Regina-born musician, designer, and innovator Ronn Dunnett is the recipient of the International Titanium Association’s (ITA) 2016 Application Development Award. The award lauds Dunnett for his work in the development and perfection of a titanium drum shell. Members of the ITA’s executive board presented Dunnett with the award at TITANIUM USA 2016, the 32nd annual international conference and exhibition sponsored and organized by the ITA, which was held Sept. 25-28 at the J. W. Marriott Desert Ridge Golf Resort in Scottsdale, AZ.
“This is my Oscar, my Grammy, my Juno – my lifetime achievement award,” Dunnett says. “But its even more than that. It is the ultimate vindication. My work has never been about anything more than the relentless pursuit of quality sound. Awards, particularly in my industry, are often cynical. To receive the ITA Application Development award – especially from an organization outside of the music industry – that is as real as it gets. Recognition that says ‘You’re the leader, You were the first and the best and who or whatever ever else comes after is derivative.’ It is an award that I am humbled by, but am so proud to accept. I think I have earned it.”
Dunnett, 54, grew up in the prairie town of Regina, SK and eventually relocated to the Pacific Northwest region of Vancouver. His love for music and the drums took shape during his high school years. As a teenager he was self-taught and quickly learned he had a gift for music. He also developed an aptitude for tinkering with his drum gear.
In 1989, Dunnett and his wife, Christina, relocated in Australia. He worked as a photographer / photo lab technician and commuted to work by riding a mountain bike and was intrigued by its light weight. During one of his commutes, a bar end accidentally became detached from the bike, hitting the concrete and making an unusual sound. Upon examining the component, Dunnett learned it was made of very thin titanium – and it got him thinking….
He and his wife returned to the Vancouver area in early 1991, but he kept thinking about the titanium bar end and the distinctive sound that it made. “I wondered what it would be like to make a drum shell out of titanium.” He learned that a Boeing warehouse in nearby Seattle housed titanium scrap from its aerospace operations. He purchased titanium sheets and began to brainstorm. Dunnett did work in his own “factory” (a one-car garage) and, through a trial and error process, created a viable titanium snare drum shell prototype.
After several prototypes, Dunnett created a titanium snare drum, which he loaned to his cousin Kurt Dahle, a renowned Canadian rock drummer. Dahle had a recording session in early 1992 and used the titanium snare in his drum set. Dahle called Dunnett after the recording session. “Can you make one of those titanium drum shells for me?” Dahle requested. “Oh, and by the way, the studio wants one, the producer wants one and the recording engineer wants one.”. Dunnett went on to create Titanium drums for many high-profile artists such as Carter Beauford (Dave Matthews Band), Neil Peart (Rush), Stanton Moore (Galactic), Jason Bonham (Led Zeeplin Experience), John Tempesta (The Cult), Vinnie Colaiuta (Sting), Slipknot, Todd Sucherman (Styx), Carter McLean (The Lion King NYC), Jason Sutter (Marilyn Manson), Matt Chamberlain (Tori Amos), Joey Waronker (Beck), Will Calhoun (Living Colour), Ron Bruner Jr., Bill Cobham, Steve Gadd, Matt Johnson (Jeff Buckley / St. Vincent) and many, many others.
Dunnett has also worked with and created “limited edition” titanium drums for major instrument builders such as DW Drums, Ludwig, GMS and others. As for describing titanium’s sonic properties when used as a drum shell, Dunnett said the metal generates a perfect dissonace. In addition, titanium, as a drum shell material, eliminates the “organic weirdness” typically associated with wooden drum shells, according to Dunnett. His website (www.dunnett.com) provides technical details on the “Dunnett Classic” titanium drum shell properties.