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Hiatus Over: My Lessons with Gary Chaffee, Anika Nilles, and More

I achieved my first #100daypracticechallenge and immediately lapsed into endomeotriosis overdrive. Dealing with an illness while attempting to work, drum, be in relationship, sell a house, and move to a new city can make anyone a bit crazy. I took the time I needed to recover, am finally living in Seattle, and working on a new book (female archetypes in film; details soon).

I am also resolved not to let the very misinformed press influence my book; I created a new website for Sabina Spielrein and will be updating it soon in hopes of reclaiming her (any my own) narrative. An amazingly insightful review was given in the Oxford University Press. Read it Here. If you still haven’t checked out my professional site, you can do so over here.

Today’s drum warm up is based on the Tommy Igoe Basic warm-up. Performed by Luca Casagranda.

I will also be featured discussing the history of women in rhythm on the DrumHistory Podcast soon!

A lesson with Gary Chaffee:

Well, well, well. How can I possibly sum up my stellar lesson with legendary drum teacher Gary Chaffee? First of all, you can get drum lessons with Gary Chaffee! I did not know this. I would never be able to afford ongoing lessons with the drum master, but as a Christmas present, I gifted myself two hours with Gary via Skype. I had recently been introduced to Gary’s book seriesWhere have you been all my life, I wanted to shout! Though I received lessons over a decade ago, I have been mostly self-taught for the past few years, ever since I opened up my garage and set up my drums from their storage wasteland. I took over five years off without hitting a single paradiddle to finish my degree.

Gary’s sticking patterns and “time functioning” patterns are challenging, fun, exciting, and expansive. I find myself excited to practice on the pad and explore new concepts related to time signatures and ostinatos (or, continuously repeated rhythms). Gary is an intimidating dude. There’s no way around it. He also hates when Skype messes up due to poor internet connections, of which we had many. There was cursing. Lots of cursing. After that frustration, though, Gary was willing to spend extra time with me to make up for what we lost trying to reconnect over Skype. He didn’t have to and I appreciated it.

I was late. The 3 hour time difference from East to West coast was my slip. I am not a “professional” drummer in his sense; I’ve not been trained by a music school nor do I play with a touring band, nor am I over fifty years old with 45 years of experience. I am a hopeful. I could tell my skill level was a bit out of the norm for him, but he met me where I was and encouraged me all the same. It was almost like a class in philosophy as well as in drums. He spoke about ideas instead of fills and gave me exercises and patterns to work on that will open my playing up conceptually. I filled a whole page with notes as we practiced and he made sure to test me on my kit after he relayed a new idea. We focused on linear phrasing and fat-back patterns – in two hours, I felt like I’d been given a treasure trove worth more than the last few years of time I’d spent merely running rudiments.

Don’t mention rudiments. Gary does not think much of rudiments.

A lesson with Anika Nilles:

Another Skype session, this time the time change from Germany to California made for an early morning lesson. Fresh from the shower, I got to embarrass myself all over again! Anika is a wonderful, patient, encouraging teacher who provides lots of clarity and exercises sent via PDF to challenge her students. I wish I could afford to have Anika as my full-time teacher, but the chance–if only once–to glean some wisdom from her watching my hands and playing, was invaluable and extremely fun, even if mortifying considering my skill level. I got so nervous, I could barely count to 4. Oh well, it’s never too late! #fangirl #shero

In Other News:

Cindy Goldberg is creating the first-ever documentary about female percussionists. I’ll be interviewing her soon about the project and keeping up to date on its progress. I am so excited to know such a woman of talent and vision! It’s thrilling to think the #femaledrummer universe is exploding and being so supportive. Her friend, Jessy Dwyer, created three amazing collages of female percussionists, and mine is in the above pictured. Woo!

Just read: Updike’s Marry Me, a very Bob&Carol&Ted&Alice narrative. Call me a cynic, but I enjoyed it.

Listening to: Frank Zappa’s “Montana” on Over-Nite Sensation. Mildly obsessed with the album right now! Backing vocals: TINA TURNER (!), Kin Vassy. Drums: Ralph Humphrey.

(Photo credits: Jessy Dwyer/Cindy Goldberg; Douglas Hooper; Heinrich Klaffs)

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