transported from "Buck" Soistman's location in Baltimore, MD, to his residence at 2419 North Greenhill Road in Broomall, PA, then subsequently to Fetterville & New Holland, both in Lancaster County, PA (the heart of Amish country), where he later resided. This is where Bill remained for the rest of his life with his loving wife, the late Elizabeth "Renie" of 59 years (who passed on April 9, 2008). His finely crafted & tuned rope tensioned snare drums, which he branded as the "Grand Republic Drum" (the name used by and in honor and as successor to renowned drum teacher, author & drum maker, Sanford A. Moeller) and rope tensioned bass drums, as well as his drumsticks (most models & templates acquired as successor to Soistman & M.D. Healy) are used by drummers and fife & drum corps throughout the world, including the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes & Drums. Reamer's hand crafted orchestral bass drums and Tambour de Provencal, are used by many major orchestras such as the Philadelphia Orchestra, and Pittsburgh Symphony. He was contracted for many years by the U.S. Military and his drums were a part of the order of music for the U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own" and the Old Guard Fife & Drum Corps of Ft. Meyer, VA.

Over the years, "BIG," as he was lovingly referred to by his loyal drum students, was the member of a number of drumming associations, such a N.A.R.D. (National Association of Rudimental Drummers) where he was a 1975 nominee for President, I.A.R.P. (International Association of Rudimental Percussionists), the Company of Fifers & Drummers, the PAS (Percussive Arts Society - where he served as a guest clinician for PASIC) and was the subject of several magazine articles, including Percussive Notes (PAS Publication) & a feature article in Modern Drummer Magazine. In the year 1983, "BIG" was inducted into the World Drum Corps Hall of Fame, in 2000 into the New Jersey Drum Corps Hall of Fame, and in 2005, into the American Patriots Rudimental Drummers Club (of which he was also a member), as well as the Pennsylvania Drum Corps Hall of Fame.

Besides drumming and drum making, Bill enjoyed canoeing and camping.

William H. Reamer, 85, passed away at his home in New Holland, PA, on February 21, 2007.

Bill & Renie are both survived by their sons, William S. (employed w/Wallace Industries, Inc. in Ithaca, N.Y.), married to Karen, of Ithaca, N.Y., and Andrew L. (Principal Percussionist with the Pittsburgh Symphony and Chair of Percussion at Duquesne University), married to Ruth Ann, of Pittsburgh; six grandchildren, Billy, Jessica, Dana, Christine, Elizabeth, and James; and a sister, Elizabeth, married to Jack Ritchie, of Newtown Square and a multitude of loving and devoted rudimental drum students.


See also "The Troublemakers - Rudimental Drum League" on YouTube, a clip of "TheTroublemakers: Rudimental Drum Tribute to William H. Reamer" (champion drummer, drum teacher & drum maker), recorded live @ Rose Tree Park, Media, PA as a part of a concert feature for the Marple Newtown Community Band under the direction of the legendary Larry McGriff. The drummers are (Left to Right): Lilli Beiduk Middlebrooks, Bruce Reminger & Mark Beecher.

And see a clip of our drum group "The Troublemakers: Rudimental Drum Tribute to William H. Reamer" which was just recorded live @ the Deep River Ancient Muster 2008 (7/19/08), in Deep River, CT. This is only 1/3 of our actual drum group, which includes a bass drummer, but the others were unable to attend. Our performance consists of 3 pieces: "This is True" (written by the late William H. Reamer), "Independence Fancy 2/4" (written by Andrew Reamer) & "3 Camps."

1 comment:

  1. Dear Ellis,

    I read the obituary on Bill Reamer. It was an honor to have known a man of his stature. It's also been an honor to know such rudimental greats in my life as Robert Redican, Jim Jones, Earl Sturtz, Hugh Quigley, Bill Pace, Pat Cooperman, Charley Poole Sr, and Dr. Frederick Fennell. I also had the opportunity to meet Les Parks, Eric Perrileaux, Earl Sturtz, Fredrick Arsenault, Bill Ludwig, Bill Ludwig Jr., Larry McCormick, Al LeMert(the Silver Fox), Vic Firth, and Buddy Rich. What an impressive resume.

    I scrolled through the photo section [of "
    Frederick Fennell's Moeller Drum and Terry Cornett's Connection with Fennell" this blog at] and saw Dr. Fennell playing on a Moeller drum. I was shocked when I saw it. In the fall of 1979, a month or two after I took delivery of the drum, my best friend was having a party at his house in Waterford Ct. At the time he was the principal arranger and an alto sax player in the USCG Band. The party was in honor of Dr. Fennell who was guest conducting the band that weekend. I brought the drum with me because I knew of his fife and drum recording with the Eastman Wind Ensemble on Mercury Records. (Rope-tuned drums were also used on his pioneer Telarc Digital Recording of the Holtz Suites and Handel's Music of the Royal Fireworks.)

    The entire USCG Band was at the party and they persuaded Dr. Fennell to play on my drum. Some of the members took pictures of it and the Assistant Director took motion pictures. I would love to have a photo of Dr. Fennell playing that rope-tuned Moeller. The USCG Band would love to have it in its archives, and the former assistant director would certainly remember it. Whenever I see him he always mentions that moment to me.

    My best friend hosted that party back in 1979. If an 8x10 color glossy of that shot could be obtained, it certainly would be hung in the hallway outside his office.

    Hope to see you soon.

    Michael G. Jedd


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