It All started At A Polish Wedding.
The band called me up on stage to play a tambourine, startled that a three year-old was in time. They tested me with claves, maracas, woodblocks and a triangle. When they went through everything they had, they tried to shoo me off stage. I wouldn't and didn't budge.
I borrowed some empty chairs and "played drums" all night in front of the band never getting dinner or a piece of wedding cake.
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 17 years in many different drum corps.
My first performance was a long parade without a leg rest. The leg 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 then bought me a leg rest. 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.
My grandfather's practice snare drum from P.L.A.V. Post No. 1
Some of the Michigan Drum Corps I marched with in competition.
I was an 11 year old member of the Vanguards Senior Drum & Bugle Corps,
No - not the mascot. I made the line and was treated as a member.
They wouldn't let me march competitions but performed in all other events.
I had the best instructors from two different percussion worlds at the same time for seven years:
• Jay Tuomey - a master fife and drum corps instructor from the famous "Sons of Liberty" (Brooklyn, New York) for technique and line drumming. These were the men who decided to teach the drum & bugle corps in 1951. They changed history using the science of physics for bone mass, bone weight and economical movement. Their students soon dominated the country.
Jay would stay after rehearsals till 2am for anyone that wanted to learn, 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 - my drum set instructor taught the coordination of double bass drum and hi-hat techniques along with sight reading big band charts and phrasing. He wrote the charts for his 20 piece big band. John had that "in the pocket" sound and couldn't figure out where his young student got his "hands" from. (Drum corps!) John taught me to copy or augment phrasings using the different instruments of the set, something I use today with Rhythm Architecture.
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, playing solos from outdated books.
Drum corps musicians were expected to have the vocabulary to write and memorize your own material. Drum corps training gave me technical and artistic abilities vocabulary drum set players of that time did not have, a precursor to the "Rhythm Architecture" music act I perform today.
The act uses drum corps tonal, phrasing and arrangement techniques that support modern music genres. This allows the act to do both dinner and dance portions of an event - dinner for a wedding, or a sophisticated afternoon brunch.
1976 DCI World Individual Champion • Phantom Regiment
To find better competition, I traveled 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, then won the World Championship representing the Phantom Regiment in 1976. I still use the training techniques that were developed to maintain physical conditioning for Rhythm Architecture.
When Glassmen were unable to travel to the DCI Championships at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, in August of 1974, my drum instructor called around the country to have me learn someone else's show in four days, then compete for the DCI World Individuals Championship.
My father drove me to catch a sleeping corps in Toledo, Ohio at 2am where music and uniform were waiting when I arrived Monday morning. The Saginaires show was memorized and ready to go at 8am Thursday morning for preliminary competition which allowed me to register for indiviiduals.
The Glassmen shako I wore for two years........
The Phantom Regiment (Rockford, Illinois) thought my knowledge & experience would help them win the DCI World Championship, hiring me as an instructor to teach technique and perfect the style of the drumline.
Regiment won the combined field execution scores 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 received a perfect "10" in GE Drums and won Percussion Analysis with a 7.9 of 8.0 (Demand & Musicianship)
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 there first.
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 43 out of 50 demand score that tied a top echelon world-class corps. We then tied for best drumline in class-A competition at DCI prelims. 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 then signed it. (It's framed on my office wall.) We won the show and did celebrate. Drum corps is about perfection. They liked the taste.
My Southgate High School drumline won 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 line was run with drum corps discipline and technical training.
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. The idea was to see a young drumline improve their technique and musicianship throughout the season and build a base for future years.
My other lives involve the world of architecture in which I have a college degree and marathon running where I was just happy to finish.
After talking on the phone with one of my fiercest competitors 16 years ago,
I decided to take a chance on something new. I told two-time DCI World 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 major percussion symposium in Columbus, Ohio, I purchased the equipment in July of 2006 and began building the 1500 tune repertoire Rhythm Architecture carries today.
Rhythm Architecture - Percussion Artist & DJ Brings 16 Years Experience To Your Event
• Corporate • Festivals • Weddings • Restaurants • Hotels • Fine Art Fairs • Municipal Festivals • State & Regional Fairs
• Private Parties • Galleries & Grand Openings • Museums • Wine Bars & Brunch • Night Club Beats • Holiday Celebrations
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, fundraisers and private parties.
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 horns (trumpet, trombone, saxophone, French horn), strings (violin, cello, guitar, bass guitar) and winds (oboe, flute and clarinet) not to mention vocals and a plethora of percussion instruments (including piano).
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 acoustic instruments. 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" having jazz roots in phrasing and arrangement, a genre similar to Electronic Dance Music so prevalent on radio and in dance clubs today using pleasant melodies and active percussion.
Grandpa Joe's discharge certificate from the PLAV Post No.1 drum corps from Detroit in 1955.
From Calfskin drum heads that could not be tuned in humidity to electronic percussion that can be tuned to any pitch or timber - almost a 100 year story.