Tazewell firm making chimes for Flight 93 national monument

By Elise Zwicky for Chronicle Media

From left, Brett Fugate, owner of Fugate Inc., Thurston Magill and Alan Russell worked the Fugate Inc. booth at the 2017 Midwest Band Clinic in Chicago. Fugate Inc. has been chosen by the National Parks Service to build 40 wind chimes that will be part of the Tower of Voices monument at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Somerset, Pa. (Photo courtesy of Brett Fugate)

A local company owned by lifelong musician and Peoria native Brett Fugate has been chosen to build 40 wind chimes that will be part of the Tower of Voices monument at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Somerset, Pa.

The National Memorial honors the courageous actions of 40 passengers and crew members of United Airlines Flight 93 who died in a crash at the site on Sept. 11, 2001, while stopping terrorist hijackers from reaching their intended target, believed to be the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Three other hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C. that morning.

“To think we’re building these wind chime tubes that will hang in the tower and represent our heroes of Flight 93 is pretty profound,” said Fugate, owner of Fugate Inc., which is headquartered in Washington, Ill., with facilities in Morton and East Peoria.

According to the National Parks Service website at www.nps.gov, the 93-foot-tall Tower of Voices will become a gateway to the memorial and “will provide a living memorial in sound to remember the 40 through their ongoing voices.”

In business for nearly five years, Fugate Inc. manufactures patented percussion instruments, as well as wind and brass instruments, that are sold nationwide. He also has experience tuning chimes with a company he was working for in Chicago  that manufactured cathedral chimes, among other instruments.

“If you were alive on 9/11 and if you’re old enough to have memories, I think everybody has a flashbulb memory related to it,” Fugate said, recalling how he was making marimbas at the time and joined his co-workers in the company lunch room to watch the terror unfold on television after the second plane hit the Twin Towers.

Fugate worked with the Illinois Procurement Technical Assistance Center at Bradley University’s Turner Center for Entrepreneurship in the Foster College of Business to prepare the bid proposal that was accepted by the National Park Service. He had previously consulted with the center prior to starting his business.

The Tower of Voices is conceived as a 93-foot-tall musical instrument holding 40 wind chimes representing the 40 passengers and crew members who died in the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001, in a field in Pennsylvania while stopping terrorist hijackers. (Photo courtesy of the National Park Service/bioLinia and Paul Murdoch Architects)

According to a National Park Service news release, the Tower of Voices is a musical instrument. The shape and orientation of the tower are designed to optimize air flow through the tower walls to reach the interior chamber. Each of the 40 wind-activated chimes in the tower interior will produce a musical tone that harmonizes with surrounding chimes.

Fugate has begun building the chimes with the help of three employees, and he expects to hire a few more to work on this project and other instruments the company is manufacturing. In particular, he’s looking to hire a welder certified in structural stainless steel.


“They gave us kind of a broad general design, and my company has produced several of what they call shop drawings detailing all the little parts that go into the chime. The drawings have been approved for prototyping and now the plan is that we’ll begin manufacturing a few of the tubes and the park service is going to come here to the Peoria area to look them over. Then we may have to tweak a few things after that,” Fugate said.

The chimes will be constructed of polished aluminum tubes measuring eight inches in diameter and approximately five to ten feet in length. The size of each chime is dependent on the musical note and associated frequency it’s intended to produce.

Fugate said the chimes will be wind activated with internal strikers attached to sails projecting from the bottom of each chime to capture the wind.

“There are no other chime structures like this in the world,” said Flight 93 National Memorial Superintendent Steve Clark in an earlier news release. “This unique structure will complete all of the major components of our permanent memorial in a most beautiful way. Not only will it be the first thing visitors see and hear when they arrive at the memorial, it will provide an opportunity for reflection as they depart.”

Fugate plans to deliver the chime tubes in late May. “We are on a pretty short clock here,” he said, adding that he plans to be in Pennsylvania when the tubes are installed. He also plans to be in Pennsylvania in September for the dedication of the project.

Headquartered in Washington, Ill., with facilities in East Peoria and Morton, Fugate Inc. manufactures musical instruments, including a patented Fugate snare drum, Fugate French horn, Fugate RoyalT saxophone and the Fugate student trumpet. (Photo courtesy of Brett Fugate)

Funding for the design and construction of the Tower of Voices is being provided through private donations to the National Park Foundation and The Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial.

Fugate has worked in musical instrument manufacturing for about 25 years and also is involved with two local bands, Idiom and Akashah. He invented a new kind of music with the band Idiom and is credited as being the first heavy metal vibraphonist/marimbist, according to the website www.metal-archives.com. He also holds a master’s degree in molecular biology, which he pursued to help with his passion for making musical instruments.


“I had studied at my previous job the physical properties of wood and metal and all the things we use to make musical instruments, and I wanted to learn more about the life cycle of the materials I was working closely with, the wood particularly. So that’s how I got into the biology,” he said.


Fugate hopes his part in the Tower of Voices project will raise awareness for the memorial and potentially bring jobs to this area.

“The memorial project is a big project. It’s a musical instrument that’s designed to last over 100 years. It’s very exciting,” he said.

For more information about Fugate Inc., visit the Fugate company website.

For more information about the Flight 93 National Memorial, visit www.flight93friends.org. To listen to an audio simulation of the chimes and see illustrations of the tower’s design, visit National Park Service Tower of Voices site.




—- Tazewell firm making chimes for Flight 93 national monument  —