I studied drums and percussion with Ray Deeley while I was a high-school student back in the mid 1980s. Ironically, so did my wife, Heather, who went to a different high school about an hour away from where I lived. It wasn’t until we met each other in college that we realized we both had the privilege of studying with Mr. Deeley.
Gary Zimmaro was the band director at my high school. He was a woodwind phenom who had worked with Lou Rawls, and he had even jammed with Jaco Pastorious. Mr. Zimmaro made sure to bring in top instrumentalists to the program, and in addition to himself covering all the woodwind lessons, he had jazz trumpeter Ralph ‘Red’ Clemson teaching brass, and Ray handled the percussion classes. Ray was one of the most humble musicians I had ever met. You’d never know the guy toured the world with Frank Sinatra, Chubby Checker, Bobby Rydell, Ann Margaret, Julie Andrews, and other legends.
One of my favorite memories about studying with him was the nonchalant way he’d tell me about his exploits. For example, I’d go into my lesson on a Monday afternoon and say, “Hey, Mr. Deeley, how are you?”