Generational Culture

Will Taylor Swift’s music be played (performed) fifty years from now? She is the first artist to have placed the top 10 on Billboard Hot 100. Like her or not, she surpassed The Beatles for the most titles from the top of Hot 100 in a single week. The Beatles had the top 5 in….1964! Almost 60 years ago! I, personally, don’t listen to Taylor. I’ve heard her music but stylistically it doesn’t move me. I think of her audience… Read more »

The Fallout

The Fallout has affected all of us. Whatever your status, the pandemic has impacted us all with memories we won’t easily forget. Depression and anxiety have increased. Speaking with a couple of friends, I was surprised how concerned they were about their lack of motivation. I asked them; “What is it?” The deaths, the violence and the isolation of the last few years; the high prices in the grocery store; the high price of gas were immediate responses. In the… Read more »


Mike called a couple of days ago to ask how I was doing during the pandemic. Things about the same, nothing new. How about you? He tells me, no work, but I’ve been practicing a lot of things, I haven’t thought about in years. Like what? Excitedly he explains, snare drum marches. Haven’t done them for so long, I recognize how sloppy my technique has become. Each day 15-20 minutes on a pad or drum playing marches. He admits playing… Read more »


2020, a year to remember. We were excited when it began. Possibilities, changes, we had 2020 vision and saw a bright future. A pandemic? I should have known better, but it never entered my mind. In January, the Doomsday Clock moved closer to midnight. The Clock hadn’t moved since 2018 when it was set 2 minutes to midnight. Scientists, who adjust the settings, claimed, “We are now expressing how close the world is to catastrophe in seconds…we now face a… Read more »


We hope this finds all of our friends well and safe. Covid-19 has produced unusually trying times for us all. For those who have lost ones, our condolences to you. The time spent alone, out of the mix, has resulted in…a whole lotta thinking going on. One thought: the importance and impact of teachers on our lives. I had some very good ones and the other kind. These teachers help shape who we are…who we become. Much like our parents,… Read more »

Alive Inside

The movie, “Alive Inside” is a journey, a trip to another world. It’s a documentary released in 2014, but received very little distribution and is now available on Netflix. It explores difficult subjects: Alzheimer’s as well as mental and neurological disorders. Subjects many of us shy away from, but need to acknowledge. This movie has interviews with patients suffering from these diseases in nursing homes.

A number of patients could not communicate verbally. They did not respond to questions regarding… Read more »


I’m out to dinner with an old buddy. We have a few laughs. It’s been at least three years since we last saw each other. Typical conversation: politics- living situation- economy. He provides a lot of detail about his job problems, girlfriend, the band he’s currently in. And this is before dinner. His conversation continues throughout the meal and after a couple of hours we are fairly exhausted. Ready to leave, we pay the check and as we exit, he… Read more »


If you practice 30 minutes a day you sound like it. If you practice 3 hours a day you sound like that as well. Mel Lewis told me about visiting Buddy Rich at his apartment in NY near Lincoln Center. There were a few musicians there and the talk was about music, music, music, politics, food. As he is recalling different stories, I interrupt. I’m not really interested in their conversation. I am interested in Buddy’s living situation. More to… Read more »

Reading, Writing, Improvising

I start with a few warmups when I practice and then play. I don’t think of anything in particular; just play what comes to mind. Beethoven was an incredible improviser as were many composers of his time. There was an exchange and flow of musical ideas as they were composing. The ability to improvise and make meaningful musical statements predates the 20 th Century. Classical pioneers were very much in awe of those who were accomplished in this art. Mozart… Read more »


Thinking about Elvin recently, I was reminded of his wit and storytelling. There are an abundance of Elvin stories, myths, etc. and if you had the pleasure of hanging out with him you understood why. Much like his drumming, his personality dominated the surroundings. I had the opportunity to be in his presence a number of times. He was a customer at Drummers World and would come in for repairs, purchases and just to say hello. I would see him… Read more »

One Step at a Time

In Italy, there is a myth how the black rooster came to represent Chianti. The story goes back to the middle ages when Florence and Siena were fighting for border control. Siena at the time was very prosperous due to traveling Christians passing through on route to Jerusalem. When the Black Plague came this all ended. The Renaissance followed with new ideas and creativity. Florence and Siena were very competitive with each other so a race was suggested to see… Read more »

Does it Swing?

