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AA Degree, Mission College, Santa Clara, CA
1978 - Santa Clara Vanguard, Mike LaPorta Percussion Award 2008 - Vic Firth Teaching Artist 2008 - Founding Director, St. Ignatius Middle School, West African Percussion Ensembles, Portland, OR 2008 - Founding Director, Hough Elementary Youth Escola de Samba, Vancouver, WA 2014 - Founding Director, FHAR Special Needs Drumline, San Mateo, CA
I am a professional musician, and I LOVE teaching! I am a performing artist, a recording artist and I teach. ALL of these things are equally important to me: I'm not teaching just to make money--I absolutely love it! It's also integral to who I am as a person and a musician--the teaching makes my performing better, and the performing make my teaching better. I've been teaching drums since i was 15 years old, and I plan on teaching until my last day on the planet. Teaching is such a deeply ingrained part of me, that I probably couldn't stop teaching even if I wanted to (ask my daughter about how everything in life for me is a 'teaching moment' :-)
As I said before, Ive been teaching since I was 15. My early experience was teaching DCI drum corps drum lines. I've since expanded into drum set, Brazilian drum ensembles (Rio-style, Samba Reggae, etc.), West-African drum ensembles, conga and djembe. One of the reasons I KNOW how much I love teaching is that I used to not do it so much. I did regular, corporate jobs for 20 years, and left all that in 2008 to get back what I love the most--teaching and performing on drums. • Joyous Racket, LLC (2008-present) private drum instruction in studio and my students homes • FHAR, Inc., San Mateo, CA (2014-2016) director, FHAR Special Needs Drumline—an ensemble for individuals with developmental disabilities focused on inclusion in the community through performance • Let’s Make Music, Sherwood, OR (2008-2012)—drum set instruction; integrated recitals of all drumming students with those of the guitar students—formed bands among students which led to a more engaging and richer experience for students and audiences alike • Rhythm Traders, Portland, OR (2009-2012)—private drum set instruction, as well as conga and djembe classes (subbing for Caton Lyles, who teaches conga and djembe there). • Hough Foundation Youth Escola de Samba, Vancouver, WA (2008-2012)—transitioned drum program from drum corps focus to Brazilian bateria focus for 3rd-5th graders. This gave students a quicker route to success, exposure to another culture, and made for more engaging and exciting program. • St. Ignatius Elementary school, Portland, OR (2008-2010)—developed West-African drumming curriculum and ensemble. Led three ensembles, one each for grades 6th-8th with multiple performances throughout the school year.
I focus mostly on song-drumming. In popular music, the best drummers in the world are song-drummers. It's the most musical and effective way to play popular music (Rock, Pop, R&B, Country, etc.). I teach song drumming via two primary methods: 1) I use a 'music-first' approach. This means we focus on playing songs right out of the gate. As soon as my students can play the most basic beat (boom-bap, boom-bap...bass drum-snare drum, bass drum-snare drum...almost always in their first lesson with me) we start working on songs. Yes, we work on technique also, but the technique is ALWAYS in service of the song, of the music--not the other way around (I use all of the best techniques books, most notably "You Can Teach Yourself Drums" by James Morton, and "Groove Essentials" by Tommy Igoe.) 2) I bring a guitar, a mic and mini PA to all of my lessons and, along with my drumming students, we play as a band in almost all of our lessons. This is not just accompaniment, this is band--there's a drummer, a guitarist and a singer in the room...we're a BAND. This is critically important. Not only is playing in a band MUCH more fun than playing alone at home (I mean, yeah...RIGHT?), there are so many things about music you can never learn until you play in a band or ensemble. If you're only going to a teaching studio, playing that weeks lessons, getting feedback from your teacher, going back the next week, etc., there's just so much information that you're not getting. And my students and I take care of that by playing as a band as much as possible. This also deepens the skill development of all of my students. Your music skills will develop more quickly and more deeply, but also the LIFE skills you get from playing an instrument develop more deeply and quickly. Things like building confidence, listening and collaboration (playing well with others, in music and outside of music), these skills also develop at a much more rapid rate because we play as a band all the time. Compared to just playing drums alone at home, playing in band just activates your brain at a much higher level--there is just SO MUCH gong on that you have to be aware of, that you have to react to--in real time. It's hard, yes, but it's also...SO. MUCH. FUN!
A wise man once said about drumming, "if you're not having fun, you're doing it wrong". Now, there's short-term fun (in the moment) and longer-term fun (being great at what you do, which requires a lot of work--there are no shortcuts), but the important thing that I always try to keep in mind is that lessons with me have to have an element of inspiration. My job is to inspire my students to put in the work necessary to achieve their goals. Otherwise, why would they want to practice and put in all of that work? One of the paths to inspiration is as simple as this--I focus on finding what my students are doing right, NOT just what's going wrong (which is all too easy). When your teacher is finding things that they genuinely like and appreciate about you--and you KNOW they're not just making it up--that can be HUGELY empowering! I know it is for me with MY teachers (yes, I have teachers too--you think I got to this point by myself, by magic? :-) Being in a lesson with me is like this: there's a ton of energy (I'm a relaxed guy, but I'm not 'cool'--I'm pretty high-energy), we're keeping our eyes on the prize (playing great songs/music, not just great drumming), and I'm trying my hardest to inspire my student to want to put in the work they need to do to achieve their goal (for that lesson, that week, that year...whatever it is). If I do my job right, my student is inspired, I'm inspired, and we both leave the lesson 'fired up' to play some more music as-soon-as-possible in the very near future!
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