My start in drumming began at a Polish wedding playing on two chairs in front of the band.
They called me up on stage to play a tambourine, startled that a three year-old was in time. Other instruments then appeared - claves, maracas, woodblock and triangle. When they went through everything they had, they tried to shoo me off stage. I wouldn't and didn't budge.
I wanted to play drums. You can have the wedding cake. I borrowed some empty chairs and played drums for the rest of the evening in front of the band till they stopped hours later.
My parents were curious, but grandpa went to the basement to get his old practice drum - a bushel basket having an inch thick piece of wood on top and carrying hooks for a strap.
He brought out the sticks and showed me a Five Stroke Roll and Paradiddle, a snare drummer in the PLAV Post No. 1 Drum and Bugle Corps from Hamtramck, Michigan in the 1940s and 50s.
I started drum set lessons a few years later. After seeing an article for a new drum and bugle corps in Centerline, Michigan, I marched 13 years in many different junior corps.
My first performance was a long parade without a leg rest. It was a 1940s era drum lwith long tension rods and finicky snare strainer like grandpa's. No one told me to tie the drum to my leg, which soon turned many different shades of black and blue. My father asked, "are you ok?"
Sure. Let's do it again. Soon. The corps director bought me a leg rest. I marched the next week.
No, we weren't very good, but the instructor was a student of a master teacher who taught a senior corps just a few miles from my house. It was there I was trained to win championships.
Some of the corps I marched with.
An 11 year old member of the Vanguard Sr Drum & Bugle Corps.
No, not the mascot - I made the line.
(They wouldn't let me march competitions but was the fill-in for all other events).
Lancers were a Senior reunion corps.
I had the best instructors from two different percussion worlds for seven years:
Jay Tuomey - a master fife and drum corps instructor from the famous "Sons of Liberty" for technique and line drumming.
Jay would stay after rehearsals till 2am for anyone that wanted to work amounting to 14 hours of instruction per week.
I never saw anyone who knew how to teach coordination and physiology better than Tuomey. He never made mistakes.
Johhny Wallace - a drum set instructor who taught the coordination of double bass drum and hi-hat techniques along with sight reading big band charts and musicianship. He wrote the charts for his 20 piece big band and taught phrasing and interp.
John had that "in the pocket" sound and couldn't figure out where his young student got his "hands" from. (Drum corps!)
1970 Michigan State Champion • St Clair Shores Vanguard Jr.
All Tuomey students had to compete in individuals. I won my first contests, realizing that high schools and colleges were decades behind the competitive level of the drum corps. Most everyone was playing solos from outdated books, some from the 1940s. In drum corps, you were expected to have the vocabulary to write and memorize your own material. Drum corps training gave me a performance vocabulary drum set players of that time did not have. This was a precursor to the music act I perform today called "Rhythm Architecture", using drum corps phrasing and arrangement techniques that support percussive modern music genres people can dance to or listen to while having dinner at a wedding or a sip of their favorite drunk at a wine bar or afternoon brunch.
1976 DCI World Individual Champion • Phantom Regiment
I had to leave the state to find better competition, traveling to the Glassmen Drum & Bugle Corps in Toledo, Ohio, then the Phantom Regiment of Rockford, Illinois. I ranked 4th 3rd and 4th in international All-American and DCI individual competitions coming closer each year. I won the World Championship representing the Phantom Regiment in 1976. I still use the training techniques that were developed to maintain physical conditioning for my current music act.
When Glassmen went inactive in August of 1974 and unable to travel to the DCI Championships at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, my drum instructor began calling around the country to see if anyone would allow me to learn their show in two days and then get a chance to compete for the DCI individuals championship. My father drove me to catch a sleeping corps in Toledo, Ohio at 2am. The music was waiting for me at 4am when I arrived Monday morning. It was the one and only time I marched with the Saginaires. Their music and drill was memorized and ready to go at 8am Thursday for the prelims.
The Glassmaen shako I wore for two years........
The Phantom Regiment thought my 13 years marching experience could help them win the DCI World Championship.
Regiment won the combined field execution in 1978 & 1979, but lost GE (general effect). The corps took 2nd both years at the world championship, by a tenth in 1978. The drumline receiveda perfect "10" in GE and won Percussion Analysis with a 7.9.
