I have been very fortunate to have experienced some wonderful opportunities for playing the drums. From parades – to festivals, competitions – to concerts my hard work and dedication has paid off. I have been very lucky to have the support of my family and drum instructors. One memorable moment for me came my senior year of high school. That was the year (1990) that I was selected to audition for the Mellon Jazz Festival in my hometown of Pittsburgh. In order to participate students were required to submit a drum set and a snare drum piece. I did an improvisation for the drum set portion and I believe I played something from “Fundamental Studies for Snare Drum” by Garwood Whaley (I may be wrong).
After I was selected I received three songs in the mail to prepare for. I remember they were more complicated than I was used to. On the day of the tryouts I took my own drum set to the venue. We started out with a solo, then a jam session and finally one of the musical pieces we had prepared for. I did fairly well and made it through the day. Hometown hero Jeff Watts (Brandon Marsalis) and Steve Turre (Saturday Night Live Band) worked with us and their tutelage was priceless.
I will never forget performing in a theater at the Carnegie Museum. Although the crowd was small everyone played as if they were at Carnegie Hall. The second round of auditions followed that. Unfortunately I did not make the cut for the evening performance. Despite my disappointment the experience was something that I learned a great deal from. The Mellon Jazz Festival is still a staple in the music scene in Pittsburgh. It was a privilege for me to participate and I still cherish that day.