"Sturtze students were killing J. Burns Moore's students. Sturtze was a good player. You had to be a good player to be a good teacher.
"Sturtze was not the greatest player. He was a great teacher." Jay Tuomey
"Listening to the stories of Connecticut competition drumming during the 1940's and 50's, one begins to wonder if any successful drummer was not taught by Sturtze." Jim Clark
"In the contests, we did breakdowns and you didn't know which rudiments would be picked. So, I took my drum to school. The principal would send up notes telling me to stop. Teachers would say "She doesn't know when to stop! She doesn't know how to stop!" Veronica Sturtze
“Sturtze pupils had the upper hand all over. Most of his students became fine rudimentalists; quite a hardy reputation.” Sturtze’s style was more practical. He had more successful methods of teaching; a lot of motion with good execution. Rippergers had tried to pick that up. It was all power and precision; more use of arm motion.” Bobby Redican
“All the top drummers were Sturtze drummers. They had speed and power in their rolls and could go a notch higher and faster than anyone else . The Sturtze students dominated. You really had to see Redican and Quigley play in ‘37 and ‘38. We would run down the roll and two other rudiments for three or four minutes. Charlie Ploeger always had a very determined look on his face. He wasn’t a jovial person. For individuals he went into a world of his own; stern and perfect. I could never get as closed or fast and Quigley or Redican at their best. Anyone in Kirk’s had to play a good roll. They played simpler stuff though. I played harder stuff but Redican had power and speed. Redican was faster and faster, faster FASTER…. PERFECT! Later, Quigley was the same thing. Frank Arsenault the same thing! I wish I knew how they did it!" Eric Perrilloux
A good teacher must first have certain qualifications.
First: The teacher must have an abundance of patience.
Second: He must know his subject thoroughly.
Third: He must teach his subject thoroughly.
Fourth: He must demand perfection from his pupils.
Earl Sturtze - Teacher of Champions
St Francis Parochial School, New Haven Ct
L to R - Hugh Quigley Frank Arsenault Don Moriarty
taken at Lancraft Hall (with all the trophies)
Matt Lyons (with medal hardware) & wife Jean both attended St. Francis where they changed classes and were marched to the fence at the lot line to the beat of the drums. During the Depression, kids knew it was their ticket out of town for long bus trips.
The great Hugh Quigley from St. Francis thought by many to be the best of his time.
Frank Arsenault - Three Time Consecutive VFW National Snare Drum Champion
He moved to the Midwest and those students taught the West setting the stage for the rise of a drumming competition economy in drum & bugle corps from the mid 1960s through the mid 1980s.
St Francis Parochial Corps in 1931 at the State Field Day. These Sturtze students would grow up to teach the drum & bugle corps of the next decades.
Earl Sturtze invented scientific drumming method, perfecting a style that took full advantage of arm weight, producing powerful players that could cleanly execute extreme volume levels with endurance. His Depression Era students raised Civil War technical standards by correcting style inefficiency through individual physiological detail. He became the teacher of champions due to the effects of the depression on the young – money was scarce - and a military-like tradition in school based drum corps giving children something to do. Parish schools such as St. Francis of Fair Haven, Connecticut, St. Anselm’s from the Bronx, Good Shepard Lutheran from Plainview Long Island and Devon Grammar School fed Earl’s thirst for talent. Brooklyn was the fife, drum and bugle standstill proving ground, copied in other communities Sturtze taught. Children had to compete for spots; there were more players than instruments. Bus seats were earned by practice. Lethargic students went home. Sturtze was in the right place at the right time, technically ahead of his peers.
A major striation of technical ability occurred in the early 1930’s because of the tremendous style difference between Moeller and Sturtze. Ludwig marketed the Spanish American War Veterans “Moeller Book” to World War I vets intent on getting in on Ludwig’s “fun”, considered archaic by fife and drum corps. Bill and Gus were trying to preserve rudimental sticking patterns, but looking backwards technically to French majors carrying swords 350 years ago – Moeller's pinky fulcrum on the right hand. Sturtze was inventing, creating a competitive future with physics to handle faster tempos and difficulty. Bill and Gus wanted drumming returned to its military heritage with utmost respect to Camp Duty and military march tempos. Sturtze was thinking about improving the art technically, which in turn handled more varied musical genre, even though he was not gifted as an arranger. The east vs west final placements at the 1940 NY World’s Fair show the Moeller influenced Ludwig west could not defeat one east coast Sturtze pupil. Bead first defeats bead last. Direct arm motion is much more efficient than the snake-like Moeller arm whip where the bead moves after the arm. The Moeller era was doomed when drumlines were cut down to 3 and 3 for stricter execution purposes and higher tuning. J Frank Martin stated the difficult drag-ruff-roll extended combinations at 132bpm were impossible. Ancient trained fife and drum players believe there is a risk difference between 110 and 120 bpm. To the drum and bugle player, faster tempos became normal at 132bom and beyond due to Sturtze physics.
The World War I veterans making up championship drum and bugle corps drumlines did not have effective nor similar styles. Sturtze drummers were distinctly separated from orchestra and WWI Moeller method. Using the power of the weight of the forearm bones required a tighter grip to control notes after an accent, not weak index/thumb pressure. Low grace notes were quicker to the head, allowing individual competitors to increase clean execution speed.
Earl started drumming in 1911, a ten-year old student of Carl Frolich (formerly with Zigfeild Follies - Frolich of J. Burns Moore tutelage). Sturtze was influenced by J. Burns Moore who once lived two blocks from his family. He was a substitute drummer at the Lafayette Theatre in Buffalo, New York, when the Vitaphone was popular. During the five years he was a resident in Buffalo, he was a street car conductor and played for three years in the International Railway Company Band in 1926, 1927 and 1928. Sturtze won the 1928 American National Open Invitational Championship in Sengac, New Jersey, seven time Connecticut State Champion, New England Championship, also winning titles in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey. He accumulated over fifty years drumming experience, teaching orchestra and rudimental drumming, instructing the Stratford, Connecticut Yankees Drum and Bugle Corps from 1931 to 1958. He judged for the Connecticut and Massachusetts Fifers and Drummers Association and the Northeastern States, American Legion Eastern Circuit, New York, Interstate, Yankees Circuit and All-American Judges Association.
Originally a code drummer, Earl created modern training criteria by teaching range, speed, and uniformity like an Olympic coach. He required large symmetrical arm motions closer to the body using the weight of forearm bones for power and articulation, then holding down accents for execution, creating a new coordination template and economy of motion, a profound step beyond Burns Moore, Stone, Moeller – certainly anything occurring in 1930’s and 1940’s drum and bugle corps. The arms created power, the grip - or “pinch” - controlled that power by reducing accent rebound height. Preliminary arm movements (prep motion) put height and physical energy into attacks, allowing dynamic contrast between dependable accents and interior notes and the endurance to execute them - perfect for breakdown drumming. His 45-degree angle for each stick, upended “around-the-tree” Army method. He questioned New York methods having a lower hand, tighter grace notes and rolls that did not sound open, caused by hands placed below the drum. Pictures in Sturtze’s book show 45 to 50 degrees playing angles per stick to the center of the head, the right hand slightly more angled than the left. This angle would come in even further, the result of Les Parks and Bobby Thompson’s early 1950’s Sons of Liberty methodology. Sturtze’s mechanics affected future champions who branched out to teach the world.
