Long before the advent of the modern day drummer in America and women’s incredible contributions leading that movement, our country enjoyed early female drumming pioneers the likes of Viola Smith (née Schmitz).
Born November 29, 1912 in Wisconsin, Viola was the first professional female jazz drummer and noted for using up to 15 drums in her trap set. Many of the early percussion instrument choices Viola used on her trap kit with her first family band the Smith Sisters are the same ones used today by jazz/rock drummers and in group drum circles. Viola approached the drum kit like an orchestral composer meets trained facilitator, surrounding herself with as many tools as possible to create the ultimate rhythm and sound. Sound familiar? Remember Keith Moon’s large double bass drum rock kit with The Who in the 1970s, Neil Peart’s mammoth 360-degree stage kit with Rush in the 1980s, or fellow jazz drumming great Billy Cobham’s 10-piece fiberglass “Fibes” kit playing with Miles Davis in the 1960s? Viola literally invented the large drum kit set-up.
She particularly enjoyed the woodblocks, congas and more famously her unique innovation employing elevated tom toms on her right and left side, which are now an industry standard. Back in the 1930s, many tom-toms required real animal skin heads just like we use today on authentic djembes and frame drums. There are many parallels between what drummers do and use for gear today and the giant footprint Viola carved. She was also humble enough to seek more training attending renowned music college, Juilliard School, and by taking lessons with legendary drummer, teacher and snare drum builder, Billy Gladstone.
When I first heard of Viola’s death, I only had a vague understanding of her immense contributions to the women’s movement and drumming. She was known as the fastest girl drummer in the world and a female version of Gene Krupa. She began drumming at age 12 and took the stage soon after touring the United States and world in orchestras, swing bands, and popular music from the 1920s until 1975 – all during a musical time largely dominated by male drummers and other musicians. Who can forget Viola’s brilliant composition on “Snake Charmer” by the Coquettes – an all-female orchestra she started – where her elevated tom-tom sounds and patterns closely resembled West African Dunduns. Not surprisingly, her dad was also an orchestra leader and gifted cornet player. Viola drummed on Broadway and performed at the inauguration of President Truman. Bucking the female novelty stigma of her time, Viola also appeared on the cover of Billboard Magazine and wrote female musician-centric articles for DownBeat.
Viola was still playing her trap set at age 104. What many may not know is that in her final days before moving on into the universe this past October at age 107, she battled Alzheimer’s Disease at a faith-based community in southern California called Peacemakers.
I’m exhausted just researching all of Viola’s incredible contributions to jazz music and the drumming community as a whole. Let her drum in peace.
Tim Kane is a professional drum set musician, percussion instructor and drum circle facilitator who serves as newsletter curator for the Drum Circle Facilitators Guild. Learn more about him at www.kanedrums.com.
Li’l K9 (Christopher Miles Kane) released his second full RAP/Hip-hop album “PA$$” on July 31, 2020. Chris, 13, composed the entire album himself, playing keyboards, drums, vocals, lyric writing and most all sound design and loops. He self-recorded the album in his home studio using Logic Pro X, Behringer UPhoria, and M-audio. Below are the tracks linked to his YouTube account:
Christopher Miles Kane (Lil’ K9) released his debut 7-track EP “Fix U” on Dec. 31, 2019. He composed, played, self-recorded, and produced all acoustic and electronic drum kits, keyboards, bass, percussion, lyrics and vocals. No pre-recorded loops were used on this album.
View Lil’ K9’s title track full video , “I’m Gonna Fix You”, linked here. View his “Moonlight 2” song placeholder video here.
“TIKI TIM’S TROP-ROC TRIBUTES” is a special weekly video and audio podcast powered through Zoom to Facebook Live, which is re-broadcast on live radio every Sunday at 8 pm at FLA.-based Shore Life Radio. Drummer Tim Kane hosts the show every Wednesday at 7 p.m. in his home-based recording studio turned tropical island paradise with everything miced up.
Tim’s show features regionally and nationally touring trop-roc singer-songwriters from around the country in an intimate, in-depth live Q&A and live performance format shown live at his FB biz page, facebook.com/timkanedrums. Recent guests have included major trop-roc touring artists Suny Jim White, Scott Kirby, Beth Travers, Ray Boone, Don Middlebrook and Tim Charron among many others. Tim also plays-along to his guests’s own original songs during the back half of his program as well as features a trivia contest and drumming tips and stories. Besides drumming, Tim has been interviewing music and entertainment personalities for more than 15 years as a freelance writer and blogger for newspapers, magazines, and online realm.
“How to Create Homemade Hand Drums” is a special 10-minute How-To video produced by Drum Circle Facilitator Tim Kane in June 2020 to help players of all ages who want to participate in a virtual online group drum circle, but don’t yet own their own drums.
