I was lucky to have some great drum teachers over the years.
Walter Salb: Search for his name on the Internet and you’ll plenty about him. He was the primo drum teacher to study with in the Washington DC area, where my family lived in the early ’60s. I remember that he cursed more in front of me than any other adult ever had, and smoked cigarettes during lessons. He was also amazingly patient, and walked me through all the basics of reading, rudiments, etc.
Erol Pecan: He was the hot jazz drummer in Ankara, Turkey, where my family lived in the mid- to late-’60s, and instilled in me basic ideas about coordination and tempo.
Herb Wall: Herb was an American airman based in Ankara, and played in a band with my brother. Herb was enormous in every way, and was the first teacher I ever had to really talk to me about soloing. I still use many of his concepts about solo construction and pacing that he first showed me while I took lessons from him at the Airmen’s Club. I have often wondered what ever happened to him.
James Blades, OBE: That’s right — the James Blades. I don’t know how my dad arranged it, but I took a lesson with the famous British orchestral percussionist every Sunday for months at his house in London (where my family lived during the early ’70s). Every lesson began by sitting down for a cup of tea, brewed by his sister, and talking about drums. Then we would go into his practice room, where he was the first teacher to introduce me to mallet technique, which I fell in love with. If I was lucky, he would give me a tour of his attic, where he had a virtual museum of exotic percussion instruments, and took pride in showing how they were played. His technique was impeccable. Almost every lesson ended with a walk in the heath next to his house. These were absolutely magical moments. For the record, some of his other students included Carl Palmer, Ray Cooper, and Evelyn Glennie.
Ed Poremba: I studied with Ed at the Chicago Musical College in the mid-’70s. Ed was the principle percussionist for the Lyric Opera in Chicago and a great educator. He really took my legit mallet playing to new heights (which I subsequently let go of in favor of a rock drumming career). But Ed also always encouraged me to work hard on the drum kit too, which I did incessantly back in those days, locked in the percussion department until the week hours — in heaven.