Is anyone else out there struck by how many full-time ICSOM dues paying drum jobs are available now? I am. I just wish I had time to prepare auditions the way I used to back in the day. I kind of miss being able to marathon in the basement. Good luck to all you weary auditionees. Let me know what happens in the big world up the stairs.
Just in time for Christmas, Gilberto has sent me my refinished glock bars. Man are they sweet! The picture doesn’t do justice to their extreme shininess, I’m afraid. Oh yeah–they sound great, too.
Phase two of the project is to get a new case made. That might take a while, since I had to smash the piggy bank for the bars. When I get to that point, this space will have the scoop!
I began playing drums at age seven, figuring that they would be relatively easy to learn. I was, as it turns out, mistaken.
My first serious teacher was Ed Erschen, a talented dance band drummer who gave lessons in a small building behind Mel Bay Music in downtown Kirkwood, MO. He was a passionate and engaging teacher who loved to say “practice hard, don’t hardly practice!” I was a typical kid who loved the Beatles and many other mainstream musical groups.
When I was in high school my best friend (future flute virtuoso Mark Sparks, as it turns out) exposed me to the classical repertory. When I heard Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite and Tchaikovsky’s 4th symphony for the first time I was mesmerized. I began studying with Tom Stubbs of the St. Louis Symphony. When I descended his basement stairs and saw a room crammed to the rafters with percussion instruments, records and music it was as if a whole new world opened up for me.
After high school I attended the late lamented St. Louis Conservatory of Music for two years where I continued my studies with John Kasica and the late Richard Holmes, both of the SLSO. I love their style of playing and dreamed of following in their footsteps so I practiced like a fiend and was admitted to the Juilliard School in New York City as a transfer student. It was, to say the least, extremely exciting for a kid like me.
Here I am around the time of my first Juilliard graduation way back in 1982. That was for my Bachelor’s degree. A year later the scene was replayed when I got my Masters, a common occurrence in those days. People used to say that Juilliard was cut-throat and intense, but I really had a great time there. I studied with Saul Goodman (in his last year of teaching) and then Roland Kohloff and Buster Bailey, all three wonderful players and teachers. I received the Saul Goodman Award for Percussion Performance in 1983.
After graduating I took a position as timpanist of both the Evansville Philharmonic in Evansville, IN and the Owensboro, KY Symphony. Note the Ludwig Dresden timpani. They were a challenge to play on, has you had to finesse the pitches using the pedal and the fine tuner. By sheer coincidence, I now own the same kind of drums, but mine are souped up for easier tuning.
I strove to climb the orchestra ladder and took many auditions, and did fairly well, though, sadly, not well enough to land a full time position. I eventually left Evansville and moved back to St. Louis and decided to go into commercial music with my brother Dan. Our town, while quite a bit larger than Evansville, was no hotbed of jingles and soundtracks. Still, we had some success and learned a lot in the process.
We then formed a band called Red Weather, named after a line from a Wallace Stevens poem. We penned dozens of songs; I wrote most of the lyrics and Dan wrote all of the music. I sang about two thirds of the songs and Dan sang the rest. Again, we learned a lot and had some fun for over three years. Pictured above are (from left) Mark Foster, Mark Miller, Hale Fulton, Lisa Campbell and Dan. I am on the far right in the shades and long lost hair.
I also performed in an new music group called the Nuclear Percussion Ensemble, which was the brain child of St. Louis percussionist Henry Claude. Like Red Weather, they mostly played original compositions and improvisations. With NPE I played Young Audience shows, a self contained series of concerts, First Night St. Louis and more. The reviews were always good and we even won a couple of local awards.
The picture at left is from a piece called “The Circle” which was based on Native American mythology. Each of us represented a compass direction (I was south, and green) and we were tied into a twenty foot tall wind chime which we built ourselves. We played drums and swayed to ring the chimes. I remember it being cold (it was New Year’s Eve) and sweaty at the same time!
Later on I returned to school and earned a Masters in Media Communication from Webster University in St. Louis. I became a web designer and developer and ended up at my current job at Saint Louis University where I am an Instructional Technologist.
I have been fortunate to work as an extra percussionist with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Opera Theatre of St. Louis for many years and I am currently the timpanist for the Metropolitan Orchestra of St. Louis.
In 2009 my brother Dan and I formed the WirePilots, a contemporary jazz, world, fusion sort of band that plays Dan’s original music. I play on a hybrid drum kit of my own design with the Korg Wavedrum as the centerpiece. It’s an electro-acoustic instrument that can produce many unusual and evocative sounds.
I write and perform percussion ensemble music that combines from West African instruments with modern mallet instruments. Click hear for a sample.