Previous instructors like Stone and Moore taught concert drumming with books having extraneous material and reading exercises - “method for all salesmanship" - but not necessarily valid. Sturtze had none of this. He knew competition players needed style training to fit their physiology, accepting a large network of opportunity at schools, affecting the next fifty years of snare competitors. Sturtze kept a detailed card file of every student; thousands of them at: PAL, Park City, Troopers, Durant School, Pioneers, Privates, Pine School, Portland High School, Post 45, Meriden, Royal Columbians, Sacred Heart, Bridgeport, Sandy Hook, St. Anns, St. Benidicts, Devon…. Sturtze graded lessons to gauge progress. Uninterested students were told to leave.
Earl Sturtze: “Dead wood should be eliminated rather than permitted to take valuable time away from the conscientious members….After the basic rudiments (Single Stroke Roll, Long Roll, and Flams) and at least one simple selection have been developed to a fair degree, one of the best methods for stimulating interest and practice is to hold periodical individual contests among the students… The first four months is the period in which we either DO or DO NOT develop the makings of a first-rate drum section. This is the time when good or bad habits are formed and interest is maintained or lost…" (Northeast Drum Corps News, Vol. 1, No. 10)
Earl Sturtze: “Once a given system of drumming has been well established it cannot be easily changed. Moreover, the difficulty is multiplied if said system was not learned correctly in the first place. The difficulties arising from a mixture of such half-learned techniques is obvious. Therefore, senior or junior organizations, starting with experienced drummers, should make a serious effort to secure those possessing similar basic fundamentals…. It is better to fill the remainder or the quota with inexperienced students. It is much easier to train a beginner to drum correctly than it is to retrain an experienced drummer who has been playing incorrectly over a long period of time… Starting with a group of experienced drummers of different schools nearly always creates a serious problem.”
“Drumming is an art, not just a lot of meaningless notes…. Drumming is not easily mastered and cannot be learned in a few short lessons, but will require a maximum amount of study and practice over many months… It takes just as much effort to learn to play the drum correctly as it would to learn to play most any other instrument… An incompetent or careless instructor is often worse than none at all. He often does more harm than good….”
(Preparing The Drum Section For Competition, Northeast Drum Corps News, June 1975, p.16)
Earl ran his own contests combining students from other schools, giving out ribbons and awards in Napoleonic fashion offering strict judging and personal critique. His students still cherish them. Any child staying with the practice regimen became proficient. (The same was true of Jay Tuomey).
Local contests are used by Olympic coaches to gauge reaction to pressure and competition. His training techniques – and 3 inch by 5 inch card file - were at least a decade ahead of the best Olympic coaches:
Tudor O. Bompa: “A high level of performance is the result of many years of well planned, methodical and hard training. “… both skills and performance are continuously improving, the rate of which has to be considered by the coach who should try to foresee levels to be achieved in the future…” “Gandelsman and Smirnov (1970) claim that on the average one must partake in 7-10 competitions before achieving very high results.” The Theory and Methodology of Training, p.132, .cit Harre 1981, p.194
Jim Clark: “Sturtze based his system on the NARD/Strube rudiments and explained the movements and rhythms of these rudiments with a clarity which was never surpassed. Sturtze's greatest achievements were two: First, his systematic explanation of a style that allowed an extremely wide dynamic range combined with one of execution; second, his dedication to teaching created a pool of "Sturtze drummers" who spread and somewhat maintained his influence.” (excerpt from article in The Rudimental Percussionist)
The Long Roll remained the foundation. Starting position was eye level. More importantly, as the stick descends for an attack, a combined elbow and wrist snap occurs. "After striking the beat, raise the hand only about half the way to the eyes, turning the hand so that the stick is in a vertical position except that it points slightly forward...... From this position strike the number "two" beat with the same force as the number one, and raise the hand back to eye level. The arms must remain so relaxed so as to allow the elbows to snap over and to fall back inward as the hands come back. This does not mean that the wrist should be held rigid. To the contrary, they must be flexible and used when snapping the hands over and snapping the beats. The force of the blow should describe this snap.” Sturtze Book, pp.19, 20
This combined wrist/forearm pedagogy created champions far past DCI’s formation in 1972. “The wrist must remain in alignment with the forearm so that when the hand is lowered about halfway to the pad or drum, the stick will be pointed forward… the elbow snaps outward from the side of the body simultaneously with the snap of the hand.” “… and fall inward again as the hand comes back up.” (The Sturtze Drum Instructor, pp.12, 20)
Matt (Sonny) Lyons (St. Francis): “Sturtze used to say Burns Moore didn't execute rudiments properly. I heard a recording of Moore and understood what Sturtze meant. Moore would accent the Ruffs on Ratamacues and Drags and not place the accent where it was supposed to be.”
Gary Pagnozzi (P.A.L. Cadets): “Sturtze didn't think much of Ludwig’s or Burns Moore's breakdowns. They didn't do them properly. Moore had a higher note height and pounded his accents. Sturtze was lower. You would have to go through it to understand what he taught…… Sturtze had records of all national champions from the 1920's to 1950's. Many people would falsely claim they were national champion. Sturtze would correct them. He developed arthritis which hurt his playing in his later years… Sturtze would start you on double stroke roll. He would grade you; you had to make a certain score before he'd let you do two rudiments. If you ever succeeded in making his score on all 26 rudiments he would give you a certificate. Very few of his students actually succeeded in getting the 26 Rudiment Certificate. Sturzte would handpick the best of his students for private study at his house - no charge.”
Bobby Redican: “Sturtze would drive me to Bridgeport to play. It was 1945 or the late 40’s. He wanted me to play in front of his other students. Because of this, he gave me private lessons for free.”
Bill Reamer: “It was Sturtze’s way or not at all. Good instructor though.”
Sturtze is the source of physiological efficiency, a technical model that absorbed individual differences. “…. in no case have have two drummers performed exactly alike, although they were taught to play the same.” “Almost every individual imparts their particularities to the basic technique. The model to follow is technique and the individual pattern of performing a skill represents the style. Thus, the style is … one’s individual pattern of performing a technical model.” (The Sturtze Drum Instructor, p.171)
Technical uniformity was next up for scrutiny, finally achieved by Bobby Thompson’s 1954 and 1955 Blessed Sacrament Golden Knights, the building blocks from parochial schools Sturtze taught in the 1930’s. During the next 20 years, everyone who wanted to better themselves went to fife and drum musters. Sturtze was there, his winning students on display. Bill Reamer packed his van full of future champions from the McCall Bluebirds with an 8mm movie camera. Archer Epler became a Reamer product and their rivals, the Reilly Raiders, learned the high Connecticut style. Reilly's drumline dominated the 1950s.
Veronica (Bentze) Sturtze (Devon Grammar School): "I started as a 15 year old. There were all boys in the drumline then. Earl would run contests with his pupils at the hall at St. Francis. Hugh Quigley and I drummed together. All of us idolized Earl like a father. He had a couple of horses and some land. He was always gentle, had the patience of a saint.... but a very serious man. Strict and honest. After four lessons he knew if you'd be a drummer or not. When Earl was eight years old in 3rd grade, his father took him out of school to light street lamps. We had gas lights in those times you know. Earl was born in 1901 so this was 1909. His father was in the volunteer fire department in Hamden, Connecticut. They started a drum corps. His father was in the fire department drum corps. That's how Earl got started. [He] was about 12 years old. He loved it. His father remarried and he was 13 living with his grandmother.
