Heartbeat: The rebirth years 2010 – 2014. 2010 Started off with a struggle. Noel’s wife was undergoing chemotherapy and the treatment was literally killing her. With some time in the hospital and a change of medications as well as a doctor, Phyllis stabilized enough to go home. Heartbeat had been put on hold as much as possible so that Noel could be the caregiver at home. Fortunately, Chad Bjorgan had joined the Heartbeat team on a full time basis and was managing the office and business while Noel was caring for his wife.
Over the next months, Phyllis’ health continued to deteriorate. Noel managed to take a few days away to meet with Heartbeat suppliers at NAMM in California again. No progress was being made to come up with a plan for the continued relationship with Istanbul Agop. The future of Heartbeat continued in a holding pattern. That all changed in June. Phyllis’s battle ended and her earthly days were over.
While sadness, loneliness, uncertainty, exhaustion, grief, discouragement, helplessness and so many more emotions and conditions flooded in, Noel still acknowledged that God was still the Chief Executive Officer of not only Heartbeat, but of Noel’s family and his life. While his wife was alive, it was almost easier for him to trust that God was going to provide a miracle and bring healing to Phyllis. But when that did not happen, then the Proverbs 3 Scripture of trusting in the Lord and not relying on one’s own understanding kept flashing like a neon light in the darkness. And, not surprisingly, God had a plan.
Challenging Noel again but this time through specific Biblical verses, the same divine voice that spoke to him in 2003 about starting Heartbeat was speaking loudly and clearly. Noel was led to look up verses which clearly instructed him to deal with his grief in an aggressive manner. He was also told that while Phyllis had competed her earthly race, Noel had not and that God’s calling on his life had not ended, nor had it changed. Remaining in an emotionally drained and ineffective state and feeling sorry for himself might have appeared to be where Noel wanted to stay, but he quickly realized that it was not where God wanted him. Something new was about to be born.
Back at Heartbeat, it was time to make some decisions about cymbals. If the company’s current provider would not consider making Heartbeat their own line, nor allow them to sell any cymbals into the US or any other country other than Canada, nor make a special line of cymbals exclusively for the Christian community… there was only two choices. The first was to cease selling the cymbals, and possibly close Heartbeat. Making this decision considering the passing of Noel’s wife would be totally understandable. The second choice was to make a change in suppliers.
Contacting an elderly cymbalsmith in Istanbul who had worked with the Zildjian family at the K plant prior to it’s closing in the ’70s, and talking through an interpreter, Noel found a new source for cymbals. And to eliminate any difficulty with any other manufacturer, distributor, dealer, retailer or anyone else on the planet, these cymbals were going to bear the name “Heartbeat”. Obtaining a copyright for the brand name “Heartbeat” relating to any percussion products was the next step.
Now to design the cymbals. Heartbeat started with four series. The anchor series were the Classic and Studio (similar to two of the series that they had been selling from their previous supplier (but with some discreet changes to weights, hammering and lathing). Then two additional series: Rock which gave a slightly brighter sound, and Custom, a series that brought an entirely new look and sound to Heartbeat.
When the first prototypes arrived, Heartbeat had an ideal opportunity to see what kind of response they would get from the Christian Music Industry. An invitation from “Bwack”, drummer for the David Crowder Band to participate in a conference in Waco, Texas was perfect timing. Providing cymbals for the backline for the great variety of artists in Waco became the official launch of Heartbeat cymbals. The response was great, and that was the confirmation that Noel needed to move ahead. Knowing that existing Heartbeat drummers in bands like Crowder, Leeland and Chris Tomlin were supporting the new cymbals was a great encouragement. Something new was being born.
And that wasn’t the only thing. Mourning was being turned into joy (Jeremiah 31). It became very apparent why Noel felt God directing him to process the grief of losing his wife of 35 years so quickly. In the 1980s, the Walkers were involved in planting a new church. After the original pastors moved on in the early 1990s, the Walkers continued to support the new pastors (Dave and Valerie) for the next few years. As things go in church sometimes, the Walkers felt the nudge to move on, and left the church.
Later on, Dave and Valerie moved on to another church in another city. In 2008, Dave passed away from cancer. When Noel’s wife passed away, Valerie sent a condolence card to Noel. Days after Noel’s wife’s funeral, Noel was looking through all the cards and the one from Valerie stood out. “You need to contact Valerie,” was the voice that Noel heard inside. Starting with a letter, email addresses were exchanged, then eventually phone numbers, and finally after a few months of communicating. After one meeting, it was clearly evident to both Valerie and Noel that there was something special happening. In February of 2011, they had a small wedding with mainly family in attendance. The pain of losing their spouses still remains (even to this day), but the new relationship born has brought much joy to them and those around them. It appears that Isaiah the prophet knew what he was talking about!
The interest in Heartbeat cymbals continued to grow. New series were added based on Heartbeat’s customers needs. The Raw series (2011) brought an earthy, dry, organic sound. The Vintage series (2012) featured a unique grey coloring and dark and dirty jazzy tones. At the opposite end of the spectrum was the new Rock series. Brighter in sound and appearance but still suitable for worship settings. Six series now, with sizes ranging from 6″ to 24″, and all designed to work well with contemporary worship music. Lower volume, minimal overtones, dark, earthy and a fast decay. Combining the high quality of finely crafted hand hammered cymbals with the modern ideas, business ethics and ministry focus of Heartbeat might just have a place in the world.
New websites were established. www.heartbeatpercussion.com featured the Heartbeat brand products, while www.heartbeatdistributors.com featured all the products that Heartbeat distributed in Canada. A site focusing on education and resources for ministries was also created (www.worshipmusicgear.com which has since been replaced with this site).
Many churches were now ordering cymbals, and artists/bands such as Rend Collective (Ireland), Hillsong United (Australia), David Crowder Band (USA), Chris Tomlin (USA), Leeland (USA), The City Harmonic (Canada), Heloisa Rosa (Brazil), En Espiritu Y En Verdad (Mexico) were joining the Heartbeat family.
2013 saw the introduction of the Custom Rock series which combined the bell of the Custom series and the body of the Rock series. Late in 2013 the Epic series was released. This series combines the late ’60s and early ’70s jazzy sound with today’s contemporary larger sizes.
Heartbeat’s focus was less and less supporting music stores and more and more working with churches and ministries It also continued developing its customer base in other areas because working with different artists in different genres brought insight to product development. Of course, the additional exposure around North America was helping in spreading the word. Heartbeat had been reborn!
Heartbeat: The Early Years 2003 – 2009: The Heartbeat Story: Part One