George Philip Carroll, passed away on March 5, 2020 after an extended period of illness. George is survived by Cathy Carroll and four children from a previous marriage, Erin, Anne, Nathan and Paige.
For over 60 years George was a renown and respected leader in the national community of fifing and drumming. In the 1960’s his research into, and arranging of, authentic colonial fife tunes and drum beatings contributed to the resurgence of this historic music known as the “ancient” style. In 1961, he became the first Drum Major and Musick Master of the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums. During ten years at Colonial Williamsburg he was a mentor to and teacher of hundreds of local boys, and he transformed the Fifes and Drums into one of the country’s preeminent fife and drum corps. In 1960, prior to coming to Colonial Williamsburg, George was instrumental in establishing the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, which is part of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) of the U.S. Army, based at Fort Myer, Virginia.
George began his military music career very early. He taught himself to play the drums by playing on tin cans. He was 15 when he joined the Canadian Sea Cadets in Pictou, Nova Scotia and, when he was able, he joined the regular Canadian Navy as a drummer. He served on several ships including an extended period on the only Canadian aircraft carrier, the HMCS Magnificent. After serving in the Canadian Navy, he joined the Black Watch Regiment of Canada as a drummer. In 1958, the Black Watch was sent to Washington D.C., to play for Queen Elizabeth II. Since his enlistment in the Black Watch was about to end, George decided to audition for The U.S. Army Band at Fort Myer, Virginia. He was immediately invited to join. In 1958, his enlistment in the Black Watch Band ended and George enlisted in the U.S. Army as a percussionist in The U.S. Army Band, doing field, dance and concert work. He served several years from 1958 to 1961 with The U.S. Army Band during which time he visited the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution to research American colonial fifing and drumming, and he formed a boy’s fife and drum corps in Arlington, Virginia.
His research became known to his superiors in The U.S. Army Band and in 1960 he was asked to help create a fife and drum corps for the Army that would become known as the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps. During the planning for this corps, the Army sought assistance from Colonial Williamsburg and George met William (Bill) Geiger, the Director of the Colonial Williamsburg Craft Shops and the supervisor of the newly formed Colonial Williamsburg Militia and Fifes and Drums. Bill Geiger saw in George a leader who could train and develop the fledgling Colonial Williamsburg fifers and drummers and he offered the job to George in 1961. George accepted the job and he led the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums for ten years until 1971 when he accepted an invitation to form a fife and drum corps for Disney World in Florida.
After working at Disney World, George moved to Alexandria, Virginia, to work at the Pentagon for the National Guard Bureau in its museum’s heraldry and history division. In the 1980’s he became the Bandleader of the Virginia National Guard’s 29th Infantry Division. He was the founder and editor of a newsletter of history, heraldry and museums, and he was the author of the Army National Guard Regulation for Museums.
While living in Alexandria, George opened a drum shop and gave drum lessons. He also began making wood rope-tension drums under the company name Carroll’s Drum Service.
In 2015, George moved to Williamsburg, Virginia. In 2016, he was honored by the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums alumni at the 60th anniversary of the corps. His “Grand Republic” eagle drum, made by Charles “Buck” Soistman, which George played in John F. Kennedy’s inauguration parade, is on display at the Colonial Williamsburg Fife and Drum Building in Williamsburg, Virginia. During the 1960’s, virtually every snare drummer in the Colonial Williamsburg Senior Corps played this drum.
George was an icon in American fifing and drumming, particularly for his contributions to and promotion of the ancient style. During his career he was a determined researcher and he authored numerous books and articles on fifing and drumming. He was a Fellow of the Company of Military Historians and a founding member of the Company of Fifers and Drummers. He formed many other corps in various areas of the US where he had lived, and many of those corps are still in existence
George also was a percussionist with the National Concert Band of America, a member of the Percussive Arts Society, and Director of Music for the Civil Air Patrol’s only recognized music program. In 2007, he wrote a book on the history of military drums, “American Drums of War: 1607-2007,” which was published in 2008.
In addition to George’s contributions to American fifing and drumming, his teaching of a broad range of percussive arts to thousands of students, and those students continuing to perform and to teach in a wide variety of percussive fields and careers, is another of his many legacies.
If you wish to make a memorial contribution please visit his Treasured Memories site or click below.