"You must practice an hour a day minimum! If you didn't he would say, "Didn't practice much did ya? What's the matter with you? You made the same mistakes over and over!", then underline all your mistakes.Earl practiced every morning one hour. You have to with everything. He believed it took three years to get any good. It takes three years to be a drummer!”
Eldrick Arsenault (St. Francis): “I remember starting the first day of school, kindergarten at St, Francis in New Haven. Just a scared kid standing in the school yard holding my mother's hand. There were other scared kids there too…. One of them was Joe McGuire. Our mothers introduced us and from that day on we became best of friends. The big thing at St. Francis was the drum and bugle corps. In the third grade, Joe and I decided we would try to get in as rudimental drummers. Earl Sturtze was the instructor. We got in, and as we started taking lessons we met a fellow third grader, Hugh Quigley, who became another great buddy. In 1934, we got into the drum corps. Our first parade was in Derby Ct. but in 1938 we went to the Roosevelt Inaugural Parade in Washington DC and in 1939 to the World’s Fair in New York City… In 1941, Joe McGuire, Hugh Quigley and I were accepted in the Lancraft Fife and Drum Corps.” (Sept. 2003, The Ancient Times, Issue 108)
Jack McGuire (St. Francis): “As a kid you worked on the rudiments about a year before you practiced a piece of music. Your hands were as high as your eyes. The breakdowns were a minute and a half down to fast speed and one and a half to slow speed. The first ones were Single Stroke Roll, Long Roll Flam, Seven Stroke Roll and Flam Accent.
“So many kids were playing in St. Francis at that time, if you goofed off you were out. I was cut the first night! Ray Ludee and I were both cut the same night! There were 30 or 40 of us trying out. There were Thursday lessons. There was attrition. He had to cut half of us anyway as we were in the 5th grade. A couple months later I came to practice and told Sturtze I hadn’t been there before.
“Sturtze stood right there and pointed at you while in the line. His individual lessons were 15 or 20 minutes then you played as a group. If it wasn’t a good job, you did it over.
Matt Lyons (St. Francis): "Dan English was teaching St. Francis before Sturtze got there. Sturtze would teach three or four corps in one day, yet very even in his teaching style - everyone the same - always individualinstruction. It was by rote - no music. The basics were Single Stroke Roll, the Long Roll, Flam and Seven Stroke Roll. We would have lessons once a week not including corps practice and would play simple tunes together once these were learned."
Veronica (Bentze) Sturtze (b.1920) was a champion female drummer who shared the master teacher's love of drumming. So much so, years later, she married him! “Ronnie” was the Senior Female National Champion on September 29, 1940 at the American Drummer’s Association contest at the New York World’s Fair. Earl taught her at the Devon Grammar School and at St. Francis when he would bring the better students together from age 8 to 18. She was winner of 11 first and second place medals and competed in the male class, defeating many of them. Mrs. Sturtze talked fast when she remembered certain stories, her voice booming when making a point. When terminology was thrown to her, she knew exactly what it meant and in a few cases, threw it back. Veronica is a classic breakdown drummer and knows her business.
Veronica Sturtze: "I was in the Devon Grammer School Fife, Drum and Bugle Corps. My grand mom was a fifer but I wanted drums. Sticks were 35 cents. I came from a musical family. My mother Isabella was an organist. She did ragtime and jazz as a piano player. It was the depression. Wherever there was a piano there was a party. They told me they can't put a girl in the drum line. If I wanted to play in the line, I had to find another girl to balance it on the other side. Both would march on one end to balance the line. Devon had four boys and two girls as snares, a bass and one cymbal. It was a modern fife, drum and bugle corps. We had red sweaters with a white “D” on it and white pants. Mr. Baldwin was our director. He tried to teach music but was not too good. The school hired Sturtze to teach. Earl never had to advertise for work. When he taught Devon, he was 35 years old. He taught a lot of arm motion - all 26 rudiments.
"Kids were in different classes; A and B class for younger ones. He gave out medals and ribbons. Every six months he would rent the hall at St. Francis and give you a test. [If you passed] you would get a certificate from the school of drumming and get a color ribbon for your rating. He kept files on all the ratings. He had many students in the studio and was teaching two corps and many private students. I still have Sturtze's diploma with a "double-A" on it.
"I had dreams of going far and would look out the school window... a nice spanking new costume... nice drums and me with the band. A broken dream. If I had $500, a drum set would be good! My first set had an Orchid Pearl bass drum to start with. No Zildians - brass cymbals and temple blocks. [I] always wanted a floor tom-tom. Earl never went for dance drumming. He was not a jazz person.
"When I was 17 years old, the Lyrics Theatre had talent shows. It was in Bridgeport, Connecticut. If you won one you got to play in another. There were 35 more people in it! I played the long roll and solo. My father cried. "That's my daughter!" This was during the depression. I won five dollars and gave it to my mother.
"I was in the dance orchestras like Dorsey. I got a few more solos than others. We had a good band! I always would stand by the stage and watch the drummer all the time. Bass drums were big then. The smaller ones were for nice fast bass beats. Girls in the band had to dye their hair blonde. I sat in a lot - a 16 piece all girl dance band! We went all over Connecticut. I was playing in small dance bands in West Haven. I picked it up myself - used to play my drums with the radio in the basement. There was a ballroom in Fairfield [Connecticut]. All the big name bands would come there. I would stand on the side and watch the different drummers. I got into a 16 piece all girl band. They used to pay me a little more. It all came very easy to me. I would play out on Saturday and Sunday – favorable places. We used to go all over. There was another all girl band with the same agent who put the bands together. We walked in on them at the Hotel Linden in New York City! That was a tough life for a gal. They all had their hair dyed blonde and all smoked. They were toughies! Very hard looking. They asked me to sit in. I could have moved to New York and went with them but I said no thanks.”
“Earl was a street car operator in Buffalo. He liked Buffalo! My sis said Earl was good looking. What a handsome dude! Girls would catch the streetcar just to be with him! "Earl judged me. My knees used to shake. I wasn't going with him then. He was 19 years older than me and I had to run to keep up with him!"
Sturtze molded a scientific physiological style template for each individual to create a uniform line rather than adhering to a “height” template, the mistake of modern drum instructors who let students try t figure it out using YouTube. It is Sturtze's greatest contribution, spawning champion after champion. He had a natural ability to see style flaws and trace them to individual mechanics, knowing people have different bone formations, hinge movement, coordinative talent, quickness, and joint flexibility. If guesswork, Sturtze guessed right thousands of times. Tuomey, Thompson and Hurley – all instructors of the author – taught by having the individual play alone, finely tuning physical and coordination adjustments via exact finger placement, arm motions and wrist position. Slow repetitions exposed flaws. Tuomey – who knew Sturtze informally – could make very good players out of average coordinative talent. Critiques were in front of everyone so mistakes would not be repeated and time wasted.
