my education (personal history)

Hi folks, sat down tonight (4th of July - holidays are for people who hate their jobs) to write a blurb about my education for my website, and it turned into this monstrosity. it's not spell checked, edited or any of that yet.

My father is a great drummer and teacher. When he got out of the army in the late 50's he moved to Chicago and studied at the Roy C. Knapp School of Percussion, which was the premier drum school in the world at the time. My dad eventually taught at the school, and became very close with Roy, subbing for him in staff orchestras at NBC and other places. Roy was my godfather.
I started loosely studying with my dad when I was a kid - don't even remember when or how, but I do remember a boast going around my family that I had a pretty good double stroke roll before I started primary school.
Years later after a successful Jazz, session and TV career in Chicago, my dad packed us up and we moved to Miami. He started teaching at the University of Miami, where he's still on the staff.
My parents split after only a year in Miami and my mom moved us back to Chicago,so my formal studies beganjust like most kid's do - in about 4th grade they came around to the classrooms with instruments and asked who wanted to play what. I said, "well I already play the drums and I even have a drum". so they let me, even though everyone wanted to play drums.
The teacher was just the band director - I don't think he was a drummer but he gave us a good foundation in the basics of reading. I remember feeling funny and sometimes frustrated because my hands and general ability was so much more advanced than the other kids, but I had no edge on them reading wise - I would get super angry at myself when I made a mistake when practicing alone, pounding on the box to my practice pad and shouting a litany of obscenities. Then I would practice and practice til I had the lesson nailed and go in to the group lessons pretending like it was a piece of cake.
I was always super competitive - a trait that helps musicians get good, but needs to be let go of once you're out of your formative years. Music is not a sport, and being competitive just messes it up. It's also a loser's game, because the music business is NOT a meritocracy in any way, making it very frustrating if you look at it competitively.

In 6th grade we moved back to South Florida, about an hour north of Miami, and my dad hooked me up with my first real teacher - Gene Bonelli. He had been a student of my dad's at U of M, and he lived up our way so it was convenient. I also think my dad (wisely) didn't want to be my main teacher, for all the obvious reasons.
Gene used to crack me up - my brother dug the Osmond Brothers, and I was into The Jackson 5; Gene would point at my brother's wall with all the Osmond posters and play a really straight, milquetoast beat with a fey look on his face; then he'd point at the other wall with my Jackson's posters, grimace, and play a really funky beat. I got the message, and I think that's probably where I got the first bug of funk in my veins. We worked on simple jazz, rock and funk beats and fills, and of course reading and snare drum technique. I got my first real kit around that time also - a Red Oyster Pearl 70's Rogers kit - GREAT drums. I also had the '45 radio king my dad gave me before I can remember, and a Ludwig Supraphonic.

We only lasted about a year in South Florida, my mother hated the weather and missed her home town. Upon getting back to Chicago (this time in the suburbs), My dad found an old buddy of his from the Roy Knapp school who happened to teach at a music store in our town. Gene Cizek (or maybe Cizak?). He was another great player/teacher and funny enough, had a couple of chopped off fingers on his left hand - but he still had great traditional grip technique. Gene got me started on a lot of jazz dumming vocabulary - teaching me the Alan Dawson method, which Tony Williams had studied and involves playing exercises from Ted Reed's Syncopation book in various ways over a jazz ride beat. The other invaluable thing Gene showed me was some of the ways in which the great jazz drummers used rudiments and certain stickings around the drums. That may be the most important single tool for developing a solid drumming vocabulary - in any style.
That was 7th grade and 8th grade. Course I was playing in the school bands, and doing the county and state wide festivals and bands.
Gene would sometimes run late on the lesson before me, and he would ask me to go to the diner and get him an egg sandwich and coffee while he finished up - I thought this was so cool, I dunno why. Maybe It made him seem like he was areal jazz guy,not just some guy clown teaching in a mom and pop music store. Once there was no time for me to run to the diner, so he said, "let's do a theory lesson while we go eat". We walked over to the diner and ate eggs while he lectured about simple music theory - keys, notes, harmony, melody, etc.
I didn't remember any of it afterwards, and it wasn't til a few years later that I got interested in music beyond rhythms and drumming.

