As a child, it was all so easy. I knew exactly what I was going to do with my life (even if that did change every few years) and how I was going to do it—except, life didn't quite work out as I'd planned!
I can blame my first (and best) percussion teacher, Gaylon Umbarger, for throwing the proverbial wrench into my plans, and complicating, yet ultimately enriching my life. As a 10 year old, I had no idea that music was to be my life's passion; as you can see from the photos above, I had other ideas. But, thanks to Gaylon, and also composer Aaron Copland, the course of my life took a rather different direction.
I was 10, and Gaylon, who was the percussion section leader of the Kansas City Symphony, invited me to an upcoming concert featuring Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring Suite. We spend time in my lessons looking at the score and preparing me for what I would hear. From this study, I knew that the final moments of the work was what I wanted to hear, where the glockenspiel (bells) finishes a quiet chord in the strings with three final notes.
Those last 10 seconds changed my world! I was hooked, and suddenly, being a baseball player or pilot didn't seem so interesting.
There were brief forays into other career options, hence the business degree, though I've never seriously attempted to be a rock drummer. Instead, I've devoted myself to the lifelong journey of discovery within the vast landscape of global rhythm traditions—percussion. This has taken me to many amazing locations, from the concert halls of orchestral music, contemporary percussion solo and chamber music performances, jazz ensembles, my "job" at the University of Iowa playing in the new music group, to time in French Polynesia studying the rich traditions of percussion in that culture. What I've come to realize is that all music has value, and even seemingly unrelated styles have commonalities that are often revelatory. Listen to modern drum corps and 200 year old Tahitian rhythms and what you'll find is a rhythmic voice speaking the same language. No matter the color of our skin, what language we speak or deity we pray to (or don't)—people are people, and we ALL have a need to express ourselves rhythmically, and have come up with surprisingly similar ways of so doing.
I've been blessed to have studied with some of the finest performers and teachers alive, and have taken their ideas, philosophies and techniques and synthesized them into a cohesive teaching system that has proven highly successful. Brain research, learning style theories, and mental/skills-based games that reinforce learning are all a part of my teaching. I've had great success with students of all ages and abilities and have worked extensively with special needs students in a variety of musical settings.
Music is powerful! Immerse yourself, play around with various styles, instruments, traditions. But be ready for where it might lead you! It's a great life, and I invite you to explore the possibilities with me.