Earl Sturtze: "Once you have acquired the correct execution, do not try to change because you see someone else playing with a different style which seems more appealing. The author has instructed hundreds of students and in no case have two drummers performed exactly alike, although they were taught to play the same. In every case, some movements which are natural for one are not natural for others. Of course the fundamentals are the same and must be followed in every detail. If any of the positions or movements are not natural to your physical make-up you will gradually develop into your natural style without realizing it." (Sturtze Book, p.13)
One of the best Olympic coaches of all time agrees some 40 years later: “The coach has to properly correlate the structure of a technical skill with each individual’s psychological and biological particularities.” (Tudor O. Bompa, The Theory and Methodology of Training, p.71)
“Everyone can learn to sing, dance, or paint, but very few individuals ever reach a high level of mastery. In sport, like in the arts, it is important to discover the most talented individuals, to select them at an early age, to monitor them continuously and to assist them to climb to the highest step of mastery." (Tudor O. Bompa, P.333)
Matt Lyons (St Francis): “Sturtze was a better technician than others; a German type perfectionist; VERY METHODICAL. He kept a 3 x 5 card on me and even rated me after I was playing in the Stratford Legion corps with Arsenault! He rated his students on what they did after he taught them. He would take me in his car with him – 5th, 6th and 7th graders – to other corps rehearsals. We would go to a practice then he would take me to have supper. He did this with a lot of kids. It was to have the kids see others play. You learn by watching others play. Sturtze took a giant step.”
Jay Tuomey (Sons of Liberty): "Students learn more from watching each other than me critiquing them.”
Excerpts by Earl Sturtze at his testimonial on October 28, 1971 (Ancient Times, Vol. 1, No. 1, at Restland Farms)
“My brother and I started teaching drum corps in the public schools in Connecticut in 1928….. my brother taught the fife and bugle. I was living in Buffalo when my brother wrote and told me that drum corps were becoming very popular in the public schools throughout Connecticut…. And he said if I was down here we could do a lot of teaching… I decided to come back to New Haven… So, I went to the superintendent where I was employed and told him I was leaving, and he was very put out. He gave me quite a talking to… He warned me of the depression that was coming on in the early thirties, and he said that if I stayed there I wouldn’t have to worry about a job… So he wished me luck and told me if I couldn’t make a go of it down here, I could always have my job back…. And I always kept that in mind. That was my ace in the hole. So down I came. And my brother and I managed to drum up enough business so we could both teach full time, five days a week in the public schools and also do some weekend teaching.
“I learned later though, that in the first year or so of teaching, the teacher learns more than the pupils do anyway. But, I didn’t know that then…..
“My pupils are still winning championships and I intend to continue teaching as long as possible. So, it’s still a lot of hard work. But, It’s not as much work for the teacher as it is for the students. I only see my pupils once a week, and in most cases only for 15 or 20 minutes. The hard work, that must be done the rest of the week, through practice, by the students. And they must do it, if they don’t, they won’t make good, and if they don’t make good, the teacher won’t make good, because I’ve learned that a teacher is only as good as his pupils.
First generation Sturtze students teaching in the 1950’s kept the awkward slow learners, knowing coordination talent sometimes still blossoms. Very young players were given second and third chances to prove themselves as long as a style template was developing. They were astute in their judgments. Olympians agree: “Early identification of coordination talent is evident as early as 4 –6 years old. “Talent identification is better before puberty, (Dragan, 1979) and includes (Kunst and Florescu, 1970): Motor capacity, psychological capacity and biometric qualities, including physical build and bone formations. Talented kids are everywhere. One just has to develop the means to identify them and then expose them to well planned, methodical training.” (Bompa, p.348)
Sturtze’s 3” x 5” card file was years ahead of the best Olympic coaches. Many Soviet Bloc medallists in the 1972 Olympic Games were scientifically selected. Almost 80 percent of Bulgaria’s 1976 medallists were the result of talent identification. In 1976 Romania, 100 girls were selected from 27,000, reduced to 25 by 1978. Most made the team for the Moscow Olympics resulting in 1 gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze medals. Another group from the late 1970’s produced 5 gold and 1 silver at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games and 9 medals in 1988 at Seoul.
Michael Fiondella (Garfield Cadets 1977 snare drummer): “Being very young and already having about 5 years experience in drum set, I figured this drum corps rudimental stuff to be a challenge but not really anything of extra importance. This older gentleman of an instructor seemed to be a nice guy and I was looking forward to my turn at the beat up drum pad he had set up by the picnic table outside the VFW. It seemed like forever waiting for my chance... He asked what I knew which, of course, included rudiments. I ended up playing the Single Roll, Long Roll, and Flams. He politely told me that I had a lot of clean-up work ahead of me, (a lot more was ahead of me than I ever realized.) One thing will always stick very clear in my mind. This gentleman played the cleanest long roll I ever heard in my life. It was unbelievable and at that moment I knew this man (Mr. Earl Sturtze) was going to teach me for quite some time. Mr. Sturtze had me realize the extreme importance of basics and that basics must be learned first.” (Are Rudiments Old and Useless? The Rudimental Percussionist, Vol. 2, No. 2, July 1993)
People involved in martial arts state the most powerful movements are from close to the center of gravity of the body, the point of balance. Sturtze wanted the sticks to be in an arc close to the body to use the weight of the arms. The author's father was a pretty good Golden Gloves boxer as a kid with a record of 19-0-1.
John Mazur: "Punches from far away are not that strong. The most damaging knockout punch is only two or three inches away with the weight of your body behind it."
Eric Perrilloux: "The sticks are never outward from the body. You turn the wrists and keep the sticks [arc] strict."
John Dowlan: "If you look good, you will sound good. You need stick angles and form. [You] have to have sticks in the same plane and a uniformity of style. I can spot an imitation off the bat. There is a saying - "just passin through"- for people that don't work at it."
Sturtze used a six inch tap height except for rolls and the Flam Tap. This emphasis on a fixed series of stick levels led Sturtze to the questionable position of teaching virtually all the rudiments with just three dynamic levels: the concepts of cresendo, diminuendo and varying degrees of accent are foreign to Sturtze’s basic pedagogy. For instance, Sturtze taught that all three taps in the ruffs in the Lesson 25 and the Drag Paradiddle should be executed with all the taps from the same height: all from six inches. The principal notes of the Flams in the Flamacue are also played from the six inch level.
Sturtze worried about arm movement, grip and angles. Once the time consuming style was perfected, dynamics and musical phrasing was easy. Jay Tuomey always stated: “If you can play it at triple forte, you can play it very soft.” They bet correctly, believing strong large motions allowed control of smaller ones, knowing the opposite was not true. Dynamics were taught two weeks before the first competition of the season. Style was worked till the very last minute; dynamics was easy, learned in one rehearsal because the mechanics were already there.
Joeseph A. Gillotti: "I met Sturtze with the Connecticut Yankees and he helped me with my drumming technique tremendously. He started teaching me from scratch: the single stroke roll! Running them down from slow eye level position to as fast as possible and back down again. Then the long roll. He taught the long roll with the first beat from eye level and the second beat about half way, holding the stick up and slightly forward."