I don't remember what happened to Gene, but at some point I started going downtown to study with Roy Knapp himself. He was bigger than life. As old as Methuselah at that point, he looked like Yoda or something. It was all snare drum with Roy. I'll never forget that he made me play some crazy stuff, which I only very recently started to understand - all of these hand-written cut time reading exercises, with each hand, WHILE playing quarter notes or half notes with the other hand. At the time I thought it was some obsolete vaudeville way of playing (Roy had come out of Vaudeville).
I had already been checking out the hard-bop drummers and even Tony Williams and Elvin Jones, so this square quarter-note cut time thing was justhard to play,and as far as I was concernedtotally unnecessary.Only recently did I realize when watching some Buddy Rich clips that you NEED to have that if you wanna drive a big band with any one of your limbs, and that it's the way the old timers played before kenny clarke and bebop came along - you can even hear Philly Joe do it sometimes.

The Roy lessons lasted a very short time (he was old and sick), so my dad had me start studying with another Roy Knapp alumnus named Bob Clair. He was also great - we didn't play any drumset, mostly snare drum, tympani, mallets and multiple percussion. I think it was my dad's not-so-secret agenda to get me ready for university auditions, and in retrospect it was a good thing. At a certain point, if you want to be a high level rhythmatist, studying snare drum, reading and other percussion instruments is more important than drumset. (and if you want to be a great all-around musician, you also need to study a melodic instrument, plus music theory and ear training.)
Young drummers are different now - great, and very technically accomplished, but morezoomed-inmusically. I think it's partially due to the fact that at all levels of music education, specialization has become acceptable. (Maybe that's the only way that kids coming up can hope to be competitive in these times of dizzying technical ability and a shrinking professional music scene.)
As mentioned, I had some drumset instruction early on, but it was never the central focus of my music study until college.
Bob had a thing called The Tap Machine in his studio, and all his students were required to come to their lessons a half hour early to use it. It was a tape recorder which came with tapes of various pieces of music; it had a button on which you had to tap the rhythms written in the companion book. The machine knew when you made a rhythm mistake or not, and it recorded it on a counter. If you got below a certain score, you had to repeat the exercise; Then you had a log which you kept for Bob to look at. It was the best reading training I ever had. I hope that there are pieces of software that do the same thing now.
With Bob's help I did very well in high school - getting into all of the elite school groups in the state, and also starting to play with professional bands and theatre. He helped me put together an audition tape for The University of Miami that my dad claimed was the single best audition tape they had ever gotten - on any instrument. Probably some hyperbole there, but I was certainly an over-achiever. The tape was 2 hours long and had a mountain of different things on it, from the Creston Concertino for Marimba, to small group jazz, big band, and the cover rock band I was playing gigs with.

My high school program (Arlington High School) was pretty good. We had a Marching Band, Concert Band, Symphonic Band, Jazz band, German band, a couple of theory courses, and an improvisation teacher. I became the senior drummer in the program in my sophomore year, and I ran the marching band percussion section like a marine drill sergeant; calling 7am sectional rehearsals before school, and busting chops because some of the other players couldn't play burning fast 16th note triplets. I had no clue about teaching at that point!
Once Louis Bellson came to our school to give a concert and clinic with our jazz band. My dad knew Louis from the Roy Knapp school, so that felt kind of special. He was such a gentle guy, great player and great teacher. He helped my big band playing immensely with one very simple example - more about this in the lessons section.
There was also a school in our district where a great jazz trumpet player ran the program (Buffalo Grove High School). They had the best jazz band in the state, and he invited me over there once or twice to be the guest drummer when they had a name player come in for a guest concert or clinic. That's where I first met and played with Ira Sullivan, who knew my dad from Chicago and then South Florida. Ira taught me about playing the splashy open hihat as another ride choice behind one of the blowing choruses of a jazz tune - usually the piano solo.
One funny high school experience - in my junior year I auditioned for the all district band and jazz band. The all district band was harder to get into than the all state band, because the city of Chicago and suburbs had the most advanced kids, and only a certain amount of slots. Once you got past the district auditions, getting the chair in the all-state band was a piece of cake.
I go in to the orchestra audition having just started playing tympani and mallets a few months before. I've memorized the mallet piece because I'm a bad reader of melodic notes. I'm super nervous. the mallet stuff is first - I choke completely on the prepared piece - basically stopping and being unable to continue, and needless to say I don't do very well at the sight-reading either. I'm so freaked out at that point that the rest is a blur. I go to play the tympani excerpt (Shostakovich 5th symphony) and I FORGET to tune the highest drum, so I get to the end of the excerpt where it goes up to the 4th drum and realizing it isn't tuned, I sheepishly stop before hitting it. Then came the snare drum, which IguessI nailed, cause I could read anything and had butterfly chops.
I walk out of the audition completely humiliated, choked with tears, meeting my girlfriend (a french horn player) who also choked on her audition.
Then I went for the Jazz band audition. I don't remember how I played, but I remember that I came in second to Smitty Smith, who was a senior at the time.
The following monday, my band director comes up to me and asks, "how did you do at the district auditions?". I say, "Not good. I didn't make it".
A few weeks go by during which I made a poster for my bedroom wall, "practice mallets an hour a day or YOU SUCK".
One day the band director walks up to me and says, "Hawthorne, I thought you said you didn't make district 7". I say, "I didn't"; he hands me a paper with a list of the percussionists chosen for the orchestra and there's my name. I guess they needed a bitchin snare drummer.
Big lesson learned (and this goes for everything in life) - you never know where you're really at or what they're looking for, so don't let your insecurities run you down.
The following year was a breeze. I was cocky beyond measure and had my pick of the litter - district and all state jazz band, orchestra, band, and choir rhythm section. I bowed out of the orchestra cause my girlfriend was a tympani specialist and she would have flipped if I had chosen to take the tympani chair. As a result I didn't get to play some of my favorite pieces with a really good orchestra - I'll never know if that was the right decision.
The Jazz band got to make a record with Nick Brignola - the great Jazz baritone saxophone player. We played horribly, and I heard him interviewed on the radio shortly after:

