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America's Fastest Girl Drummer Is Still Rocking It At 106

America's Fastest Girl Drummer Is Still Rocking It At 106

When it comes to her remarkable longevity, Viola explained that having only smoked briefly, she believes the full-body exercise that drumming involves, as well as the odd tipple, has helped her keep fit and healthy.

This one is for the musicians! Legendary percussionist Viola Smith may have discovered the secret for a long and healthy life, wait for it—it's energetic drumming and the moderate consumption of good wine. Now that she's 106-years-old, you'd think there's some truth to this, right? Also, she's been actively drumming until recently in a Costa Mesa band called Forever Young Band: America’s Oldest Act of Professional Entertainers.  Born Viola Schmitz on November 29, 1912, in Mount Calvary, Wisconsin, she was one of ten children. 



 

 

They were quite the musical family, as the entire family studied piano, and in the 1920s their father got Viola and her six sisters together to form the Smith Sisters Orchestra. The sisters performed on the Major Bowes Amateur Hour, a 1930s radio version of America’s Got Talent, and that's when she began to get noticed. In 1938 Viola and her saxophonist sister Mildred were able to start an all-girl orchestra called The Coquettes, which performed until 1942 because by then her sister got married.



 

 

It's safe to say that The Coquettes is probably what Viola is best known for. Soon, Viola moved to New York City, where she joined Phil Spitalny’s Hour Of Charm Orchestra, which is another famous all-girl orchestra. Her ability to read music fluently, coupled with her overall musicianship was such that she later played with the NBC Symphony Orchestra, one of the leading orchestras of the day.



 

 

Viola played for President Harry Truman’s inauguration in 1949 and then she went on to form her own band called Viola and Her Seventeen Drums. She then decided to focus her attention on Broadway, where she played in the original production of Cabaret. In an interview with Dan Barret earlier this year, she spoke about her career and fondly remembered some of the other legendary musicians she played with.



 

 

Viola has always been someone who advocated for male musicians to be replaced with female ones when a band lost their vocalist. When it comes to her remarkable longevity, Viola explained that having only smoked briefly, she believes the full-body exercise that drumming involves, as well as the odd tipple, has helped her keep fit and healthy. “I’m a drinker, but definitely always in moderation,“ she explained in the interview.



 

 

“Even Dad: he had a tavern in his nightclub in Wisconsin. He’d even bring kids in the family wine. So, we’d have wine (with) dinner.  I still drink wine now. I was on a plane with a man who sold liquor next to me.  He said the people who drink wine extend their lives by three years, by drinking wine every day.  Not in excess! I was very happy to hear that! Red wine is better for you than white wine.  But white wine is also good for you. So, I always drink a glass of wine. But just one glass. It used to be two. But now it’s one.”



 

 

Did you know that Viola was once known as “America’s fastest girl drummer"? She still continues to go on breaking barriers, inspiring people and doing what she loves most, drumming and helping others who share her lifelong passion. She is an example to many and a shining beacon of hope to those who wish to follow their dreams. Nothing should stop you now if Viola could make it so far. Here's a toast to her, hoping she drums it through life for many more years to come. 



 

 


 
 

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