"Ironically, I was taught by my father that Sturtze was the devil incarnate! When I was under Earl's instruction in the middle 60's, I was a married "20-something" and Mr. Sturtze was a kindly, patient, gentleman in his 60's. It was quite an awakening! He did not fit the stories my father and others told of him. I believe he treated me differently because I wasn't "one of his" students and I like to think he respected my enthusiasm and desire to improve my drumming skills. But the horror stories were true if you were a beginning student of Mr. Sturtze. He had no patience for those who obviously lacked the talent or did not practice.
"My younger brother was in the Grassy Plain Drum Corps of Bethel, CT., and witnessed Earl angrily pull the sticks out of the student's hand and order him out of the practice room. Sturtze wanted no inferior drummers around to taint his name. I respected that. He was tough. That was for sure. He produced a lot of champions. With his passing, the standstill drum corps world has greatly fallen on hard times. For example, Grassy Plain produced many champion snare drummers in the 40's, 50's, and 60's: Al Dennis, Al Merritt and Ben Struski, ones I knew personally.
"As far as my father's feeling toward Sturtze...that goes back to the 30's when my father became the founding member of the Hat Makers Drum Corps of Danbury, CT. The Danbury Legion corps' drum line was taught by Earl Sturtze. The Hatters had broke away from the Legion corps by Jesse Saunders. Jesse hired a trap drummer from the Vaudeville circuit, Edwin Keane, to teach his new drum line. Eddie ran the local music store and teaching studio in town. He was not a rudimental drummer. But he knew if he were to be successful instructing the corps, he would have to learn the rudimental method. As I recall from my father, he went to J. Burns Moore for instructions. I believe he really converted to the rudimental philosophy although probably not able to perform that well. Anyway, Eddie Keane and the Hatter's Drum Corps were open season for the likes of Sturtze. My father told me the story where Earl made a comment on a contest sheet that the Hatters were not playing rudiments and was subsequently disparaged by J. Burns Moore: "If they're not rudiments, then what in the hell are they Earl?"
The Stratford Connecticut Yankees drumline became Sturtze’s testing ground. Hired in 1931, he taught them 27 years till 1958, winning many Connecticut state titles. The 1946 version of the drum line won the American Legion Nationals in San Francisco with drum scores of 19.9 and perfect 20.0. Great players marched the Yankee line over the years including Frank Arsenault and Eric Perrilloux. Sturtze was also involved with the Connecticut Hurricanes during their transition from standstill to competitive field unit. Brothers Joe, Red and Ray Ludee migrated from St. Francis to turn the Hurricanes’ storm warning flags into a drumming powerhouse.
Veronica Sturtze: "I would have played for the Stratford Yankees. Before the war they had five snares, a few from Bridgeport, the Milford post. The army was recruiting women for war bands. I auditioned for the WACS. All were from the Cincinnati and Buffalo symphonies. “When I took the WACS audition they couldn’t believe it! I opened their eyes! They told me, “Send your set!” The brushes they had were terrible. It was so different than rudimental drumming. We sounded just as good as Glen Miller. I loved it! There were 16 or 18 of us. I felt great. It means an awful lot if you’re good! I was offered more money by the army. Had to go to Florida for an audition. [There were] termites in the sand, on the floor, on the cots.....everywhere. I took the test at 7am and went into the regular army. I wish I had stayed. They were too big at 90 pieces though.
"The Hormel all girl drum and bugle corps was started up in Stamford, Connecticut. It was an M&M corps sponsored by Hormel Foods. Clarence Lake was the drum instructor. They wanted service women and were going into competition. They did compete. Was it the American Legion contest '43 or '44? J. Burns Moore was brought in to teach Hormel. They knew I could play and offered me $100 for two days, just for the audition!. They flew me in! Hormell would pay for everything. They put me up in a hotel! They wanted a good group but I stuck out like a sore thumb. They tried to hire girls from the WACS but their drummers were not up to my level. They played all single stroke stuff and couldn’t roll good. There weren't a lot of drummers like me."
The philosophy in The Sturtze Drum Instructor (1956) is dissimilar to earlier military training manuals. This might be why William F. Ludwig never published it – it totally refuted Moeller’s Civil War methodology from 1925. Matt Lyons states, “Ludwig wouldn’t publish Sturtze’s book.” Sturtze does not detail a difference in style between orchestral and rudimental applications, though terms the buzz roll “artificial.” His grip explanation is military. Sturtze was happy to march with his own students in bugle corps playing “cheater” Five Stroke Rolls, something Ancients disliked. It didn’t matter. Sturtze’s kids were nearly unbeatable, unless against each other. “From 1933 to 1976 his pupils have won over 115 state, regional, national and world titles and about 300 non-title contests.” (Sturtze, About The Author)
Sturtze believed stick selection matters. He wants you to shift the sticks in your hands to match weight, then roll them on the counter and look for wobble. “Use heavy sticks for practicing weather you intend to do orchestra, band, or drum corps drumming.” (Sturtze, p.5) Sturtze wanted extra practice weight to train beginner’s coordination. “You would not train a baseball pitcher to throw with a whiffle ball.” Pitcher’s today use wrist/forearm resistance machines. Batters use a weighted bat in the on-deck circle.
The left hand style shown is not index finger oriented having a "gap" to let the stick bounce if needed, held deep in the crotch of the thumb and first finger. “The thumb is straight, or nearly so but not stiff. The end of the first finger is curled slightly over the stick - with the second along the side and slightly above. The last two fingers are held under the stick - almost straight and relaxed. Allow the stick to rest just below the first joint of the ring finger. The little finger is held almost directly under the ring finger." (The Sturtze Drum Instructor, Section 1)
Sturtze recommends just a small index finger portion - first joint - over the stick, with support from the middle finger. With left stick placement between first and second joints, the palm is slightly "open and exposed". Another difference is the angle of the last two fingers of the left hand, "almost straight, but not stiff, while playing single beats - and bend them slightly to produce a bound. By keeping these two fingers against the stick, it is prevented from bounding because there is no play or gap between the first and third fingers. When a bound is desired, these fingers are bent downward away from the stick; thus an opening or gap is made allowing the necessary room for the stick to bound." (Sturtze, Section 1)
Unlike 19th and early 20th century books, this one sets a specific physical action for "bouncing" and "stopping" or "re-gripping", but does not define which rudiments to use it with or when the fingers should drop away, something his students did teach. What is clear is that Sturtze wanted more surface area of skin in contact with the stick giving detailed finger positioning and pressure points for control. This helped consistency and demanded greater practice. "The stick is held with the last three fingers curled around it. The middle finger, being the balancing finger, should be held more firmly around the stick than the last two. However, the last two should be touching the stick, more or less at all times; otherwise the handling will be sloppy and the stick poorly controlled." (Sturtze, Section 1) This refutes Moeller, Chapin and Gruber.
John Dowlan: "Sturtze's grip was to have the first fingers over the stick. The middle finger was not straight. There was some thumb in the style. A bit of each [thumb and index finger]. I used to practice 6 to 8 hours a day as a kid. My finger nails grow on an angle because of practicing so much. The ring and middle fingers curled a bit to hold the stick. The right hand was pretty much standard across all instructors."