DJ: Nick, what are you doing in town other than playing down at the Jazz Showcase club?
NB: well, I did a concert and a record with the all state high school jazz band. These kids aresupposed to bethe best kids in the state.....


Oh, I should also mention that another big part of my education during high school was going downtown and sneaking into the Jazz clubs. I saw Milt Jackson, Junior Mance, a great bebop drummer named Wilbur Campbell, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Dave Brubeck, and loads of others. It was amazing to me how much gravitas they all had - there was something about the music that was a completely different thing than anything else I had been exposed to. It was as if they were all some kind ofliving encyclopedias of everything cool.I wanted to be just like them.

As I mentioned, I didn't have a formal drumset teacher all through high school, but I was making progress other ways. I would spend the summers with my dad in Miami, and we would hangout, play, practice and talk about music nonstop. The summer after my junior year, I started going with him to his steady gig and playing. It was a trio gig, but when I came down for the summer they turned it into a quartet - I would play drums and my dad would play vibes and congas. It was like a real world lesson every night, playing with older, great musicians. I inherited that gig from him when I moved to Miami to attend college, and did it for another year and a half. It was a kooky trio gig cause the drum chair consisted of playing the beginning of the tune on vibes, then sitting down at the drums for the piano player's chorus, then running back to the vibes to play a chorus and the melody again. That's where I learned the repertoire of great American standards.
I was also transcribing a lot and studying on my own and with friends. One such friend, Chris Petersen, was a year younger and a fine drummer. We spent hours listening to records and trying to figure out what the drummers were doing. Billy Cobham was a favorite, but when I heard Steve Gadd I really flipped. Around that time I took one lesson with the great jazz drummer Steve Bagby, which had a big and lasting affect on me. Steve was the first super artist drummer I had ever sat that close to. He was super creative, modern and open, but also had the tradition down as well as any of the masters of jazz drumming. He was also totally guileless, as a teacher and player. He showed me a Steve Gadd lick he had been playing around with and it turned my head completely around.

Backtracking to my earliest influences, the first ones weren't necessarily drummers - it was the overall music that moved me. I remember that I had only 3 records that my mom decide weremine.probably because she had bought herself clean copies when the older ones got scratched. so I had these 3 beat up records, and I played them over and over and over. They were:

Miles Davis and Gil Evans - Miles Ahead
The Beatles - Magical Mystery Tour
James Brown - Mr. Dynamite

That pretty much determined my musical path up til the present. Later I had another batch at my dad's house -

Clifford Brown/Max Roach quintet - Study in Brown
Miles Davis - Kind of Blue
Blood Sweat and Tears - 2nd album
Count Basie - E=mc2
some 45's of pop tunes of the day - Paul SimonCecilia,Vanity Fairhitchin a ride,some Creedence....

One day when I was about 8, we were at Sear's department store in Chicago and my brother and I were raising hell, my mother got so fed up that she said, "go over there to the records and each one of you pick one, and STOP screwing around".
I went over to the stacks and saw the Jackson 5 greatest hits record, with that great picture of them on the front, shot to look like a family portrait in a frame. I still don't know why, but I just picked it - not knowing anything about them. I quickly became a huge fan, bought all the records and would sing (first) and play (later) with all the songs note for note.

The point of this all is that I didn't learn to playmusicor drumset from teachers, I learned it fromrecordsand watching people play.But, it was coupled with a solid education in reading, technique, and music theory. I still believe that's what makes a great musician.

So off to U of M on a full scholarship.

Graham Hawthorne 2012