"The origin of BANG! The Drum School is intimately related to the legendary drummer Neil Peart. Allow me to explain..."

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THE LETTER

I opened the mailbox, pulled out the mail from inside and separated it into two piles–one for me and one for my roommate. As I rode the elevator back up to the 20th floor apartment I shared, I sorted through my pile. And then I noticed that one of the letters for me had a return address that quite simply could not be correct.  Truly an impossibility. In the upper left hand corner of the envelope, the return address read: “Neil Peart, Toronto, CANADA.” “Get the f**k out of here!” I said to myself, as I began to excitedly rip open the envelope as fast as possibly could. Inside was–truly–a letter from Neil Peart. That letter was about to change my life. Months earlier, I had entered a drum solo contest in Modern Drummer magazine, the most important periodical on drumming. 

The contest was to be judged by Neil Peart, the legendary drummer from the progressive rock band Rush. Neil was also my favorite drummer. To enter, one had to send in a cassette tape with a recording of an original drum solo that was two minutes or less. 

In the letter, Neil was congratulating me. He had chosen me as one of the three winners of the contest. Later, Neil wrote about me in Modern Drummer, praising my drum solo and commenting on the smoothness of my technique and the musicality of my drum solo. You can read this quote from him as well as other quotes from some well-known drummers on the home page of this website.

My prize was Neil’s “Chromey” drum set.  “Chromey” is the nickname hard core Rush fans have given to Neil’s Slingerland brand, chrome plated drum set.  

NOW I HAD PROOF

The importance of this event in my life can not be overstated. It was proof that my efforts mattered. No matter how seemingly crazy to others, no matter if I was told that I was wasting my time or that I couldn’t do it, I now had proof that the naysayers were wrong. And so, I marched onward. And in the professional drumming and music community, this achievement garnered me some degree of respect. I was able to parlay this success further and play with some of my musical heroes (Will Lee, legendary session bassist; Marshall Crenshaw, GE Smith and many others). The most important reason that I’m telling you this story is to explain my passion for drumming–which is probably clear at this point–but also to tell you that your art and your passions are important. And I implore you not to allow anyone–no matter who–to dampen your enthusiasm for whatever it is that excites you in that indescribable and delicious way. Your deepest passion–the thing that keeps you up at night–is what connects you to the real person that you are.

It may not define you, but it is so important to your essence, that you can not ignore it. You must not ignore it. To ignore it is to almost assure your sadness and future regrets.

Drumming has been so important to me in my life. Once I discovered it, simply by listening to music in my high school years, I was obsessed. When I listened to Rush, Led Zeppelin, KISS, Queen, The Steve Miller Band and others (yes, I grew up in the 70’s) I was captivated by the power of the music and the heavy guitar riffs. 

This is the first page of the letter Neil Peart sent me.

But the drums. Oh, the drums.

I could not escape them. Nor would I have wanted to. The amount of joy that drumming has brought to me is immeasurable. Drumming kept me out of trouble in high school. When some of my friends were fighting, stealing, drinking, and doing drugs, I was practicing drums. Drumming taught me how to focus on something and work on it until I acquired a certain new skill. This process was cyclical, as described below. I’d start with excitement. Then, I would focus, do the work and practice so that I could gain a certain drumming skill. Eventually, I would master something. And that would get me even more excited. And so that cycle would continue, over and over again.

Drumming helped me learn how to learn, and understand how to do focused work to achieve a goal. And drumming led me to meet all kinds of wonderful people.

I PLAYED IN LOTS OF BANDS

I played in lots of bands and played at many clubs in NYC while I was growing up (and after having grown up), and the social aspect was extraordinary. By being on stage I learned how to perform under pressure. And I learned that even when you sometimes crack under the pressure, everything will still turn out alright. I was able to fulfill many of my dreams by playing the drums. I played with many people I had listened to on records (yes, I still call them records) and you can read about who I’ve played with elsewhere on this website. 

I’ve always seen the logic in going to an expert to learn something and so I’ve studied with Shawn Pelton (Saturday Night Live), Dave DiCenso (Bad Brains, Josh Groban, Duran Duran), Hank Jaramillo (A Chorus Line), and John Riley (John Scofield, Village Vanguard Orchestra, Joe Lovano) and others, including my very first drum teacher, Charlie Davidman (Street Punk). 