Large movements were always taught first, smaller ones later. To balance the sound from right to left, the bone mass of hands and arms needed to be equal, regardless of grip. The right hand middle finger was "more firm" than the ring and pinky fingers but still touching. The left thumb was over the stick, not “middle finger straight” and out of the way. The arm motion Sturtze recommends was taught to this author by Tuomey in the late 1960’s; arm weight controlled volume; forearm and wrist controlled stick heights. At faster speeds, wrist and arm bones moved in syncronicity. Sturtze, like Arsenault after him, believed the right hand middle finger to be a physical control point, a thought-point to think through: "Pinch the stick between the soft part of the thumb and the under part of the first finger between the knuckle and first joint. Pinching the stick in this manner and keeping the last two fingers closed around it will result in the complete control which is necessary to play firm, steady beats. Don't hold them too tight." (Sturtze, Section 1)
To "pinch" means use more physical pressure - to "be in shape." Drummers call it CHOPS. Warm ups became more important as speeds, heights and pinching accent rebounds increased. “As it normally takes 15 to 20 minutes to limber up, it is the practice beyond this point that will improve your drumming the most." ( Earl Sturtze, Northeast Drum Corp News, Oct 1975, Vol 1, No. 10)
Sturtze really did know within a minute if you had been "lifting weight" by your angles and strength of attack. Rudimental drumming was now a physical art honed to specific fulcrum and movement parameters. It took more practice to achieve, but allowed more difficulty to be attempted, like the more complex “fillers” his students used. Basic physical form precedes superior musical prowess. Competition drummers adopted disciplined practice consistency: Redican’s hours per day instruction advice for Charlie Poole, Sturtze for Arsenault, Thompson for Hurley and Tuomey for this author. Breakdowns were enough of a physical workout until short 16 count exercises warmed up 1960’s drumlines and complex Flam and Roll combinations gave birth to extended muscle building and coordination exercises in the early 1970’s.
Veronica Sturtze: "I would take my drum into the woods. [I] had to get out of the house. My mother had high blood pressure. She had 10 kids. I was third of ten. I saw what my mother went through......taking care of babies and all the food..... so it was better for me to learn drums. I would take a bottle of water with ice and cookies out there, two hours at the most. You could hear me all the way across the airport. I was a heavy drummer - used 3S sticks. Three or four hours of practice can be too much. You can go backwards. Muscles can become too tense and you can do a sloppy job! There has to be a happy medium."
Bobby Redican: "I used to use rubbing alcohol on my arms after practicing to loosen the ligaments so they wouldn't ache. I would hold the sticks together and then out [from me] backwards to stretch ligaments. It was to get in shape. I used to play on a pillow to loosen up."
John Pratt: "We used a big open style and played on pillows. You had to control your bounce."
Earl Sturtze: "By practicing diligently for at least one full hour each day, in two or three weeks you should have developed a fair amount of speed and be ready to go on to the next lesson. Do not split the hour up into 15 or 30 minute periods if it can be avoided.”
Flams have always measured coordination ability. Sturtze suggests a grace note drop from two inches - his lowest position – turning the wrist, not “lifted” by the forearm, then dropped. This is why Moeller’s Civil War style fails with increased tempos. A small wrist turn gives the bead a very small economical drop, not a finger re-grip or lengthy arm whip. Tuomey never popped Flams stating: "You simply turn the wrist. Nothing more need be done for a flam grace note." More telling is Sturtze's flam execution definition, a most emphatic physical separation between rudimental and drum set/orchestral attempts:
"Tap the two inch beat very, very lightly and immediately raise the hand to eye level and point the stick straight. Almost simultaneously with this tap, strike a blow with the right, and the instant the stick strikes the pad squeeze it with the fingers sufficiently to prevent it from bounding up, since the right stick must now stay down to about two inches above the pad. The right hand goes down almost at the same time as the left is coming up. (Sturtze, p.25) (Author's italics)
Bobby Redican: "I used a tight squeeze for certain rudiments."
Charlie Poole: "I used a tight squeeze for certain rudiments."
Mike Stefanowicz: "To execute this motion the stick should be squeezed at impact and the return motion should stop dead at the grace note position. Much practice is needed for this.
Jack Tencza (Lancraft): “I used to “pinch” for faster rudiments. Flam grace notes were not even an inch off the drum…. a quarter; maybe an eighth of an inch. Very low!” “Redican more than Sturtze would pinch the stick; grip harder at the accents.”
Larry McCormick (Cavaliers) “You squeeze the stick. It helps control the rebound. That’s what Frank [Arsenault] said to do.”
Tommy Igoe (Bridgemen): “How do you play flams? Keep the grace notes down! Keep the grace notes down! Keep the grace notes down!”
Mistakes of the individual or line are not usually the accents but the notes between them due to improper bead positioning after an accent. Mastery of these “little notes’ is rudimental professionalism. With Sturtze, drumming was no longer a World War I “hobby”.
There was now a proper way to spend your practice time.
Superior grace note execution separated rudimental drummers from the other two percussion idioms. Consistency is not by accent height, but by grace note height: " As the speed is increased, the hand which plays the hard beat is gradually held lower just as in the Single Stroke Roll. However the soft taps must remain at about the two inch level all through. (Sturtze, p.15)
Hand Placement changed - not "from the end" of a stick but "how close to" center of gravity. Gripping close to the end of a stick tires the muscle system quickly, moving more weight, fighting increased accent rebound. Grace notes rise and are much harder to control. It's a triple problem: more weight, harder to keep proper playing arc and slower in that the same wrist movement takes the bead further from its target. Play too far forward and the wrist hinge locks, creating too much forearm usage that condenses faster diddles and rolls towards a buzz. History shows a movement over 150 years towards the center of gravity. Potter (1815): Two and one half inches from the end (probably 19 inch sticks 3/4 to 1 inch diameter.) Sousa (1886): Three inches from the end. Ludwig (1928): The balancing point of the stick is about one fourth the length of stick from butt end. Exact balancing point may vary, however, you will feel this point in time, to be at a point from one-quarter to one-third of the length. Sturtze (1930’s) John J. Heney (1935) and Charlie Wilcoxin (1951): about four inches from the butt end of the sticks. Les Parks (1951): seven inches from the end of the stick. Harold Prentice (1961): one-third from the end of the stick. Toumey (1968): Hold an eighth of an inch behind center of gravity. Micah Brusse (2004), Blue Devil snare tech: “We cut the stick into thirds and grip at the last third.” Turn of the century sticks had very large beads affecting balance. As tempos increased, stick diameters reduced to a “3S” (.750” diameter) and beads became much smaller.
Assuming a similar length stick - 17 or 18 inches during the Civil War - Sturtze's four inches from the end is a major difference, much closer to center of gravity. The muscle and bone system become more useful near this point, moving less weight. Holding the stick slightly behind the center of gravity places the entire systems weight (hand and stick) closer to the hands center of gravity, making a more efficient system. The further away from this point, the more propensity for the system to go out of balance or more muscle energy needed to maintain balance.
