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It's little known in the Tri-Counties, but Oxnard company is world-famous for helping to make music

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Lance Orozco
/
KCLU
DW employee Rolland Martinez performs a final check on a drum made at the company's facility in Oxnard.

Drum Workshop is celebrating its 50th anniversary: Everyone from Motley Crue's Tommy Lee to the Red Hot Chili Pepper's Chad Smith uses their gear.

The sounds of saws, presses, sanders, and paint brushes are music to a team of workers at a little known factory in Oxnard

The sounds of this plant literally will morph into the sounds of music.

The business is Drum Workshop, also known as DW. The five decade old company is one of the world’s leading drum kit, and drum hardware makers.

Matt Wechsler is DW’s Chief Marketing Officer.

"If you look at pretty much any stage out in the world of music, you'll likely see DW drums on stage," said Wechsler. "We have artists from Tommy Lee and Dave Grohl to Chad Smith and Sheila E."

The company was founded by Don Lombardi, along with his friend John Good in 1972. Lombardi’s son Chris is now DW’s President, and CEO.

"My dad was a music educator...education is his passion," said Lombardi. "He got into doing drum lessons. His vision for Drum Workshop was for it to be a teaching school."

But, Lombardi said after he was born, his dad realized that when he wasn't teaching, he wasn't making money. Don Lombardi got into sales, and then making drums as a sidebar. The drum businesses quickly exploded, and became the focus of his career.

Chris Lombardi takes us for a tour of the plant, which is two 50,000 square foot buildings just south of Highway 101 on the outskirts of Oxnard. One of our first stops is with Philip Chang, who’s making drum shells. He glues together some layers of wood, and puts them in a mold, where they became the centerpiece of the drum.

The shells head to Louie Garcia, an artist who’s been with DW for more than 30 years. He’s created iconic custom paint jobs for the drum sets of some of the world’s most famous drummers.

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Lance Orozco
/
KCLU
DW Artist Louie Garcia is known for his iconic images on drums used by some of the world's most famous drummers.

"It's still overwhelming, you know, to see that you painted it, and you see it on stage," said Garcia. "It's incredible...to see my work in magazines, and in concerts, and to have my kids see what I do."

And, longtime DW employee Rolland Martinez performs one of the most critical steps before the drum leaves the Oxnard factory. He tunes the drum.

"You want to make sure it has a nice tone. Every drum is different. I want to make sure it sounds good before it leaves the building."

The end result is drums used by everyone from bands at local nightclubs to groups at big venues like the Santa Barbara Bowl, and the Forum in Los Angeles. Chad Smith is the longtime drummer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

"They're just an innovative, smart, friendly company," said Smith. "I love the fact they're a family company...the Lombardis. They make fantastic instruments."

He lives in Malibu, and said because the factory is so close, he stops by occasionally.

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Lance Orozco
/
KCLU
Chad Smith, the drummer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, is a fan of DW's drum gear, which he uses for concerts. He performed at a 50th anniversary event for DW.

The company was just acquired by musical equipment maker Roland, but its brand and the current management team are remaining in place. DW is celebrating its 50th anniversary with the addition of some new products, including drum sets with wireless transmitters, so they can go directly to a mixing board without microphones and cables.

Chris Lombardi says they make about 20 drum sets a day at their Oxnard factory, and about 300 sets a day total at their various facilities around the world. The company started in Santa Monica, but has been in Ventura County for more than 30 years.

"I still get an incredible amount of joy out of knowing that we're creating something that's allowing somebody to be inspired to do what they want to do. At the end of the day, that's what our role is," said Lombardi.

A half century later, DW Co-founders Don Lombardi and John Good are still active with the company.

"50 years, its a long time but if you have a passion, and follow that passion, it goes by really quickly, "said Don Lombardi. "Even though the company's grown in terms in the numbers of people we have...the passion we have...the mission we have...it's what's made our success possible for us."

"Drums are our lives...hardware is our lives...making things easier for drummers is our lives," said Good.

The Oxnard factory has been closed to the public for years, but DW now offers public tours on Thursdays. In addition to the factory and offices, it also has its own museum.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.