HOW DID I EVER START DOING THIS??
People always ask me how I got into playing steel drums professionally all around the midwest?, well here you go....
I was a student at Indiana University studying percussion, marimba & drum set, but also timpani, vibraphone and drum corps rudimental styles. But one fateful day in 1993 while instructing a marching band on a trip to Walt Disney World, my vision of percussion changed forever. I saw “J.P. & the Silver Stars” performing outside of Pirates of the Caribbean ride - a steel drum band who had been performing there since the park opened in 1972. I was amazed by the band & had to be pulled away from them. My life has never quite been the same.
I went out and bought all the steel drums CDs I could find (I think 1 was all I found for the first year) and just started to surround myself with the music, the culture, the island vibe. Now I own 70+ of those CDs & have 6 of my very own.
In 1996 I saw the Britian/Moore Duo, a marimba and steel drum duet. Very inspiring to me. Listening to the Pan play the lead parts over the marimba background, I figured I could do the marimba & percussion playing myself and record it, then just play steel drum live. So that’s what I started working on.
I began arranging songs I loved and thought others would want to hear. I recorded all the individual parts myself after learning them on marimba or drum set or whatever I needed. It was a very slow process at first, lots of trial and error to get a good sound. I essentially do the same thing now only the recording part has gotten to be much quicker thanks to my faster & better Apple computers over the years (and my knowledge of the process.)
I’d been wronged in love a couple years before. This was going to be my ticket away. I was going to leave the cold NW Indiana winters and play on a cruise ship and just be far away from that pain. In the summer of 1998 I received my steel drum after waiting 10 months since I placed my order. That very day, I met my future wife. Coincidence or Divine intervention??
It was then a very frustrating & long journey teaching myself how to play the instrument. I’m still learning. Such a foreign instrument compared to all others I studied and felt confident with.
I feel what I do is very unique in my world of steel drummers. I’m about the only panist I’ve found on the internet ANYWHERE who records his own backup tracks for more authentic sounding performances. Others seems to think a computer/sequencer playing the parts is good enough. I think Music, like the human body, the dunes, the sea, deserves soul and the ability to breath.
Now I have 6 CDs that sell way better than I could’ve ever imagined, both in digital downloads like iTunes, and physical CDs. I have a great teaching/recording studio, and I play constantly around the midwest. I’ve yet to ever be on a cruise ship. (unless this one counts ----->)
My “day job” consists of taking care of my beautiful kids while my wife works at our local hospital. I also teach drum lines (both summer and winter) at Plymouth High School (’13 State marching band finalist) and Knox High School. For 25 years I wrote & taught the music for the drum line at both Plymouth High School and LaPorte. While at LP, we were a 3 time state finalist with our marching band in the 6 years I was there. I like to think I was a key role in that success. ;^) I also find time to practice (sometimes) and to record.
I have played with bands most of my adult life, & some pretty good ones too...... but this is my REAL passion now. I’ve been very blessed to have this instrument find me and to do what I do. I simply have the best job in the world. None of it would be possible if it weren’t for my amazing wife Shawn, and simply incredible daughter Samira and wonderful son Pierce. They are my reason, and my strength as I continue down life's path, on the beach, by the waters edge....my favorite place.
5/28/04-2/5/16 and continuing.....