Many photographs of the 1930's through the early 1950's show drumlines with their drums placed very low on their left leg. A picture of the 1950 Garbarina Post Corps (New York Skyliners) has a very impressive uniform 10-man line - perfectly leveled drums. A 1936 picture of the Phobe Apperson Hearst Post Junior Corps has about the same low drum symmetry; maybe an inch lower. The author's grandfather marched with the same low drum position. Today, they are waist level or higher using metallic carriers. Sturtze mentions playing positions: "The pad or drum should be arranged so that it will be about four inches below the waist line or belt weather you are sitting or standing." (Sturtze, Practice Positions)
Arm motion is used for speed and dynamic delineation contrasting accents to grace notes. Arm bones propel the stick with a wrist turn. The higher the drumhead, the more bicep, triceps and upper torso muscles are used in the style. Sturtze mentions a relaxed approach for the upper body with pumping elbows the catalyst for raw power. Some 25 years later, Tuomey was mighty strict about a waist high playing level. You had to know exactly where the playing surface was in relation to your waist, hand and arm positions. When being taught this method on practice pads, you could hear elbows hitting the sides of people around you. It was that much of a snap. Most champion drummers and instructors of the 1930's 40's 50's and 60's used arm motion. Elbows snap outward from the body as the beats are struck, and fall inward again as the hand comes back up.
John S. Pratt: "All the best have arm motion. Of Course!"
John Dowlan: "You use your arms behind the accents. There should be little daylight between the arm and the body."
Jay Tuomey: "Elbow motion is like a piston in a car's engine. It produces power. The arm comes down and the elbow moves out. The wrist turns up and the elbow moves in."
Bobby Redican: “Power comes from up here – your arms!”
Joe Morello: “Your wrists are your motor but you naturally use more forearm for power.”
Sturtze uses the Single Stroke Roll as his first lesson. (His students start instruction with the Double Stroke Roll.) The Single Stroke Roll needs little or no arm motion to execute. Sturtze does state that his book is for all types of students, then presses the need for learning doubles: "Start each practice period with the closing and opening of the Single Stroke Roll. This serves as a limbering up exercise...... SPEND AT LEAST FROM THREE TO FOUR WEEKS ON THE DOUBLE STROKE ROLL. (Sturtze's capitalization, p.21)
As Eric Perrilloux states, "Rolls tell the story of a drummer."
Sturtze’s "Basic Rudiments of Drumming" are Single Stroke Roll, Long Roll and the Flam. Bad early habits affect the style template for life. "It must be stressed that if one has not mastered to perfection the three basic rudiments of drumming, he cannot hope to master the remainder." (Sturtze, p.10) "If any bad habits are formed here they will most likely remain with you throughout your entire drumming career."
Veronica Sturtze: "He would gather wood horses up and cut up rubber inner-tubes on a board. There were maybe 10 or 12 of us. The Single Stroke Roll was first- straight up with the sticks - halfway down with arm motion for doubles."
Rudiment order for The Sturtze Drum Instructor shows increasing difficulty exampled by the split between paradiddle and double paradiddle, later mention of ratamacues and the final Flam Paradiddle Diddle rudiment. The goal was coordination and style training, not camp duty.
Single Stroke Roll Double Stroke Roll Flam Sight reading examples
5 Stroke Roll Flam Accent No. 1 Flam Accent No. 2 7 Stroke Roll Ruff 4 Stroke Ruff 9 Stroke Roll
11 Stroke Roll (stated as a 16th before a 9 Stroke Roll) 13 Stroke Roll advanced reading section
Flamacue 15 Stroke Roll Paradiddle Lesson 25
Drag Paradiddle No. 2 (In 1869, the Strube book had Drag Paradiddles No. 1 and No. 2 starting with two left hand grace note taps.
10 Strole Roll Three Camps
Single Drag Single Ratamacue Flam Paradiddle Double Ratamacue
Drag Paradiddle No. 1 Double Paradiddle Triple Paradiddle Flam Tap Double Drag Flam Paradiddle Diddle
20 Rudimental Drum Beats
Sturtze terms Seven Stroke Rolls "artificial" because their pulsation is not an eighth note marching pulse. Military music relies heavily on the Seven, a pick-up attacked on the “and” with the left hand, the release on the right hand downbeat. He has the Flam Accent No. 2 as a rudiment (a Flam Triplet missing the middle note) producing a 6/8 triplet feel. The hand-to-hand Four Stroke Ruff is another Civil War hold-over.
The Paradiddle, the easiest lead hand switch rudiment, is lesson No.40, placed well back in the Sturtze book, possibly a remnant of 1930’s drum parts that didn’t use many variations. (It is the third rudiment I teach.) Drummers were beginning to use Paradiddles instead of straight sticking in the 1930’s. He groups it with Lesson No. 25 and Drag Paradiddles. It is here that Connecticut Halftime is located containing Paradiddles, Lesson 25's and Drag Paradiddle No. 2's. Difficult rudiments are considered to be the Ratamacue family and Flam Paradiddle. "Although these inconsistencies (of grace notes) are not limited to Ratamacues, it seems to be three rudiments which cause the most perplexity." (Sturtze, p.131) Mentioned last is the dreaded Flam Paradiddle Diddle.
The final pages of Sturtze's work is filled with drum solos that, for their time period, were state of the art, probably written toward the late 1940’s as complex fillers were coming into individual contests. There are 32nd note Paradiddles (assumed though the sticking is sometimes absent), seven 24th note singles, 24th note Double Paradiddles, Flam Paradidles, the Ratamacue family, Flam Taps and Lesson No. 25. Special pages having the Pata-Fla-Fla (right and left handed) and its use with Flam Paradiddles and triplets and a few exercises with 24th note triplets having accents not on the first beat.
Swiss Pata-Fla-Fla (right and left handed) Pata-Fla-Fla and Flam Paradiddle with flam Triplet with Flam Tap
Syncopated Flam Accents Syncopated Triplets
He experiments with 24th note RRL or LLR stickings and introduces a new rudiment (bottom of p. 162) called "Flama-Triplets." Sturtze was keeping with the times. Rita Macy's winning 1956 VFW solo by Bill Reamer had "rudiments with no names."
One Handed Flam Triplets Ruffadiddles Flam-Tapadiddle Flam Tapadiddle No. 2 Inverted Flam Taps: (as in civil war books)
Finally, respect is granted a “non 26” rudiment in the book’s last solo - a piece called “The Six Stroke Roll”, first used in bugle corps junior competition in 1947 by Bill Reamer. Earlier books by different authors gave it low billing as practice material - if at all.
Brozek's Paradiddler is a piece with many 32nd note Paradiddles; some phrased like a Six Stroke Roll and others mixed with 32nd singles strokes. It is not an easy piece. (p.168)
Hemiolas of 16th notes grouped in five switch lead hands rapidly in "The Alternator". (p.165)
Final solos in the book are short with difficult lead hand switch coordination featuring 24th note Triplets, Paradiddles with moving accents, Triplets with tricky stickings with accents and Inverted Flam Taps.
Amazingly, a small section on backsticking is included with solo examples, written after 1947. No explanation of backstick arc execution exists, just a few artists renderings of the hand positions at rest and after the backstick is complete. Earl wanted his drumlines to look flashy coming down the street, in agreement with a high playing style. He calls the page "Visual Effects Drumming,” this from someone who previously didn’t take to “flourishes”. "Back sticking is used primarily to add flash to the visual effect of drumming. It may be applied to practically any rhythmic pattern and is applicable to all types of drumming." (Sturtze, p.171)
Gary Pagnozzi (1964, ’65, ’66 VFW National Snare Champion, P.A.L. Cadets): “Backsticking was popular in our day. Some of the guys in the line got together one day and put some backsticking in our show. Sturtze came up to watch but didn't say anything. After the rehearsal, he finally came over and asked what we were doing to our music. We told him we were adding some flair. Sturtze replied that he had some backsticking exercises that would improve our technique. I was shocked and thought he wasn't going to allow it.”
