E-drum pioneer Peter Hart remembered

Monday, 16 November 2020 12:17 pm

digitalDrummer was saddened to learn of the passing of Peter Hart, founder of Hart Dynamics.

Hart died earlier this year in Pensacola, Florida, aged 60.

Ironically, digitalDrummer was planning a feature on the Hart Dynamics business and I was in the throes of an email exchange with Peter at the time of his passing.

Hart’s untimely death came after a number of health challenges, including the need for total knee replacement after a car accident in November last year.

At the time, Hart attempted to raise $50,000 in a GoFundMe campaign, after all his financial reserves were wiped out.

He recounted how his business had been destroyed by a bookkeeper who embezzled $983,000 from the company. “This is not by oversight or neglect. She was very skilled at what she did. The FBI and IRS investigated as well as having many prior audits and help from top professionals in the music industry,” he told supporters.

While Barbara Abraham was sentenced to four years in federal prison, none of the money was recovered. “She put the company out of business, destroyed my credit, and left me with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt,” Hart told digitalDrummer.

Hart was forced to sell the business in 2009, but it collapsed under the new owners and the once prominent brand disappeared in 2013.

Aquarian co-founder Ron Marquez worked with Peter and Hart Dynamics from 2004 until the time he sold his business, manufacturing Hart mesh heads and supplying Aquarian Cymbal Springs and other manufacturing items.

“He was a kind, considerate and honest business partner and was one of those people that you could trust to do the right thing,” he recalls. “Peter was one of those small grassroots business owners that loved the technology and did what he could to help to bring his version of quality, alternative electronic percussion products to an ever-expanding marketplace that was dominated by just a few major manufacturers at the time.”

Drum-tec connection

Indirectly, Hart Dynamics was instrumental in the creation of one of Europe’s strongest e-drum businesses, drum-tec. Konrad Müller-Bremeyer, drum-tec’s founder, acknowledges that Hart was the inspiration for his business which was originally established to import Hart products into Europe.

Unfortunately, the start of drum-tec coincided with increasing problems at Hart, with Peter admitting his company “just couldn't supply them with enough product …  as we were constantly back-ordered due to the embezzlement by our bookkeeper”.

He explained that the bookkeeper was falsifying purchase orders for parts and stealing the money. “We were always running out of parts even though our inventory in our computer system said we had them,” he adds. This meant Hart was not able to supply its dealers or even supply replacement parts.

“I think (drum-tec) got frustrated and decided to make drums themselves,” he said.

Müller-Bremeyer describes the business relationship as “pure horror”.

Industry connections

Former Zildjian executive and current percussion industry consultant John P. DeChristopher had known Hart for 30 years. They often met at industry events, and DeChristopher says Hart was always curious about Artist Relations, working with artists and how to handle certain business situations regarding endorsements. Sometimes he’d call with a business question, or just to talk about drummers - I remember him being particularly into Steve Gadd, Vinnie Colaiuta and Dave Weckl, all of whom I worked closely with then.”

“He was a nice guy, a bit of a character, and I recall he had a mischievous sense of humour at times, but it was always in good fun as far as I’m concerned,” he says, adding condolences to his family and friends.

My own personal interaction with Peter Hart was frustrating. While many in his organisation welcomed and supported digitalDrummer, it was difficult to access review samples or to discuss advertising support. In our later conversations, Peter apologised for the difficult relationship, blaming it on the embezzlement which left him with limited resources, supply chain issues and general business challenges. Under those circumstances, it made sense to keep a low profile, he lamented.

Our relationship with the company improved dramatically under Hart’s new owners, but I don’t think they realised the reputational damage that had been caused, and they were unable to resurrect the Hart brand.

There’s no doubt that Hart Dynamics had a significant impact on electronic percussion, with its full-size, acoustic-style drums and brass cymbals setting a new benchmark. At its peak, Hart also supplied triggers to many touring pro drummers, routinely beefing up the electronics of ddrum triggers “with industrial grade designs”.

It was sad to see Hart Dynamics disappear from the market and even sadder to hear of its founder’s passing and the ill fortune which he faced beforehand

 Rest in peace, Peter!