Terry Cornett, Principal Percussion
Terry Cornett has served as HSO principal percussionist since 1975. An excellent and versatile freelance musician, Mr. Cornett enjoys “first-call” status for regional theater, chorus, ballet and church productions, as well as touring Broadway musicals. Experienced in a broad spectrum of popular styles, he performs styles from country and western to pop rock and from German polka bands to mainstream jazz. Mr. Cornett performs regularly across the nation with Olde Towne Brass, Alabama’s only authentic Civil War band, in which he serves as drum sergeant, music arranger and historian.
Mr. Cornett is a frequent “Artist-In-Residence” for the Huntsville Arts Council’s Camp Success program and maintains a private teaching studio in his home. As music editor and arranger, Terry has published over 200 selections of 19th-century brass band music, some of which have been purchased abroad. The internationally acclaimed Chestnut Brass Company recorded 11 of his Stephen Foster arrangements for their CD “Foster for Brass,” on the Naxos label. For his efforts in research, preservation and performance of Civil War era music, Terry has been awarded several citations including the Jefferson Davis Medal by the United Daughters of The Confederacy and commissioned a Kentucky Colonel by the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
Mr. Cornett scored special music for two PBS documentaries by Ken Burns: “Not For Ourselves Alone,” about the struggles for women’s suffrage by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, and for the blockbuster “History of Jazz,” where his arrangements were used during the discussion of, Alabama born, James Reese Europe, whose 369th U.S. Infantry “Hell Fighters” Band introduced jazz to France, when they weren’t fighting in the trenches during WWI. Terry recently appeared as on-screen historian and musician in “Civil War Songs and Stories,” on PBS.
Mr. Cornett is the sole proprietor/maker of Heritage Drums, which specializes in historically accurate, custom hand-crafted, rope-tensioned drums patterned after 17th- through 19th-century models. He also performs restorations for National museums. Drums built by Mr. Cornett have been used in films such as “Last of the Mohicans,” “The Class of ’61,” “The Blue and The Grey,” “Gods and Generals” and several Smithsonian productions. Turner Broadcasting Company purchased a drum for use in advertisements for the NBA play-offs.
Mr. Cornett’s early exposure to classical music began in Germany, where his father was stationed with the U. S. Army. “It was the only thing on the radio,” he recalls. His formal musical studies began with piano lessons from his Cub Scout den mother in Oklahoma, Mrs. Cook and drum lessons, in Huntsville, at age 12.