George P. Carroll

March 5, 2020
George P. Carroll

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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.

More about George’s life and accomplishments can be found by clicking this link.

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.

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  • March 28, 2020
    Duke Thompson says:
    George was our first drum instructor at Maryland Conservatory of music. He was such a great colleague and he helped me as I was putting the conservatory together to construct some great programs. He brought his big band up several times to play at our annual dinner Galas. I would always ask him to play the Gene Krupa style, which he was so good at. My best to George’s family. George was a great person.

  • March 29, 2020
    Bonnie (BJ) Enderle says:
    Cathy, we haven't talked in a long time and I really miss that. My heart goes out to you in the loss of George. I just saw the obituary today (3-28-2020), and was sad to confirm what I had heard. George was a major influence in my life and the lives of so many young musicians. You and I were best friends when we met George, and I treasure that friendship even today. I pray that God will give you comfort now and always.

  • April 03, 2020
    Maureen Vollet says:
    Sincere Condolences from George’s second daughter, Maureen Vollet (born Carroll, 1955) and his two granddaughters Jacqueline Maloney (born 1977) and Jennifer Maloney Adab (born 1979). George is also survived by his three great grandsons, Arian Adab (born 2014), Andre Adab (born 2017) and Theodis Luther (born 2017) in British Columbia, Canada. We are sad that we didn’t get to know him.

  • April 08, 2020
    T. Howard Curtis III says:
    Hello Cathy, I’m not quite sure you remember me, suffice it to say, Mr. Carroll had a profound influence on me as drummer, percussionist and most importantly as a human being. His singular energy with his craft, certainly influenced me greatly and it’s no stretch of the imagination to say that were it not for him, I would not be where I am today. Most certainly were I now in the States and not quarantined, I would have participated in Mr. Carroll’s celebration. I do wish you well right now and certainly hope you may gain some solace in the the knowledge of the totality of the influence, knowledge and level of musical excellence Mr. Carroll was able to passionately impart to all as I certainly remember. Do take care.

  • April 10, 2020
    Ed Jackson says:
    I met George at the 125th reenactment of the battle of Antietam. I was awakened to his "drummer's call". I had never heard a rope drum played so beautifully. It was 6:00 a m. I immediately rushed to his side and became a student of the great Drum Major George Phillip Carroll. We worked together for many years, at reenactments and at Old Fort Jackson in Savannah Georgia. I learned more from George than I can relate to you here. He was the best! I was already an accomplished drummer, having been the drum instructor for the 1st Marine Division Drum and Bugle Corps. But my experience was elementary compared to the expertise that he offered. He helped me learn the history and fine techniques of historic drumming that would have been lost without his tireless work. The world has lost a true Master of his trade. There will never be a more accomplished and dedicated master of drumming than George Carroll. What a loss! Thank you George!