Being able to sight-read music is great.
Being able to learn music by ear is great.
However, if you can only do one of those things you are really limiting yourself. On very rare occasions, someone might be able to find a niche for themselves and go on to have a very successful career in music, but it is certainly not the norm. In today’s job market, being able to do both, read music and play by ear, is a huge asset.
Friday, December 23, 2011
Sean J. Kennedy performed live on Good Morning America from Times Square in New York City with the world famous Philadelphia Boys Choir and Chorale. This performance was fraught with challenges. Half of the music was for drumset, which required a lot of improvisation and intuitive music making based on decades of listening to rock, jazz and Latin music. However due to time and space a full drumset was not permitted on the set, so a very, very reduced drumset was used. The other half of the music was strictly orchestral, that is, a very detailed score with specific pitches and rhythms on orchestra bells, crash cymbals, and auxiliary instruments.
Saturday, December 24, 2011
Sam Ruttenberg performed live for the US troops stationed in Afghanistan. The performance, Operation Christmas Eve, took place in New Jersey and was simulcast live over the internet by NBC all the way to Afghanistan. Like Sean’s gig on Good Morning America, Sam was also going back and forth from playing drumset parts, written in a very sketchy fashion, through a variety of genres to some very specific orchestral percussion parts on timpani and a variety of auxiliary instruments.
Friday, December 30, 2011 – Monday, January 2, 2012
Sean and Sam both started rehearsing with The Strauss Symphony of America for the Salute to Vienna tour. Both musicians have been performing on this tour for the better part of a decade. The requirements for this concert series were much different than the Good Morning America and Operation Christmas Eve gigs and really exemplifies why being versatile player is so important.
Sam was hired as timpanist, and Sean was hired to act as principal percussionist. The music was sent out to the players about two weeks prior to the first rehearsal. Sean and Sam needed to do a lot of homework to make sure that the first and only rehearsal went well. Each needed to go through and mark the parts while listening to recordings to indicate cues that might not have been included in the published music. They also needed to make a list of the required instruments, delegate instrument acquisition and assign parts. These concerts always feature a renowned conductor from Europe, two opera singers, a full ballet company, and 60+ other musicians. Playing in this orchestra requires an incredible amount of reading very detailed scores at-sight, with instruments and stylistic indications frequently written in a multitude of languages, including English, French, German, Italian and sometimes even Hungarian.
Nobody gets a gig and keeps that gig simply by good fortune. Anyone hoping to make it in the music business needs to be tremendously versatile. A player, who can read, knows styles, and can play by ear and improvise, is worth their weight in gold.
As the Roman philosopher Seneca once said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
So, what can you do to be ready for ‘the call’?
Listen to music — all kinds, and make sure that your reading ability is sharp on drumset, mallets, timpani, etc.
Philadelphia-area drummer, Sean J. Kennedy is equally at home on the concert stage or in the teaching studio. Due to his versatility, Kennedy has been able to record and perform with some of the world’s best musicians, including Bob Mintzer, Liberty DeVitto, Ricky Byrd, Donald Nally, Richie Cannata and the late Dr. Frederick Fennell.
In June 2009 Carl Fischer Music Publishing released Rock Solid: Drums, a rock drumset method book co-authored by Kennedy and Liberty DeVitto. Kennedy holds a bachelor’s degree in music education and a master’s degree in percussion performance, and endorses Bosphorus Cymbals, Vic Firth Drumsticks and Evans Drumheads exclusively.
Sam Ruttenberg is an active performer, educator, clinician and author. He received a Bachelors degree from the University of Miami, a Masters degree from the Juilliard School, and endorses Sabian, Vic Firth, Remo, and Taye drums. Sam has published articles in various drumming magazines, transcribed Joe Morello’s book, Master Studies II, and has published his own book entitled Drum Tips, which is designed to help drummers develop better technique and coordination through increased musicianship.