There was a time when I stepped away from the drums a bit. Earning a living from music can be difficult and so I took a job at Sony Music for a while. But I still practiced a lot, played shows and could not stop thinking about drums. And then, I realized that I needed to go back and plunge in again.  I was not finished with drumming. Or perhaps drumming was not finished with me. I’m not sure which. But I quit that job (my boss told me I was crazy–I was earning enough money that to an outsider, leaving that situation could certainly appear to be a less-than-wise move). Upon quitting, I moved myself into a small basement practice space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where I began to practice about 40 hours a week. I made practicing my job (I had done that once before when I was in my twenties). I practiced like that for three years.  While I was spending so much time joyfully practicing, I had time to think about drumming and my life and I realized that drumming was too good to keep to myself. 

Truly, drumming had given me so much happiness that I felt that sharing it would be an important way for me to help others. In fact, it was something that I had to do. Not teaching what I’d learned about drumming to help others would have been an act of selfishness.

I STARTED TO TEACH

So, I decided to do something about this.  

As I started to look around New York’s music-teaching community, I discovered something important. Beginners were somewhat overlooked. Particularly in the drumming world. I know, it is hard to believe. It was puzzling to me. While I was thinking through all of this, I was invited to visit a friend of mine who was an associate professor of drumming at a very prestigious music school (you’ve definitely heard of the school–it’s not located in New York). I was shocked at how some of the professors acted. There was an incredible arrogance and attitude from one professor in particular who will remain unnamed. I was made to feel very unwelcome and judged. That angered me; not just because of how it made me feel, but because I imagined how this professor might treat his own students. It was a terrible thought and it disturbed me.

But this experience really helped me to form my thoughts on what my drum school should be like.  I wanted to make my school the absolute most friendly and most welcoming place for beginners possible.

Trying something new can be scary. There was a saying I recalled seeing: “Every expert was once a beginner.”  That became my mantra as I went about creating the school.

The second thing, after philosophy, was capital. I was going to have to invest money to create the place that would be physically appealing and create the right feeling for my new students.  

A DIFFICULT DECISION REGARDING “CHROMEY”

And that is how “Chromey” came out of retirement.

The drum set had been safely stored for many years, and I thought that perhaps I would restore the kit, and see if there might be a buyer.

I have been accused of being a traitor for deciding to part with “Chromey” but what good was the drum set doing in storage? What selling Neil’s drum kit would do is allow me to bring the joy of drumming to many many more people. I was comfortable with that. And so I decided to move forward.

The drum kit was sold for $25,000 and that capital was invested in the creation of BANG! The Drum School.  I was off and running.

After “Chromey” was sold, I jokingly started calling the solo I submitted “The $25,000 Drum Solo.”  That was–in fact–the literal truth of the matter.

And now, more than a decade later…

 FINALLY, BANG IS AN ONLINE SCHOOL

The newest incarnation of BANG! The Drum School makes teaching the drums a global endeavor rather than just limited to the mighty New York City.

Our “Drumming for Absolute Beginners” is an online drumming course that takes a decade of teaching beginners and compiles it into a proven step-by-step path.The method that provides the framework for this course–”The 5 Pillars of Drumming”– has been successfully used with hundreds of students and is completely repeatable.  “The 5 Pillars of Drumming” will take you from having never played to being a full-on, solid beginner drummer who can simply walk up to a drum set, sit down and just play.

And any of you who will be able to do that because of what we’re doing here at BANG! The Drum School–and hundreds who already have done this–that is what this is all about, because you will get to experience that joy of drumming. 

That happiness that comes from playing the drums is why I’m here and I want to pass that on to you.  

Help me spread the word; drumming is joy.  

 

The photo above shows the billboard that I had installed on the side of a building on North 7th Street and Driggs Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Rather than pay an advertising company to rent a billboard (that would have cost thousands of dollars) I  rented the wall from the building owner for $500 a month–a real example of “Guerilla Marketing” at work.

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