Talking About Winter Drumming Apprenticeship and New Release

Hello MD! In 2005, after teaching for many years at the highest level I imagined possible (Principle Faculty/Head of Drum Core Curriculum and Advising at the New School’s Jazz and Contemporary Music Program in NYC), I realized that some vital aspects of learning and teaching were missing for me in the higher level academic institutions. To fill that void, I started a live-in immersive program for drummers and other artists called Living Arts Apprenticeship Program (LAAP).

I’ve experienced many types of study including music conservatory, drumming vocational school, private lessons, master classes, and four years of music college. But by far the most inspiring and life changing was living or spending time with my mentors outside of school.

My mentor when I moved to NYC, drummer Kenwood Dennard, took me in as a roommate. As a student and fan of his playing style, I realized something important had been missing from my attempts to learn style from recordings. Living with Kenwood taught me that it’s everything “behind the scenes” that informs an artist’s expression—how they practice, how they handle their business, what they eat, what’s important to them, and how they carry themselves in the world. Sure, I had some private lessons too, but ninety-nine percent of the real teachings were between those lessons. When Kenwood invited me to practice together, I experienced practice at an exponentially higher level than mine. My learning curve skyrocketed.

At LAAP, students and faculty wake up at 6 AM, go through a full-body physical warm-up, and train together all day long. Our students claim that one week at LAAP is equal to a year of college and is a life-changing experience. Over the years LAAP expanded to include additional art forms: visual arts, music composition, and, on some sessions, aikido, archery, and spear throwing. We’ll soon be adding nature arts such as mushroom picking, fishing, and culinary arts. LAAP’s setting in New York’s beautiful and peaceful Catskill Mountains reinforces the study of common natural fundamentals. Sessions for multiple art forms become cross-disciplinary experiences. Training with those who dedicate their lives to other art forms enlarges the very definition of their own.

I work with drummers on five-way coordination (utilizing the voice continuously), natural body motion technique, and harmonic rhythm study, but LAAP makes no attempt to influence our participants’ styles. What excites us is new expression, not endless repetition of what’s been said before but your own unique voice.

This January 4 through 10 LAAP invites drummers and composers to participate in a cross-disciplinary apprenticeship. Faculty and participants will co-compose a multi-movement piece culminating in a recording session to document and perhaps commercially release as well. HBO licensed a song from LAAP’s previous collaborative release, “Pop It! Drum For Your Life,” and nothing made me happier than to cut our participants royalty checks. We hope to continue that trend.

In other news, my next release is titled Rhythmos. The album drops November 3 and features Cyro Baptista, Billy Martin, and myself speaking in “Percussionese!” You can pre-order your copy at the link below.

Lastly, I’d like to take this opportunity to give a big shout-out to Paiste, Remo, and Vater for all their amazing support over the years and for making the most incredible gear out there. And thank you for reading and to all at Modern Drummer magazine.

For more about LAAP, visit youtu.be/HRJM7sQmrVM.

Pre-order Rhythmos here: music.apple.com/.

For more details, visit: www.laap.us.