I got the “old school” response yesterday at a rehearsal studio. The conversation turns from politics (of course) to music. I put it out there: “For me, it has to swing!” Michael snaps back: “Forget about Count Basie, that era is over. That’s old school.” I was stunned at the immediacy of the remark. And then it was over. Everybody left the room to rehearse and I’m standing alone, thinking about what just happened, and no time for a rebuttal.

… Read more »

Both Sides of the Atlantic

Robyn Schulkowsky and Joey Baron

Recently, I had the opportunity to discuss what playing and performing in Europe is like with two experienced, well-traveled percussionists. Especially interesting are the changes they cope with post 9/11. Robyn Schulkowsky is a classically trained percussionist specializing in contemporary music who has made her career working and traveling worldwide. Joey Baron is a much sought after jazz drummer who has worked and traveled extensively as well. Both Joey and Robyn grew up in the United States and have a… Read more »


buddy rich

Have you been disappointed in your heroes? Kids growing up have heroes they look up to- Superman, Superwoman, Batman, Derek Jeter, Michael Jordan…the list goes on. As I got older my heroes were drummers. At an early age, I thought the coolest thing in the world was to be a drummer. When I went to a dance party and there was a band, I stood in amazement watching the drummer do all these fantastic moves. Sitting back, playing a groove… Read more »

Nature/Nurture: A Meditation on the Bee Gees

The Bee Gee’s on PBS TV recently reminded me of Clive Davis’s impression of sounding like they had all been castrated! Ouch! Voices pitched that high are not usual. I was never a fan and remember vividly the “four on the floor” disco soundtrack. Once “Saturday Night Fever” hit the Bee Gees were everywhere. The PBS special was a 1997 concert in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand. To their credit everything was live with an excellent band and the… Read more »

A Light on the Future

My family reunion is canceled. Scheduled for mid-June; canceled due to lack of interest. This reunion has been held every two years since the 1950’s. The beginning celebrations were well attended and enthusiastic. The interest began waning 15-20 years ago. It isn’t that the older generation has died; the younger family members are not invested in continuing the tradition. They have very little involvement or curiosity beyond their immediate families and friends. It is unfortunate for them. Their unwillingness to… Read more »

Big Ears

big ears

Learning to play the instrument does not necessarily mean you are learning to play music. When we spend hours on technique and execution how many hours are we actually playing music? Advice from great players indicates the need to develop the art of listening in your playing as well as listening to others. Taking in the whole, not just what you are doing. I have come to appreciate listening to all kinds of music — classical, rock, world, jazz, etc.… Read more »

Hip Cornball


I read an article about anachronisms last week and it caught my attention. By definition, an anachronism is “a thing belonging or appropriate to a period other than that in which it exists, especially a thing that is conspicuously old-fashioned.” An example cited was a sword used for modern warfare. So, how about some current politicians we suffer watching and listening go on about ideas that belong in our grandparents’ generation; much like flying the Confederate flag in South Carolina.… Read more »

Music Machines

I was in the audience of a modern dance performance at City Center in NYC. The dancing was great…very graceful and expressive. The choreography was inventive and the energy of the dancers impressive. The music was modern, contemporary, shifting meters and lots of percussion. A couple of segments featured pop tunes. At intermission I turn to my friend and ask, “How do you like the orchestra?” “Great!” What? Oh no! Just as I suspected. There is no orchestra and the… Read more »

Gig Nightmare

sad drummer

The things we do for money! My buddies and I were comparing stories about some of the worst gigs we’ve ever had. It’s the summer of 1984, I am living in Manhattan and my car gave out the day before the job. It is a club date on Saturday night at a fancy Long Island country club that pays well. Booked by a contractor I have never worked for, but trying to impress, and working with musicians I didn’t know—no… Read more »

Give The Drummer Some!

