The twenty-eighth annual Chicago Drum Show took place this past May 19–20 at the Odeum Expo Center in Villa Park, Illinois. Rob Cook, a drum historian and the show’s producer, organized a world-class set of clinics, master classes, presentations, and exhibits that occurred over the course of the weekend, and plenty of local and international drumming enthusiasts were in attendance. The event featured the launch of Cook’s latest book, The Leedy Way, and a commemoration of the Gretsch Drum Company’s 135th anniversary. Inspiring, instructive master classes and clinics were held by an all-star lineup that included Danny Seraphine (Chicago, California Transit Authority), Kenny Aronoff (studio and stage legend), Carter McLean (The Lion King), and Dom Famularo (educator, clinician, and author).

The Starr Festival snare


Danny Seraphine, a hometown favorite, impressed the audience with a few trademark Chicago and CTA tunes. The drummer also shared a brief history of his career, from his time with Jimmy Ford and the Executives to the genesis of Chicago to his return to music with CTA in 2007 after a hiatus. Seraphine shared some wisdom from his many years of ups and downs, stating, “If you’re in a rut, find a new teacher, and they’ll get you out of it. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve replaced my fastball with a wicked slider. But I think I’m a better drummer than I’ve ever been. I have better time, and I’m more tasteful.”

In his famously dynamic and engaging manner, Kenny Aronoff offered passionate advice for those in the music business: “Never say no, and be true to yourself.” Growing up, the drummer played classical, jazz, and rock music, but he thought he’d likely become an orchestral drummer. Aronoff explained that his teacher, George Gaber, once said, “‘Maybe you’ll become a famous rock drummer.’” At the time, Kenny said that he responded, “I hope not!” Aronoff chuckled as he explained that over time he became the rock drummer he used to make fun of, adding, “I worked hard, developed self-discipline, and kept trudging on despite insecurities and fears.”

Aronoff also explained that he’s an advocate of functional practicing—practicing things that will make him sound great right away. He demonstrated an exercise using the first thirteen lines of Stick Control, dividing the patterns between his hands and feet. The drummer emphasized, “Repetition of any skill is preparation for success.” He also shared how his famous drum fill to John Mellencamp’s “Jack and Diane” came about—a case where simpler was better—and played along to several hit tracks. Throughout, Aronoff’s skill, work ethic, and drive were truly impressive.

Dom Famularo, a former student of Jim Chapin and Joe Morello, maintains a busy schedule as a teacher, clinician, author, and public speaker. In his clinic he shared some of his insights on the development and use of the techniques that Billy Gladstone, Sanford Moeller, and George Lawrence Stone pioneered. He described those drummers as “movement scientists” and “the forefathers of modern drum technique.” After an intense and passionate drum solo, Famularo said, “It’s about intensity, [and] intensity is about full commitment. It’s about being there in the moment, and not worrying about the past or future.”

Carter McLean demonstrated his impressive skills and personal “thumbs-up” hand technique for both speed and dynamics. Carter also discussed his drumming philosophy in a master class. “It’s about the space you leave, not what you’re hitting,” McLean said. “It’s also knowing when to say, ‘You know what? I shouldn’t play here.’” He suggested practicing using various dynamics and tempos, emphasizing that it’s harder to play slower tempos than faster ones. In his clinic, McLean suggested getting all the sounds that you can out of your gear. He massively detuned his George Way acacia drumset, showing how different it could be from a standard tuning while still remaining interesting. McLean also demonstrated how the use of other percussive gear varied his sound by incorporating a Big Fat Snare Drum dampener, an Index Drums shaker, HeadHunter specialty sticks with flexible tips, and large Dem’Sticks bamboo rods.

A bevy of drum manufacturers exhibited at the show, including RBH, which displayed a gorgeous vintage-styled drumset in a Full Dress finish; Rogers, which recently announced the return of its Dyna-Sonic snare drum; and WFLIII, which is now producing full drumsets. Also showcasing their wares were A&F, Chicago Drum, Craviotto, Doc Sweeney, Dunnett Classic/George Way, DW, Jenkins-Martin, KAT Percussion, Kumu, Mapex, Sonor, Trick, and Yamaha, among others. Attendees could check out cymbals from Amedia, Byrne, Centent, Istanbul Agop, Matt Nolan, Paiste, Sabian, TRX, and Zildjian. Accessory manufacturers at the event included Aquarian, Evans, Remo, Beato, Humes and Berg, Bopworks, LA BackBeat, Liverpool Drumsticks, RB Percussion, Bum Wrap, Drum Supply House, JamTec, Kelly SHU, and Stellar! Wood Drum Hoops. Instrument dealers such as Chicago Music Exchange, Guitar Center, McCourt’s Music, Skins ’n Tins, and Vic’s Drum Shop offered special deals for attendees.

The twenty-ninth edition of the Chicago Drum Show is planned for May of 2019.