Music plays a big part in your life. Can you tell me how you are involved with music?
“Music kind of called out to me when I was very young and I rally gravitated toward music growing up cause music was really good, really awesome back then. Also, it was like a safe haven, a place to escape. I grew up with many challenges and a lot of adversity and music was something that kept me out of a lot of trouble and kept me focused and created a lot of positive experiences for me. And now my goal is to create for other kids and adolescents going through similar things today.”
What is it that you do to help kids?
“In 2000, I created a mentoring program after school with a bucket drumming component. I kind of took the idea from stuff I had seen like in the broadway show “Stomp”. I teach in a challenging district, financially, so it was a very cost-effective way of making music. Students came to learn that I was a drummer outside of school and there was a lot of interest and a lot of wonderful talent in Bristol township. So I created a bucket drumming, small ensemble with some special needs kids who were part of the mentoring program and performed for a musical in our school district and it went over really well. We would perform in a lot of other district wide events and popularity began to grow exponentially. So we started to go locally and play areas and more kids started to join and also included non special need kids as well. I thought, why not call up the 76ers and other sporting venues like the Flyers and the Philadelphia Soul and what not and we’ve played through the tri-state area. We played MetLife stadium where the NY Giants and Jets play. We played with “Stomp”. We traveled to two arena football games, one in New Orleans, one in Orlando for the Philadelphia Soul. We’ve been on TV and the radio and in the newspaper. I you check out the website, http://www.drummerswithattitude.net, or just google Drummers With Attitude, there’s video and pictures, testimonies. We played Children’s Hospital. We’ve done a lot things. Places you never thought, like Temple’s graduation, where we’re playing with bagpipes and stuff like that. It’s been really cool, some of the experiences the kids have gone through. Who would’ve thought a bucket would’ve gone so far. I used to try to perform in a lot of these places when I was playing drums in a band and could never get my foot in the door and created this group, we’ve played sold out shows at the Spectrum, the Wells Fargo Center…not just us, but a sold out are a for a sporting event and we’re doing the half time show for them. Or we’re playing pep rallies for the Flyers or Sixers downtown. Helicopters are flying overhead and we’re their pep band! It’s been incredible.
It’s kind of funny how things have morphed into what they have today. I was just hanging out with kids after school just doing like the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and there was an interest there and I was just like, “Hey, why don’t I do this? That? I should come up with a name.” It just snowballed and really started to connect with a lot of people. I think what people love about it is that it includes all ethnicities, all exceptionalities, kids that would probably never talk to each other in school that are now part of a small family outside of home. That’s probably one of the things that I’m most proud of, that it includes everybody. Nobody’s excluded. The only requirements are that you have to do your best in school and be respectful and you can be a part of it. Never having held a drumstick or anything. You’re automatically accepted. There’s no audition. We’re not a musical drum group, per-say. I take my experience as a drummer and create rhythms that all kids can play. It’s more like a safe haven for kids to join and through the public relations that I bring to the table, I call people and make connections for us to perform all around the area.”
How did you come up with the name, Drummers With Attitude?
“I probably came up with it about 11 years ago or so. I have a registered trademark so it’s pretty cool that I have ownership of the name. It was just the kids taking about how they have an attitude. At first I was thinking maybe Drummers with a Positive Attitude but I thought it sounded edgier being just Drummers With Attitude, DWA.”
What difference do you see in the kids, over time, after starting your class?
“What I see is connections. Positive connections. It helps that we perform a lot of cool places. Like we’re the home opener halftime show for arena football, minor league games coming up in April. When you’re performing at really cool places and doing really cool things, plus the whole concept itself of hearing 30 bucket drummers doing something, it’s like a magnet. It attracts a lot of people and a lot of people think it’s really cool. When you have that element, kids wanna be a part of that. There’s high interest. They’re like “Really? All I have to do is two on the bucket? I can do that.” So they can easily participate. From my perspective, I’m a Caucasian 40 some year old teacher, connecting with these young kids who are kind of like “F authority”. But yet they like me because of what it is that we do. So I’m able to connect with them and then through that connection, the use of buckets, get them to study more, to make better choices in life, get them to find out what their personal best is and help them achieve it as oppose to just saying it and having nothing more attached to me just being a teacher. Its kind of like I’m a teacher and I also do this and kids think it’s cool so it helps me to make connections with students that acceptable and kids wanna be a part of it. It’s really awesome to see students at middle school that are going through an identity seeking thing to participate in it. I’ll be blown away by some girls who seem very stand offish, who will come up and say “Is there any room in bucket drumming for me?” You just never know.
Do you introduce them to music they may have never heard before?
“There are kids who are joining just to be a part of something and then there are joining cause they really love music and they’re excellent performers. Some of them bend my ear and may ask what motivated me, what inspired me, what music did I listen to. But for the most part I’m teaching rhythms and how to perform as an ensemble, as a group to go out and do stuff. I don’t have a class. This is all after school. I’m a special ed teacher during the day. After school is when I’m allowed to do this program. It’s like an extra curricular program.”
How is it funded?
“It’s through a federal grant and it gives us a certain amount of funds to work with.”
Can people donate?
“Yeah, people can donate. Like if we perform at a place, they can make donations that goes into an account for students to buy more sticks or to have our logo on there or something. They could also contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if they have interest too. They could donate drumsticks, buckets.
Can kids outside of Bristol township join?
“It is set up for Bristol township school district kids. And sometimes I hear someone say their kid lives in another township. It’s not like they can be a part of DWA, the way I currently have it set up from Bristol. But if there was enough interest in a particular area, I could definitely consult somebody or do an offsight DWA program there as well.”
You said you also are a drummer. Do you currently play in a band?
“I do also play in a band with a female singer names Lori Citro. We’re performed at the end of March in Cape May for singers and songwriters for the whole weekend. The majority of her crew live in Delaware, but I perform with her from time to time. Sometimes I’ll play different festivals or events with her. I also play with a cover band, but that’s more sporadic.”
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions just took place. Is there anyone you feel should’ve been inducted or anyone that has been that shouldn’t have been?
“To be honest, I’m not sure of all the people that are in there or who aren’t in there. I don’t feel like in general, that anybody SHOULDN’T be in there. I think if they were selected to be in there, that there has to be some warranted consideration to be selected. Music is like instead of in art and the eye of the beholder, it’s in the ear of the listener. It’s so subjective that who’s to say somebody belongs there or doesn’t. If they found some kind of connection with a large group of people and have found a way to move them then they should be in there.”