Terry Bozzio

Terry Bozzio

Drummers always want more! It’s the personality type. Aggressive, on top of it, ready to move. They think differently than other musicians. Have you seen Terry Bozzio’s set up recently? How many drums and cymbals does he have? I quit counting after 20. And he plays them all… and brilliantly. OK, keyboard players have a few different set ups as do guitarists, but none come close to Terry’s rig. The opposite is the famous Jo Jones episode at Central Park.… Read more »

Back To School

I was doing a little research and discovered one of the most popular sports in 1780 was boxing, especially in England. I imagine these two guys would get into some form of a “ring” and would fight it out until eventually one would either drop or just give in. Probably went at it bare fisted and protection was not high on the list. It is difficult for me to recall any of the great boxers from then; however, I do… Read more »

The Connection

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

While watching the basketball game I start thinking about the day Kareem came into the store, obviously, very visible over 7 feet tall, and immediately recognizable. I ask if I can help him and he tells me he is looking for a djembe. I pull out 4-5 African djembes and he checks them out. I couldn’t help notice his hand spread was almost the size of the top of a couple of the drums. He makes his decision and by… Read more »

The Tailor

Mel Lewis at the Drumset

Mel Lewis at the Drumset

Recently I posted a photo of Mel Lewis on Facebook and received many responses. Anyone who had ever seen Mel play drums would be baffled at how effortlessly and natural he was. His solos are often described as sounding like a “stack of boxes falling down a long staircase.” Yet his time, touch, feel and sensitivity epitomized good taste.

We would often have discussions concerning technique, especially hand grip, such as match vs. traditional… Read more »

Music Joy

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Music…..will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.” –Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I came across this quote recently and was impressed with the depth of thought involved. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor born in the early 1900’s and was executed in 1945 in a concentration camp. He was involved in the German Resistance Movement against Nazism. Music to him was a… Read more »

What Happened?

The busy “Music Row” on 48th street not too long ago.

The busy “Music Row”
on 48th street
not too long ago.

Last week after lunch I walked over to 48th Street between 6th and 7th avenues in midtown Manhattan with a friend. After arriving we looked at each other in amazement. What was once a thriving, vital music scene looked like a depressed, deserted neighborhood. All the music stores gone, except for one. Music row or “the street” as it was affectionately labeled by the music community is no more. The rumor is the buildings will be leveled and high rises… Read more »

Back to School with JD

Justin Dicioccio

Justin Dicioccio

Justin DiCioccio is internationally recognized as one of the foremost jazz educators of our time. In January 2001, he was inducted into the Jazz Education Hall of Fame. His keen insight into teaching and his inventive approach have earned him the title “the musician’s teacher.” In 2002, Mr. DiCioccio was named Assistant Dean/ Chair, Jazz Arts Program of Manhattan School of Music; in 2011 he was named Associate Dean. Under his leadership, the jazz curriculum has been completely restructured, including… Read more »

Dude with Shades

Philly Joe Jones

Philly Joe Jones
Englewood Cliffs, NJ
May 9, 1961

When I look back, it is the mid 80’s and this lanky guy walks into Drummers World on West 45th Street. It is winter and he has a grey overcoat on, but what really stands out is his over-sized shades. They are especially dark and give the impression of misterioso, you have no idea what those eyes look like. No conversation other than I inquire if he needs any help or has any questions. No response other than a… Read more »

The Sound

A few days ago a fellow drummer and I were discussing how important it was when we were coming up to have a ‘sound’. We had good teachers, studied “Stick Control”, “Syncopation”, “Wilcoxon”, etc. We would listen to influential players and imitate their trademarks. In doing so we were building a vocabulary to express what we wanted to say. We would listen to drummers and immediately identify them by their sound, phrasing, feel. You knew it was Gene, Buddy, Max,… Read more »

Remembering Paul

Paul Motion

Paul Motion

Paul was unique. Not only as a player, but also personally. His loyalty was evident over the years. Coincidentally, the first time he came into Drummers World (early 80’s) to purchase a 24” cymbal bag, Elvin was there. They gave each other bear hugs and were genuinely glad to see one another. Thereafter, Paul would come in for brushes (plastic), heads etc. We eventually helped design a personal model drumstick for him when Cappella was in business. He bought his… Read more »