Seattle Drum School of Music – At Risk and In the Closing Crosshairs of the City


Last August (2012), I visited Seattle and met Steve Smith, owner of Seattle Drum School of Music. We had a great conversation about rhythm theory, his book project, and then he showed me around his very genuine and unique music school. It has been serving the Seattle community  since 1986, providing top-notch music education for people of all ages.


They teach one-on-one and group classes in many instruments besides drums, and they have a sound stage and recording facility. If you were a musician wanting to get a taste of a lot in one place, you would have found it in spades.





Recently, the City of Seattle decided to classify Steve’s school as something of a public education institution, subject to stricter inspection standards. The school is private, does not receive public funds, and yet it is now being viewed under a very different set of regulations.

As a result, the cost of doing business has just increased exponentially. Sprinkler systems, seismic retrofit and wheelchair ramps are just a few of the new and very expensive operating costs that have been imposed on Steve, as well as potential fines for non-compliance starting at around $500 a day.

I’ve included a video news clip with a brief interview of Steve, and an informative news link regarding the matter. When you finish reading this post, please take a minute to watch the video clip and read the other article.

And then, get creative.

I told Steve in an e-mail that people from all over the world read this blog. The Locations Stats page is as long as my arm, which tells me drummers are indeed a family. I believe we should support our fellow drummer in need by spreading the word about his plight, which I hope you will do. It only takes a minute to repost this blog or the article/video clip link in forums’ pages.

But also, if you have pro-level contacts who believe music education is critical, please pass this page along and ask them to help in any way they can. Music education in the public schools is a pale reflection of what I knew as a kid. The more private schools that close, the less opportunities young musicians are going to have, simple as that.

If nothing else, drop Steve a line letting him know you support his fight:

After our meeting as I was driving away, I remember seeing Steve in my rear view mirror kneeling down in front of his school clearing out some weeds. It’s the most hands-on thing I’ve ever seen a business owner do, and maybe with the drum/music community’s help, he can retain the opportunity to attend to that chore and great deal more…



Dr. Shinya Fujji and his Motor Control Studies of Drummers

Google Sinya Fujji; he is doing research at the Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies, Kyoto University, Japan. His areas of specialty include drummers’ use of sticks, wrist action, etc.

What’s significant is that Dr. Fujji is bringing research attention to drumming through the world of motor control. If you check out this Google Scholar link, you’ll see that he has no shortage of published research under his belt regarding drummers.


With all the potential that the drum set holds for coordination studies, Dr. Sinya Fujji’s work is laying excellent foundation for progress in this area. This is very exciting to see, and hopefully, more researchers will follow his lead.

Drummers as Brilliant Musicians

I grew up in Delaware, blue collar, playing mostly rock for many years. In the 70’s, we had little in the way of seeing our heros, not like we have today. All we had was vinyl for the most part.

I was introduced to jazz in 8th grade, and it changed my world. I had no idea how sophisticated drumming could be, which was not to say that rock was unsophisticated… there was just another level out there that I was blown away by. I took jazz drumming lessons, learned how to improve my coordination, and my musical mind was never the same…

In 1979, Vinnie Coliauta blew all our minds with “Joe’s Garage,” and he took polyrhythms to a whole ‘nother stratosphere. We have only on the last ten years or so, really started to get caught up with Vinnie’s ideas to where this level of playing seems “normal.”

Thomas Lang has shown us where Jim Chapin’s four-way coordination seeds can grow, and that level of playing is also becoming more the norm.

Point being: drummers continue to expand the instrument beyond anything our drumming forefathers could have possibly imagined. We have taken the instrument to levels that have expanded our minds considerably, and I feel it is our duty as drummers to continue to do so…

The problem is, and has been for years: we are so relegated to the job of being time keepers that we are not encouraged by and large to leap to new performance levels if it interferes with the beat… and this is absolutely absurd.

The drum set is a musical instrument in its own right; Terry Bozzio has led that development like no one else, and he is to be applauded for that effort. We as drummers are responsible for expanding this instrument’s limits, and we need not wait for anyone else to tell us that it is okay to do so. Thomas Lang’s solo playing may not fit most musical situations when he gets all four limbs going… but on his own, he has created his OWN musical situation, where all of that activity is appropriate, because it is defining a new level of performance.

Short version here? Go for it. Take this instrument and leap off the edge. Make Elvin Jones, Max Roach, Baby Dodds and anyone else who has gone beyond really proud of your leap. Don’t wait for permission.

Just play and see what’s out there… and let your “brilliant” out.