Sturtze's integrity was respected. Charley Poole stated there were no arguments whenever drum instructors judged their own students. He was judged by Sturtze when his own students were in the contest in Connecticut and won. His love of the art and objective comparisons stood above favoritism. Sturtze affected people far past the early 1930’s parochial schools.
Danny O’Mara: “I started with Earl Sturtze when I was nine or ten in 1944 or 1945. It was with St John the Evangelist Fife and Drum Corps in New Haven, at a time when most Catholic parishes were forming their own drum corps. Sturtze was hired to create a new drum corps and our first lessons were group lessons with about ten drummers. That quickly evolved into individual sessions for the students who seemed to have some potential. These were about 20 minutes to a half hour and cost us 25 cents (the church kicked in an additional 25 cents). Sturtze insisted that you maintain a spiral bound book. He would assign one or two rudiments to practice and have you open and close those assigned last week. He would write his comments in your book while you played and occasionally stop you and show you what you were doing wrong. As you began to show progress in the various rudiments, he would show you a song - written in "Sturtze Code" - play it for you and have you try it. You were to learn the song for next week's lesson. The order in which he assigned the rudiments was dictated by songs he wanted learned: Long Roll, Flam, Paradiddle, Lesson 25, and Drag Paradiddle, so he could give you Connecticut Half Time as your first song. When he finally assigned the "Rudimenter", you knew you had made the grade!
“His practice pad was a wooden box about nine inches square, with a piece of rubber from an old tire tube glued and tacked to the top of the box. The box was fitted on to a standard trap drum, three-legged stand, and had a handle screwed into the side of the box for carrying. He encouraged us to make our own practice pads in the same way.”
“Our rolls always started with our sticks up, even when played in the middle of a song, with the hands at eye level. The left hand was positioned so that you could look right into the palm [when it was up], and the right hand was turned out so that you were looking at the back of your hand and knuckles. Grace notes were always six inches from the pad. I play my grace notes much lower to the pad now because of years of playing in a jazz combo, and find that I can execute rudiments pretty well from a height of about three inches. Elbows had to be tucked in and he constantly stressed the importance of relaxing your arms. He would say "You won't be able to play for any length of time if you stiffen up your arms". He would also harp on the grip, usually telling us that the first and second fingers of the left hand were too loose or too tight, and if the pinky finger of the right hand was sticking out "as if we were sipping tea".
“An interesting side note: In our very first group lesson when he showed us how to hold the sticks, I picked up the sticks exactly the opposite of his instruction. He said to me "What are you doing?" I said "Well I'm left-handed, so I should hold the sticks the opposite of everyone else". He said "Guess what? You're going to hold the sticks just like everyone else!" I never picked sticks up "left-handed" again.
Lou Schlapfer has been with the Mattatuck Drum Band since 1995. He thoughtfully sent the author notebook pages full of Sturtze’s handwritten notes. Lou was in the Naugatuck fife and drum from corps from 1961 to 1966.
“I started in grade school, then the Sandy Hook Fife and Drum corps, I took lessons at the fire company for 25 cents a week. This was the late 1950’s. As an 11 year old I was not allowed to touch a drum for 11 months. There were 15 kids at Sandy Hook. Sturtze was meticulous on elbow, arm and wrist placement. He refined arm swing particularly. Flam grace notes were 2 inches, taps 6 inches. He wouldn’t let you get away with anything and expected an hour a day practice. He reinforced all his lessons and would bring you back to them. Everyone develops little quirks, but he brought you back to the original form and intent.”
“Sturtze was very serious. A 25 was his best grade. There were a lot of handwritten notes in our notebooks. We were judged like a contest. He used the 1 1/2 in 1/1/2 out triangle diagram. He would deduct points for being unsteady. If you passed all the rudiments, you got a diploma from the Sturtze School of Drumming. In your first year, to him you were not very good. In your second year, you were fair and in the third year, you were a good student. It took years to go through his lessons and he wouldn’t move to the next one until you were ready, usually an 18 or 19 score on a rudiment; 21 or 23 was considered good. I was on the Single Stroke Roll for a month and a half! If you really screwed up, he’d take your notebook and write notes in red ink. He would write out entire solos in your notebook. He had his own system of notation – always handwritten notes. It was your review record. You could always go back.
“He wanted your wrist at eye level. The elbows brushed the body. When you turn the wrist back, the elbow moves. The left stick rested on the first knuckle of the fourth finger. He’d look at your callus and blister to see if you practiced. He had a hell of a callus on his ring finger. I’m amazed at his activity. He was pretty old when he taught me.”
“Naugatuck won 4 or 5 years in a row in ‘60, ‘61, ‘62 and ‘63 in the junior division. Sturtze was really upset when I went to Naugatuck. He ended up judging me in individuals. I was doing fine but got nervous with him there judging. I broke a few times. He asked me after, “So why did you do that?” “I got nervous!” He was very fair – very honest. He ran his own contests. I wiggled my toes when I played to keep time. Sturtze hit that!”
Sturtze taught St. Francis a quarter century. Graduates formed the St. Francis Senior Corps, taught by Sturtze from 1945 till ’57. The junior corps disbanded in ’54, seniors in the fall of ’57. Earl Strurtze taught so many players that sixty years later, marching a "halftime" show would be considered a waste of time by marching bands that had assimilated drum corps styles. Imitation is indeed the greatest form of flattery.
Sturtze was not interested in jazz, drum set or known as a great writer, though he followed Perrilloux around and tried to learn. His first Connecticut victory was in 1916 and national championship year 1928, a time of army style and stoic marches. His efforts affected so many people and were so successful, the United States educational system had to quickly hire drum corps instructors and judges in the late 1970’s in a futile effort to catch up. His was a time of internal discipline in society. The wide “around-the-tree”angle of World War I drummers was finished as difficult fillers turned into long extended 32nd note competition solos in the mid 1950s.
Earl played till he had problems one evening.
Ed Olsen: "There was a corps he was in, the McCalister Old Guard. Sturtze was a quiet, low key person. He [Earl] came home one night [and said], "Guess I gotta throw in the gloves. I couldn't remember where I was in the music." His heart broke. He lived for drumming. He accomplished a lot. "
Veronica Sturtze (Winner - Feminine Class -1940 New York World’s Fair, Connecticut Senior and Northeastern States Champion): "Earl loved to walk. I couldn't keep up with him. He was good at math - liked checkers. What a Pinnocle shark! We would play gin rummy. He would always beat me. Even at scrabble he would win a lot. Earl would practice every day even when he had cancer. You could hear the change in his playing though. He enjoyed it 60 years. Earl played in Lancraft [Fife and Drum Corps]. He had a ball.
“I still use a rubber pad cut in half on the table. I play cards and my friends think I make a lot of noise. I'm always drumming my fingers on the table. They ask me " Why are you always drumming your fingers on the table? It was better for me to learn drums. I drummed and worked part time. There was more going on [when I became older]. I always came back to drumming though. I went into [individual] competitions. A few times I beat the guys. I had many second prizes. I can still drum. It gets in your blood you know."
It certainly does.