Someone remarked to me before a recent drum circle that she thought I was just a “rhythm starter” who owns a bunch of drums, and not an actual teacher of drumming.
It’s a common misperception in my industry. While there is nothing wrong with simply starting rhythms as I have to do that often during drum circle events, there’s also many hidden elements folks can’t see or initially understand on the surface. It helps to also attend a drum circle before formulating an opinion. Negative stigmas and confusion can easily set in without experiencing one live.
I’ve played drum set and percussion since I was a little boy of age 8. I never stopped playing. I’ve been formally trained in jazz and marching drums and percussion and music in general through college courses and many live playing gigs. I also play trombone and compose songs on piano. I have taught drum set to kids and adults professionally for more than 15 years. I have taught percussive arts at a local high school for the past 10 years.
I’ve lead drum circles for all ages for the past eight years and actively study rhythm and music cultures from around the world. While that is lean time compared to the full body of my musical learning, I still draw from all those past experiences today.
Additionally, I also was fortunate enough to develop and hone leadership skills managing large groups of creative-minded workers for many years. I was formally trained in public speaking and helped organize conventions and professional workshops for seven years in Boston.
I’m a current board of director and newsletter curator for the internationally recognized Drum Circle Facilitators Guild.
And I’m blessed to play drum kit and percussion for The Island Castaways Band, which is probably my 10th legit musician group in my lifetime that has exposed me to creating rock, jazz, funk, world and reggae beats. Most of those bands also composed their own songs. I draw from all of those incredible band rehearsal/performance experiences as well dating back 30 some odd years.
When you combine all of this into my current drum circle program, it’s fairly obvious that I am not only a rhythm starter. Experience counts and the more diverse the better.
I am a drummer, teacher and performer who facilitates therapeutic, lively and fun hand drumming programs as one part of my full-time music business. Many dozens of clients across New England can vouch for that.
Tim Kane, a professional drummer with more than 30 years of performance experience, teaches beginner to advanced musical styles on drum set and concert percussion, including hard rock with optional double kick drum, jazz, funk, reggae, world beats and marching drum corps. He teaches live in studio based near Boston, MA or online via Skype, Google Plus Hangouts, and YouTube Live Streaming platforms.
Tim graduated from Fitchburg State University and is certified and endorsed as a school drum instructor by Vic Firth, an international manufacturer of drum sticks, mallets, brushes and percussive devices. He is also a recognized current member of the Massachusetts Music Educators Association and Drum Circle Facilitators Guild board of director.
His online lessons include learning and refining students’ rudimentary and sight reading ability, eliminating bad habits, improving dynamics, creating better drum fills, soloing, playing with other musicians, composing original parts, understanding the mechanics of song structure, and building a personal signature playing style. Ear training is enhanced with drum play-along songs. Tim can record every session so students and parents review progress.
Lessons can be offered weekly or less frequently depending upon student schedules.
TOP TEN REASONS TO TAKE DRUM LESSONS
1 – Develop your rudimentary hand-foot technique from beginner through advanced.
2- Learn to sight-read and/or improve your ability to do so live.
3 -Enhance your listening skills with a play-along track program, and learn songs you choose and find challenging.
4 -Learn to compose and play drum solos, which Tim will record for you as MP3 and MP4 files.
5 -Work on school-based band sheet music and songs you need to learn.
6 -Refine your playing style, whether it’s double bass oriented or traditional hi-hat.
7 -Improve your endurance and sense of dynamics.
8 -Play better and more intricate drum fills and a variety of musical styles from jazz and funk to rock and metal.
9 – Benefit from decades of wisdom from playing with other musicians, and a growing collection of instructional videos and audio recordings.
10 – Set goals and achieve them by having a professionally trained instructor guiding you along the way.
I’ve been working with engineer Steven Tamburri on designing a working prototype for a special Djembe stand idea I created that is intended for wheelchair users and others.
Through working with mostly senior citizens for the past 7 years facilitating drum circles, I discovered that many existing Djembe stands just aren’t designed for people in wheelchairs.
Wheelchair users find it difficult to play a Djembe at the proper height using both their hands because neither it alone nor a stand can easily be positioned between most wheelchair tires and foot supports. Many frail seniors can’t easily move their feet or knees apart as well.
All too often, wheelchair users have to play a Djembe with one hand with it positioned to only one side of the wheelchair. This obviously takes half of the experience away from those players.
Called “Djembe Wings”, the Patent Pending prototype Wings were professionally designed in Brookfield, MA and 3D printed at Stratasys Direct Manufacturing located in Valencia CA. to solve this challenge.
