Mike Johnston: The Most Important Video He Has Ever Uploaded

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These two words evoke a wide range of responses when considering the spectrum of content presented on it. California drummer/teacher Mike Johnston has become familiar to viewers all over the world through this digital medium, as well as through his drumming educational website (www.mikeslessons.com), and his most recent video upload is one I want to repost here and talk a little about.

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Mike’s very sincere message concerns the negative posts on YouTube, and how we as drummers should do what we can to encourage, not discourage, other drummers and their efforts. He then addresses a case where one of his young drum students, an 8-year-old, posted a short video of his playing to show Mike how he was coming along. Some negative comments were posted, which begs the question: why would you shoot down a young drummer’s efforts?

Yeah, why would you? To me, it’s just shy of bullying.

We live in such a jaded age, where everything is racing by at 900 miles-an-hour in a sound-byte world, where so little seems to matter, because it’s about to be replaced by something else new and fresh, over and over. But for at least 2:22 minutes, someone out there decided that a kid’s feeling’s mattered, along with those of many other aspiring drummers.

True, some of what is posted on YouTube is pretty raw and ragged, but if a young (or an old) drummer puts up something for us to watch, maybe (as Mike points out) they are just in a different place along the drumming progress time line.

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Maybe they just need a little constructive criticism instead of being ripped to shreds. Maybe if they heard these words, they might be inspired to work harder, study more, and broaden their perspective.

You never know.

Mike’s message in the video is simple: “Find a drumming video on YouTube, comment something positive and your work is done :)”

So here it is, and I invite you to watch it all the way through. Give it a couple of seconds to move past the slow motion drumming when he begins to speak. I also hope you will share this link with your fellow drummers through message boards, Facebook, and whatever other social media you frequent.

[Thanks to Bart Elliot (www.DrummerCafe.com) for initially posting the clip on Facebook.]

LaFrae Sci – Actual Proof That Road Dog Drummers Rule

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“I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart. I am. I am. I am.”

 – Sylvia Plath

/  /

How do you find the very interesting artists? Do you Google “How do you find the very interesting artists” and take it from there?

Thinking… a big “no” on that one. Sometimes, you just stumble.

I did that the other night when I discovered Lafrae Sci. And it happened something like this…

I had gone to hear The Wolff/Clark Expedition, in Studio City, California. Jazz pianist Michael Wolff was introducing his legendary partner, drummer Mike Clark, and he was talking about how weird it was that almost 40 years later, drummers still stop Mike and beg him to explain what he was playing on the 1974 Herbie Hancock classic, “Actual Proof.” The song title, by the way, references a critical component of the Buddhist belief system, which Hancock practices.

The song rang a bell from my youth, so I made a note to check it out. I came home, Googled it, and buried somewhere in the myriad of abbreviated posts, I read, “That song changed my life…”, and within a few more abbreviated sentences, I saw the name LaFrae Sci.

What an interesting name. Had the song changed THIS person’s life? Hard to tell with the way the text and links were thrown together…

So I Goggled Lafrae Sci, and that’s how I discovered a very interesting artist indeed.

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She’s a New York freelance drummer/composer who also does work with the State Department as a Jazz Ambassador, traveling all over the world. She is a founding member and sits on the board of directors for the Willie Mae Rock Camp For Girls. She was musical director for Sandra Bernhard’s musical comedy show, The Bad And The Beautiful.

LaFrae leads a group called The 13th Amendment, and another one called The Scenic Route. She’s also a faculty member of the Middle School Jazz Academy at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

And, and, she’s a Sabian artist.

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LaFrae was headed down the law school path when academic circumstances took her briefly from the hallowed halls to some basic day jobs to regain perspective. During that time, she woodshedded her drumming chops, paid her rent playing music for a year, and never looked back. This altered path eventually took her to New York City, where she was (and is) able to make a living doing what she loves.

That’s not just interesting, that’s massively odds-defying.

And, inspiring.

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There are some great videos on her website (www.lafraesci.me), and one I enjoyed quite a bit was her playing with The 13th Amendment. It’s a very cool, syncopated groove in 13 that segues into a nice modern swing that has more than a few fat and honest triplet fills. I mean, the kind where she’s there, nowhere else, not wanting to be anywhere else, and it’s all just rolling out of her hands… really nice.

Modern Drummer and Tom-Tom magazine have given her press, and LaFrae has over 300 YouTube video references. I’ve included two I really enjoyed because they showed a young lady exploring her art (click the link to watch it directly on YouTube)…

… and then a few years later, a young woman telling you where her feet had been as a result of walking that path.

As with these snippets of people’s lives, I encourage you to explore what LaFrae Sci is doing and will continue to do, because the days of drummers simply being thought of as just timekeepers fades with every pass of the sun. And while I never did get an answer to my question about whether the song “Actual Proof” changed LaFrae’s life, it’s clear that she’s composing hers, not just listening to it unfold randomly and hoping the right sounds find their way to her soul and back out again…

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Daniel Glass and Why You Should Know Him

Daniel Glass is a torchbearer. He specializes in keeping the history of drumming alive, and for that reason alone, his name is one you should file away and do a little homework on.

I met Daniel many years ago through a roommate who taught at the Dick Grove School of Music, in Los Angeles. I was talking with that same roommate not long ago, and when he mentioned Daniel’s name as a former drummer, the lights came on.

I looked up his website (www.danielglass.com) and was quite blown away by how much he had accomplished since we’d last met, over nearly 20 years ago. Clearly, he had become one of those rare souls who looked around the room and said, “Well… looks like I’ve found something to sink my teeth into.” That something is, of course, chonicaling the history of drumming and honoring those who came before us.

I’m not so sure this guy gets much sleep, judging from his productivity and on-going workload, but one thing is for sure: Drumming needs guys like him to remind us where the beat came from. It’s too easy to dismiss old black and white faded photographs of guys sitting behind 26″ kick drums with an array of temple blocks and think, “Wow, how old-fashioned.”

Indeed. And what we forget is that the pictures we are looking at were often the state-of-the-art players, the guys leading the pack, the trailblazers. You don’t have to have 900 toms, 45 pedals and 200 cymbals to change the world. You can do it (and many did) with a simple pair of sticks and dedication to being the best musician you can be.

If you don’t know who guys like Chick Webb, Zutty Singleton, Baby Dodds or Big Sid Catlett are, be assured that Daniel Glass does. They are, in fact, the gentlemen whose artistry contributed to making you the drummer you are today, because EVERYthing we play can be traced back to some definitive jazz roots.

That said, if you get the chance to attend one of Daniel’s clinics, look at it as an investment in two things: a lesson in the legacies of the past, and a springboard for the development of your drumming future. A good drummer always feed both of these fires, because in a way, we are all torchbearers…