Larry McCloskey started playing drums when he was 6 years old. At 10, he was already playing in local nightclubs.
The North Huntington resident’s youthful passion for drumming later blossomed into a lifelong musical career.
McCloskey, also known professionally as Larry Mardell and Larry McCluskey, has performed with top jazz stars like George Benson, Earl Klugh and Jackie Wilson.
Over his four decades of experience, he has amassed a collection of drums worth thousands of dollars.
When McCloskey died of lung cancer in July, Cara and Bob Zanella, his sister and brother-in-law, knew they had to pass on the drummer’s legacy to a new generation.
The Zanellas donated several pieces from McCloskey’s drum collection to the Norwin School District.
“(McCloskey) was adamant that kids could learn music and study music,” Cara said.
“He died before we could tell him that we donated the (collection) to Norwin, but I think he would have been very happy to know that his instruments went into the hands of children who want to learn what profession, want to learn the drums and I want to carry on this tradition of live music.
McCloskey took care of his drum collection “like a beautiful automobile,” Bob said.
The November donation included a drum rack, snare drum, cabasa, cymbal stand pieces, percussion accessory cases, method books, drum pads and metronomes.
Brandon Kandrack, head of Norwin’s K-12 music department, described donations like this as “awesome.”
“We are very grateful and grateful for the opportunity to put these instruments to good use,” Kandrack said.
Norwin does a good job providing equipment to the music department, but additional donations like this “go a long way” to ensuring students have access to all the equipment they need, Kandrack said.
Norwin generally receives musical donations once or twice a year. Those wishing to donate items should contact Kandrack.
This is the first drumming donation the district has received since Kandrack began working in Norwin.
“I didn’t know Larry personally, but from everything I heard he was a very accomplished musician and he really loved giving back to the students,” Kandrack said. “It’s really cool that his family was able to continue doing this, even after he passed away.”
The most advanced pieces from McCloskey’s collection are sold by Main Street Music & Sound in Irwin.
Bob Zanella said a high school or college student using this equipment would be like giving a race car to someone who hasn’t driven more than 50 mph.
Cara Zanella hopes the donated gear will bring the same “joy” to students that he gave McCloskey. The Zanellas asked students across the district to use the equipment, not just high school students.
“These drums have a really cool history with everything (McCloskey has) done, and now they’re in the hands of kids who are going to create more history with them,” Cara said. “(McCloskey) would like that.”
As a student, McCloskey “burned” drum teachers, Cara said.
As an adult, McCloskey enjoyed teaching and taught intermittently throughout his life.
“He had a natural affinity with the drums,” Cara said. “He was an incredible drummer.”
McCloskey enjoyed many art forms, including painting, leatherwork, woodcarving, and writing.
Music, however, has always been his main passion.
In addition to performing with nationally known artists, he has performed with local artists like Jimmy Sapienza and Five Guys Named Moe, Al Dowe and Etta Cox, Gigolo and Kenny Blake.
“Under other circumstances he would have been a household name,” Bob said. “I’m not even exaggerating when I say that.”