My goal when practicing is to develop efficient movements, and instant accurate reactions. Drum Mojo is a site dedicated to share information and strategies that I used to achieve this.
How is that done?
This is done through extensive tactile, calisthenic, aural, verbal and mental exercises that I learned and developed overtime. My personal study focuses heavily on the balance of the entire individual, both physically and mentally. Whatever we do is first done within the mind, and then transferred through the body, and manifests itself as actions. If we learn how to control our mind, we can address and fix most, if not all, of the problems in the body (this will also include understanding, and managing, the causes and effects of anxiety on our bodies). Becoming aware of what's going on mentally and physically, helps us learn and retain information quickly and efficiently.
I've been playing drums since I was 2 years old. I have not been taking private lessons that long by any means, but I have been learning regardless. From playing in church since I was 5, to performing with the Percussion Scholarship Group, (PSG), since 4th grade, I have had many experiences and lessons that have brought me to where I am today.
Directed by Patricia Dash, percussionist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and her husband Douglas Waddell, percussionist with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the PSG is where my formal training began. During my time there I was featured on radio and television with From the Top, The TODAY Show, and Chicago Tonight, was awarded the Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award, and received second place in the Chicago Symphony Youth Auditions. Thanks them I was fortunate to be accepted to and offered scholarships by all colleges that I auditioned for in 2010 and I chose to go to DePaul School of Music to continue my training.
While at DePaul I was able to develop quickly resulting in being added to orchestra sub lists, advancing in Civic orchestra auditions, attending the National Repertory Orchestra festival, being runner up in two orchestra fellowship auditions and eventually winning the Detroit Fellowship in 2014. With the help my mentors, the percussion section, principal trombonist, and the remaining members of the symphony, I was able to begin advancing in major auditions as well as further my technique and knowledge of this particular business. After finishing the fellowship there, I applied for and was hired as the fellow of the Pittsburgh Symphony. This was cut very short because of my success in the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra audition, where I currently work as the Principal Percussionist. I always hope that with each degree of progress I make in my life that I can somehow help someone else do the same.
I am in the process of writing a series of books on percussion technique, composing a snare drum etude book and other percussion literature. I also enjoy watching anime, cooking, traveling and listening to audiobooks.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. When and why did you start playing?
I started playing drums, officially, when I was 3. My grandfather got me a blue Mickey Mouse drum set because, when I was 2 years old, I couldn't stop hitting everything in sight.
2. Which instruments do you play?
Anything I can hit.
3. What was the first tune(s) you learned?
The first tune I learned was probably a gospel song, something with a simple back beat on 2 and 4. When I played classical snare drum, the first solo I learned was an etude from the Haskell Harr drum method, and the first marimba solo I learned was "O'Carolan's Quarrel."
4. Is your family musical?
Yes! My sisters have played instruments, my father and his sister play bass guitar, and my mom sings.
5. Which famous musicians do you admire? Why?
I love Jojo Mayer, not only for his technical ability, but also his philosophical take on music.
6. Who was your first teacher?
My first teachers were Douglas Waddell and Patricia Dash.
7. What are your fondest musical memories?
I remember listening to Disney cassette tapes in the car with my family, and singing along. I ended up memorizing all of the cassettes in the car, and singing different instrument parts on replays.
8. Were you influenced by old records & tapes? Which ones?
My biggest influences were gospel music, Disney soundtracks, and the soundtrack to Rocky 3 and 4.
9. How do you handle mistakes during a performance?
It took a lot of practice, but in order to handle mistakes, for me, was learning how to not care about the minutia of what I was doing, and focusing more on the overall performance. Looking at things objectively instead of labeling things as good or bad, and that took practice.
10. Do you get nervous before a performance or a competition?
Whenever I play for anyone I get nervous, no matter how big or small the performance is.
11. What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous?
Don't take yourself too seriously. Remember to have fun and make music.
12. How often and for how long do you practice?
I practice everyday in some capacity. The longest session I will do now is 4 hours, but even 5 minutes can make a difference if you use that time efficiently.
13. What do you practice - exercises, new tunes, hard tunes, etc.?
Stick control is the one thing I have to do every single day. After that, it just depends on what I have to get done and when it has to be done by.
14. Do you teach music?
Yep, I love teaching and mentoring students. I also conduct clinics and masterclasses as well.
15. How do you balance your music with other obligations?
I just make sure that I leave time to play something, even for just 5 or 10 minutes. The important thing for me is to make sure that I do do things outside of the practice room, because there is a lot to learn and to be done in the world.