“Djembe Wings” eliminate two of the typical three Djembe stand legs, thus giving wheelchair users the proper forward tilt needed to play a djembe while also centering it directly between both legs with great stability and comfort. It’s fully height and width adjustable and comes with an added knee support brace to fit almost any size or type of wheelchair.
A very special surprise bonus to this prototype was the discovery that players can actually feel the Djembe vibrate while playing via the White Wings themselves.
“Djembe Wings” can also be used for players who are not wheelchair users but may experience difficulty tilting a Djembe forward for a variety of reasons having to do with leg and knee strength/injuries, the slippery finish of djembe outer coatings on pant legs, and other factors. As shown in the attached pictures, my special one legged stand would make a great upgrade or alternative for anyone.
I’m looking for help in trying to further develop this product as manufacturing and marketing costs as a sole proprietor musician like myself are off the charts expensive.
Wondering if there are any partners or special needs hand drum product supporters out there that might be able to point me in the right direction as I think the “Djembe Wings” solves the Djembe playing problem for anyone in a wheelchair and gives players not in a wheelchair an excellent new tool to tilt the instrument at its intended downward angle to be played correctly.
Please let me know if you have any interest or know of anyone who may be interested in speaking with me. I have all the designs and schematics and the actual prototype.
Drums & Keys combines an innovative introduction to music fundamentals and basic piano with a wide ranging drumming lesson program for kids in Grades K-4.
Because many schools don’t offer established concert or jazz band programs until fourth, fifth or even sixth grade and in classroom music budgets have been continually reduced, there is a large drought or void in musical development opportunities for younger kids.
This unique program combines a well established drum set, hand drums, and percussion lesson program along with music theory, songwriting and basic piano instruction. Kids ages 5-9 will now be able to learn the drum set, hand drums and concert percussion while also being trained in general music education.
Beyond drumming, this will involve learning musical terminology, notation, scales, ear training, music appreciation and history, jamming out live with other student musicians, original songwriting and much more.
If you have a younger child yearning for more musical development, please consider Drums & Keys based at Kane School of Drums, which operates a licensed, fun, safe and full music recording studio environment in Brookfield, MA. Tim can even travel to your home if within a 15-mile radius. Parents are most welcomed to sit in on the first few lessons. Many references available.
Dedicated to providing just what the music needs with good ears is Tim Kane’s forte as a Massachusetts-based drum set musician, percussionist, audio editor, drum circle leader, podcaster, blogger, and private lesson instructor.
Kane began writing songs with his family well before he started drumming and playing trombone. That early journey provided an essential foundation of improvisational creativity, later channeled through formal Grade 4-12 jazz, choral and concert band experiences that quickly grew into a love for mainstream and alternative pop-rock music.
He graduated from Fitchburg State College with a BA in writing, where he continued his course and ensemble training in jazz, concert and various jam bands. He also studied jazz performance at the well-respected Indian Hill Music in Littleton, Mass where, ironically, he now serves on its faculty in the community outreach program teaching hand drumming and percussion.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Tim went back to school and earned an Advanced Professional Certificate from Berklee College of Music in music therapy/piano and audio recording/mixing using Logic Pro X.
Tim has served for 11 years as the drum set and percussion instructor at Eagle Hill High School in Hardwick where he implemented an innovative new drum set/percussive arts and djembe group drum circle program for ADHD special needs students as well as teaching privately in his home recording studio and in students’ homes. He also teaches songwriting, basic piano, and digital audio recording. He assists many students and others with professionally recording and mixing their own original songs and cover play-alongs.
For the past five years, Kane has toured throughout New England on the drum kit in a popular trop-roc Jimmy Buffet-style band, The Island Castaways Band, which continues to release new original songs making the Top 20 on major island music radio stations. TICB’s fan base ranges from a few hundred to thousands at indoor and outdoor public and private venues. He has played the drum set in many locally touring bands over the past 20 years.
In 2011, Tim expanded his drum teaching and music performance business to build “All Together Drumming” through leading fun, therapeutic group hand drumming circles using djembes and other percussion in private and public settings year-round.
Drawing upon his vast writing achievements, Kane currently hosts a Q&A format radio show – Tiki Tim’s Trop-Roc Tributes – at Florida-based Shore Life Radio every Sunday at 8 pm for regionally and nationally touring singer-songwriters, which attracts thousands of avid listeners every week.
Donning his own songwriter hat, Tim has published three all-original studio albums by composing, recording, singing, playing and mixing all of the instruments. He continues to write and record his own songs as well as with other musicians and bands. Check out his discography on this website.
kanedrums.com is a multi-faceted, self-employed music business offering online virtual and live performance, drum set and percussion lessons, drum history lectures, group djembe drum circles, drum and percussion repairs, and musician/band marketing. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org • Cell/text: 774-757-7636