Archive for Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Percussion manufacturer opens its doors

February 26, 2003

Baldwin's newest business is coming in with a bang.

Even though the work on the building is not quite complete, there has already been production going on at Vaughncraft Percussion, 602 High St.

The new downtown Baldwin business makes percussion instruments for both professionals and students alike.

"Customers from all over the world are buying our products," Ron Vaughn, Vaughncraft Percussion founder, said.

Vaughn started his business in 1970 when he was a student at the University of Indiana, but the interest in making percussion instruments was there long before.

"My business started out of my interest in drum making," he said. "Even as a young kid, I made drums for myself."

As a performance major at the university, Vaughn made some of his own percussion instruments, as well as other students'.

In between his studies and instrument making, he took semesters off to tour and perform with Bob Hope and Johnny Mathis.

He eventually took a job with the Venezuelan National Orchestra and also spent time performing in clubs throughout South America. But the instrument making didn't stop, even when he traveled.

"All those years I continued to build things, even in South American," he said.

After graduating from the University of Indiana, Vaughn moved to Nashville to focus on performing and instrument design and construction. He created his own version of traditional percussion instruments, often using them in his studio and club performances.

Vaughn later moved to Kansas to raise his family and opened Vaughncraft Percussion in Centropolis, where it remained for about 15 years until its recent move to Baldwin.

The Vaughncraft line has changed design and developed technology to improve percussion instruments. Some of his improvements include producing complete drum shells from one solid piece of hardwood and changing the design of the percussion woodblock.

"I'm deeply ensconced in research and development," he said. "We have some of the best drum builders in the world."

Included in Vaughncraft Percussion products are woodblocks, tambourines, log drums, temple blocks and slapsticks.

Vaughncraft customers have comprised of a variety of performers and include the Rolling Stones, Liza Minelli and the New York Philharmonic.

But his five-employee business also caters to the not-so-professional performers. Vaughncraft Percussion has a line of instruments, Bullfrog Percussion, geared more for elementary, high school and college students and their education.

Vaughn said he moved his business to Baldwin because he liked what the town offered in its size and its closeness to Kansas City.

"I personally felt it had the right combination," he said. "It's a terrific little town."

He said he plans to partner with Baker University to use its facilities for percussion camps, festivals and workshops.

Vaughncraft Percussion will have an open house from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday. The public is invited to attend.

"We're really excited to be in Baldwin," Vaughn said.

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