© Copyright 2013. Jeff J. Neal. All Rights Reserved. Powered by
DRUMMER / INSTRUCTOR
… “but I kept play’n!”
I was born and raised in Washington, DC. When I was younger, I would always hang out at my best friend’s house who lived around the corner. One day his mother asked us if we wanted to take free music lessons offered at a local high school. I guess she got tired of us just
sitting around on her front porch. Thanks Ms. A.
We went down to sign up for lessons with The DC Youth Orchestra Program. My buddy knew he wanted to play the sax right away, but I had to think about it for a while. I first asked for piano…no, they didn’t offer that. “How about the guitar?” I asked. No, they didn’t offer that either. The upright bass was bigger than me and I thought, 'that'd be too heavy and too much to carry'....man was I wrong? Look at me now! I went from the frying pan into the fire! Hey, what did I know? I was only an 11 year old kid at the time. 'So, what should I play? I thought.' Well, the strings were out and I didn’t care for wind instruments. I guess that leaves the drums! I believe the instrument calls you.
Three years later I asked my dad for my first set of drums. I saw them in the window of a music store; a 4-piece Ludwig Clear Vistalite Drum Set. It didn’t come with cymbals, hardware stands or a seat…but hey, I was on my way. I still kick myself for selling that set. Oh well, thanks anyway dad.
I didn’t really consider becoming a full time musician back then. With my father’s “encouragement”, I followed the more traditional life track. You know, go to college, pick a major (anything but music), graduate, get a job and live “happily ever after”. For me, the job was the field of architecture. I was pretty good at it and stayed in that profession for 12 years…but I kept play’n!
One day I found out about a musical play in town that needed to replace its drummer. It was the Ford’s Theatre Production of “FIVE GUYS NAMED MOE”, which featured the music of Louis Jordan. I auditioned and to my surprise, I GOT THE GIG! We had a three month run at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC and six week run in Boston, Massachusetts at the Wilbur Theatre. While in Boston, I auditioned and was accepted into The Berklee College of Music. Unfortunately, finances at the time didn’t work out in my favor to attend the school. That play was my first experience performing at that level and it set the wheels in motion for me. I began to think, “maybe I can make a living playing the drums.” Well, the production soon ended...but I kept play’n.
I returned home to DC grateful for the experience, but now I needed a job. So, I went into sales. I sold cars for two years (two years too long)…but I kept play’n.
I sold home furnishings for six years…but I kept play’n. With all of that play’n, I soon became fairly popular on the local music scene but I realized that my drumming and reading skills needed to be sharpened if I wanted to pursue music on a higher level.
I set out to improve my skills and in the summer of 2000, I attended my first KoSa Percussion Workshop in Castleton, Vermont. My newly found education that year and subsequent years, was presented by some of the industries top drummers and educators like Ndugu Chancler, Jim Chapin, Gordon Gottlieb, Russ Miller, Ed Thigpen and Steve Smith to name a few. From there, I attended my first Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC) and the International Association for Jazz Educations’ (IAJE) International Conference where my education would continue.
My continuing education and practice is paying off. I have been fortunate to perform and record with various local artists throughout the greater Metropolitan Washington, DC area. I have also traveled to Italy, England, Spain, Portugal and the Western Caribbean. I am honored to be asked to play and share the stage with some incredibly talented people. Thanks for considering me as your “first call” drummer. I guess I must be doing something right.
I know that I’ve been blessed with a gift that I must nourish by constantly practicing, listening and learning. To continue to improve the art of making musical paintings through drumming. And, no matter what style of music I’m hired to perform, I always seek to serve the music FIRST!!
Well, that’s the “elongated-short” version of where my career has taken me so far. I’m looking forward to the next challenge. So, please check back from time to time and I’ll try to keep you posted. But whatever happens…
…I’ll keep play’n!!!
and thanks for reading.
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"Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted."
"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity."
Words To Live By