My students and proteges' have won 17 DCI and DCA World Individual Championships with many other high placings because they do not practice for competitions, but train in stages similar to a martial artist. I trained Phantom's line like Olympic athletes.
Interestingly, DCI later changed its marketing to incorporate the moniker, "Summer Music Games." We were first there.
The old school fife and drum instructors treated drumming as a martial art in finger, bone and weight positions, center of gravity, moment of inertia, using a plethora of well tested coordination exercises to improve competitive ability. (Jay Tuomey had a black belt in karate.) Music is the ability of muscle to do what the mind tells it to do. Old school ways teach the discipline of perfection.
In 1981, the corps director of the Golden Garrison Drum & Bugle from Michigan told me in she wanted to win. The corps was voted most improved drum corps for the Great Lakes and Drum Corps Midwest circuits. The drumline won the Great Lakes circuit championship and defeated a few DCI associate member corps at the Drum Corps Midwest Championships that year, receiving a very high demand score that tied a top echelon world-class corps. We then tied for best drumline in class-A competition at DCI plelims. I practiced them like Regiment going through run-throughs trying to get an "egg" - "0" - no mistakes. Golden Garrison did it on the field right off the line over the border in Canada on the way to the DCI World Championships in Montreal, Quebec.
Quite an achievement for a no-name corps with many rookies.
Everyone was excited to see the sheet. We won the show and did celebrate. Drum corps is about perfection. They liked the taste.
I took some time off from judging to the help the Southgate High School drumline win the state percussion championship in 1991 & 1992. The 31 member ensemble performed my arrangements to a variety of music genres and a drum solo, undefeated in 8 or more contests each year. (The six girls in the cymbal line used to have "cymbal pajama parties". No one could handle the plates like they could.)
I became involved in judging corps and band contests while still marching in junior corps, later acting as Percussion Caption Head, rewriting percussion score sheets for more objectivity, then was elected president of the Great Lakes Judges Association, acting as the liason to the corps and band directors we serviced. I judged the state championships many times and always believed - especially with high school competitions - that our purpose was to adjudicate the students, not the staffs show designs. My score sheet criticisms were tough but the numbers were fair. Give everyone a chance if they practiced. If they didn't - you can yell at me about your low score at the critique The idea was to see a young drumline improve their technique and musicianship throughout the season and carry that through to future years.
My other lives involve the world of architecture and marathon running, but after talking on the phone with one of my fiercest competitors 15 years ago, I decided to take a chance on something new. I told two-time DCI Champion Steve Chorazy I wanted to create a drumming and DJ act. He said to go electronic, already using the equipment for big band work in New York City. After cornering the Vice Presidents of Roland and Yamaha Corporations at a PAS percussion symposium in Columbus, Ohio, I purchased and started building the 1500 tune repertoire the act carries into establishments today.
Rhythm Architecture Electronic Percussion Artist & DJ For Your Events 15 Years Experience
World Champion Competition Drummer
Rhythm Architecture is a percussion/DJ act unique to the music industry. It is capable of any music genre and can perform both the dinner and dance portions of an evening, especially advantageous at weddings. Electronics allow performances in wine bars, upscale restaurants, juried fine art fairs, country clubs, museums, black tie events and municipal festivals. I replace other solo acts such as a guitar or piano - sometimes duos - because I bring a full ensemble sound. Unlike a singer with one instrument, my music contains trumpet, trombone, saxophone, French horn, guitar, cello and flute leads, not to mention vocals and a plethora of percussion instruments. Tunings include 11 different snare drums, 7 sets of tenor voices, pitched bass drums, 15 timpani, a 40 inch gong and other accompaniment not possible with real instruments. I have kept acoustic hi-hat cymbals and a 20 inch ride for better tamber. Drumline marching arrangement techniques such as implied melodic line, accent pattern counterpoint and the rudimental textures of pipe band are used for more interest and originality. I am a fan of "house music" in my sets, a genre similar to the Electronic Dance Music so prevalent on radio and dance clubs today, with pleasant European melodies and active percussion, resulting is a tasteful mix of competition drumming, pleasing melodic content and syncopated rhythms, combining the skills of marching percussion, drum set coordination and the disc jockey.
Grandpa Joe's discharge certificate from the PLAV Post No.1 drum corps from Detroit in 1955.
The wedding I played "chairs" at with the Polish stage band was in 1958.