Dom Famularo is affectionately and deservedly known as “Drumming’s Global Ambassador.” He’s an acclaimed performer, educator, author, and motivational speaker. Dom is also one of the pioneers in online education, starting back in the early ’90s with the birth of the Internet.
MD: How long have you been involved in distance learning?
Dom: I began when the Internet started in the early 1990s and drum companies started using websites. Video content was seen as a way to involve people. I think I was the first educator to prepare these “cyber lessons,” as they were referred to back then.
MD: What came first, providing online content or offering online lessons?
Dom: At first it was online content. Due to the upload challenges with dial-up, each video lesson could only be ninety seconds long. I had to learn the skill of speaking intensely, keeping it fun, and clearly teaching quality education in a short amount of time. My first video had 50,000 views in the first twenty-four hours. This was impressive! Great content and inspiration will attract people; it will always be that way.
MD: What was the catalyst for you to pursue teaching virtually?
Dom: Once we saw the result and potential of how many people we could reach, this became the focus of teaching. Also, I could see the students on their own drumsets. I could help them set up more ergonomically, and they were in the confines and comfort of their own homes. Plus it saves traveling time. I tell students to use the time they save not having to travel as gained practice time for even better results.
MD: What percentage of your career or how much of your daily energy is centered on your online instruction?
Dom: Since I’ve been using this for almost thirty years, about 70 percent of my students’ lessons use online teaching. It’s been a focus and continues to grow. Now with the challenge of a pandemic, every lesson is online. I was set up for it, and it’s been an easy way to bring everyone into it.
MD: How is the core of your teaching philosophy either enhanced or hindered by the online environment?
Dom: The foundation of my teaching is to inspire and pass on information that will help my students grow as artists and people. It’s been equal to either in-person or online education; both work well. A great advantage with online one-to-one or master-class teaching is that now the student can record the lesson fully and save it for future reference. Before that I used audio cassettes, then VHS, then DVD, then USB. It was challenging. Now they just record the lesson from the format we use.
MD: What is the best way for a prospective student to approach distance learning with you?
Dom: They must have a strong bandwidth. I ask them to upgrade their Internet provider. Then use proper lighting in front of them so the picture is clear. Also, having headphones or earbuds helps in preventing any feedback from my voice or the drums.
MD: What insight would you share with a novice drummer who’s looking to explore online learning? How might that insight differ for an intermediate drummer? An advanced drummer?
Dom: I would advise the same as in person: find out what the student wants to learn, and map out a plan that will get results in a productive, fun way. They’re learning an art form, and it must be interesting for the student during every session. All levels of students must have a plan with books and multimedia to assist them.
MD: How do you manage student accountability in an online format?
Dom: I make notes on each student using my Notes section on my Mac devices. For example, I may use my iPad to make notes while I’m using my desktop computer as a monitor to see my students. All my devices are just tools to achieve success for the student. It’s always about the student.
MD: Technology is always advancing, and with that it’s becoming easier and more affordable for amateurs to have professional production value. But that doesn’t equate to an increase in quality of the actual drumming content. How do you approach balancing quality of educational material versus quality of the production value?
Dom: All my production devices are only tools to assist me in advancing my students. My workbench hammer is a tool, but no one enters my home, looks around, and says, “Nice house…you must have a great hammer!” If they notice the tool, the quality of the lesson wasn’t sufficient. Every word and action in a lesson should be about the student and the goal of lifting them up. The device is like my car: I want a nice ride, but it’s all about where I’m going.
MD: How do you see the online drumming education landscape shifting in the near future?
Dom: I look forward to soon having holograms where a student can have a full 360-degree view of me sitting on my drumset on a table in front of them. We saw it in Star Wars with Princess Leia asking for help from Obi-Wan—it’s possible, and we will see this in my lifetime!
I just ask everyone to remember to be a constant student and learn the art form continually to keep it growing for themselves and the generations to come. And remember, the tools are only just that. It’s the art of self-expression that will live on; the tools will only assist. Let’s lift the next generation well into the twenty-first century!
By David Ciauro