Music student Will Harris '23 has found a creative way to take his training to the next level. For the past year and a half, he has been manufacturing his own percussion instruments. After seeing many band pieces that called for pitched metal pipes in his own ensembles, Will noticed that there was no standard instrument with which they could capture the ideal sound put forth by the composer. His original idea has turned into a fast-growing family business, as he has now sold his product to several band programs.

Harris said that he first conceived this idea in late 2020 when Furman’s percussion ensemble was working on a piece that called for eight tuned pipes. While the department had some on hand, Will felt that they could be perfected for more clarity of pitch and longer ringing time. “I saw space in the market for this product,” Harris remarked. While the pipes themselves may look simple at first glance, he commented that a lot of trial and error was needed to create the ideal design. The process begins by cutting out the shape of the pipes from a ten-foot metal conduit. He then fine-tunes and adjusts each pipe to a certain pitch. While the pipes were previously played by laying them on pieces of foam and striking them, Harris realized that this method did not produce the sound he wanted. This led him to design wooden mounts that would attach to each pipe at specific contact points on each side to make the pitch ring longer.

Harris' venture quickly turned into a family project. Harris and his family live close to Furman, so his father helped him make the pipes in their home workshop. A double major in I.T. along with Percussion Performance, Harris designed a website ( where he could sell his products. He has now sold ten sets of pipes to college bands across the country. One customer, Dr. Michael Bump, director of Percussion Studies at Truman State University, stated "Will’s craftsmanship is second to none. Wonderful attention to detail in the design and build process. Each pipe and mount was consistent, providing great intonation, blend, and color, as well as ease in performance logistics. So many applications, so little time!”

Harris is constantly looking for ways to improve methods of performance and to increase efficiency in musicians’ daily practice. During our interview, he showed me a set of shelves that he designed for better storage in Furman’s percussion studio, complete with a coat of paint in Furman purple. Moving forward in his instrument design, he is currently working on a mute pedal for the pipes to silence them more quickly after they are struck. He is also trying to design a mute for the triangle. Harris said that his main goal moving forwards is “to make things that fill niche holes in the percussion world.”

A truly inspirational story for any college student wanting to launch their own small business. All it takes is some drive and passion! If you want to learn more, check out Harris' website linked above. As of now, he sells standard pipe sets, custom-tuned pipes, and custom-fit pipe mounts.