"Playing in a band is the culmination of everything my students do in music. All the practicing, all the listening, all the training—it all comes together in a band. It's important to understand all those dynamics and what's necessary to support them. Developing the capacity to listen while playing is paramount in becoming a good musician."
"I began in 1962 as a self-taught rock drummer. I played for 10 years professionally before I began to study formally with Alan Dawson at the ripe old age of 22. I've played with everything from rock bands, trios, and big bands to symphony orchestras. Many of our students can relate to this experience of being self-taught and having gaps in their ability. I hope by my example they can see how one can maximize their opportunities to survive in the music business by studying and working hard."
"I deal with a lot of nonpercussionists, too—piano players, singers, horn players. I enjoy that almost more than teaching drummers. They don't have any preconceptions. One of the things that I show people who are not drummers is that just because you're playing this pattern on a hand drum, that doesn't mean that you can't apply the phrasing to your guitar comping or whatever. I'm trying to get them to think outside of the box. Many times they get caught up with the idea that it has to be done here, in this context. But that's not necessarily the case."
"There are always new things to learn about improvisation, and whatever I learn, I pass on to my students. Improvisation to me is like living. We all improvise every day, and it's an art; it's being open to all the possibilities, to be able to make quick decisions and do something on the spur of the moment. We do that in choices we make every day."
"My teaching style comes from life experience. The number one aspect of playing music is feel and time. You have to have great feel and great time; great touch, finesse, and interpretation. And you have to have good hands to impact what you do on a kit. So I make sure that their hands are cool. I'm not saying you have to have hands like Buddy Rich, but you have to have good enough technique to able to play a great beat. When you get out there in real world, it's nothing about chops. What gets you the gig is feel and time. It's how comfortable can you make this music sound and feel."
"I think that it's better to have a singular voice rather than be totally slick at everything. To me, that means do everything pretty well, but make sure you do one or two things really well, so that you have an identity."
"Students may think that mastering advanced music is the key to success. But this should not overshadow the need to learn skills like blending into an ensemble, having a palette of varying tones to choose from for a given situation, having a mastery of the accessory instruments, playing with a great feel, and possessing a humble attitude."
"I thrive on passion, and that's the whole thing. Everything's got to be exciting. I'm looking for a student to say 'What if I did this?'. I'm after the student to grab hold of it and just go. That's beneficial to them. If they can find the techniques, if they realize what I mean by basically playing the same thing only differently, we get into a conceptual thing. Most of my students already have it, it's just a matter of getting it out of them. It's ready and willing to come out."
"I try not to create patterns in my lessons, so that the material seems really fresh, so that it catches students off guard. When you get called for a recording session, a lot of times you basically have one shot at this. You get called based on your reputation, you come in, and a lot of times you get the music at the session. You have to be able to sight read extremely well, you have to be able to interpret music extremely well, and you have to be able to adapt to your environment."
"You can have all the 'watch what I can do' chops in the world, but if you can't play good time, play good groove, and keep it simple, your phone's not going to ring. To me having 'good chops' isn't about speed; it's about having the technique to execute just the right musical thing the right way when the music calls for it."
"Carmen McCrae once said, 'It's more important to listen than it is to play.' It's such a simple concept, but very deep. It's a hard concept for some drummers to understand, but the working drummers understand it. That's why someone like Steve Gadd, one of the world's greatest drummers, plays next to nothing and everybody loves it, because he's totally supporting what's going on. He plays what the music needs. When it comes time to whip it out, he can deliver!"
"Student demand for technology in percussion is peaking. I teach four different courses that are either directly about technology or peripherally involve it. Students really need to be adept at the technology, so that they can get the jobs that will define the musical landscape in the future. In ten to fifteen years, the landscape of drumming is going to change drastically. Today, when you think of a band you think drum set, guitar, bass, singer. In the future, I think many bands are just as likely to be comprised of electronic drummer, keyboard, guitar, and singer."
"One of the hardest things about playing marimba is that you need an eight-and-a-half-foot wingspan. Note accuracy is the bane of our existence. A bar of a marimba is something like an inch and a half wide, so as you're flailing around over eight and a half feet, the challenge is to be able to swing a mallet and hit the right target. We like that people enjoy a concert, aside from the beautiful sound, because it's fun to watch."