Grandpa's accordion and my toy
drum: It was always about the
ensemble for me. When I got home
from this visit, a neighborhood girl
threw a rock through the top head. I
guess she wasn't much for "living
a life of ideas."
"To John, a great little player."
Louis Bellson played with my high
school band in 1981. We did a
"battle of the drums" (click to play
below) on "Sweet Georgia Brown"
-- a highlight of my life.
FIRST, I FELL IN LOVE WITH MUSIC
When not counseling my PR clients how to communicate
through words, I like to communicates through my first love: Music.
Drawn to drums and impatient to play, I had to wait until my eighth
birthday before a teacher (Eddie Oyer) would agree to take me on. A
week after the magic day, I took my first lesson.
Years of private study followed as well as stints in nationally recognized
school and university programs. I was a member of the competition-
dominating Winnetonka High School (Kansas City, Missouri) music
program in the early 80s, then a member of the rhythm section behind
well-known vocal jazz educator Kirby Shaw’s “Connection” ensemble at
the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
My academic musical experiences culminated with my selection to the
1986 All American College Band at Disneyland in Anaheim, California
— a summer-long, 35-show-a-week professional work experience for
18 musicians selected from coast-to-coast audition tours of the country’
s top music schools.
Those various settings put me in the drummer’s chair for musicians
such as Bobby McFerrin, Pete Christlieb, Rob McConnell, Les Hooper,
Bobby Shew, Gary Foster, and many others – including even a “battle
of the drums” feature with Louis Bellson.
Professionally, I'm a veteran of studios; musical theater; jazz, swing and
big bands; and society groups. I've worked with 50s revival acts such
as The Ink Spots, The Drifters and The Platters as well as swing and
dance legends such as The Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra and the Guy
I've played shows such as A Chorus Line and Godspell and I was a
member of the trio behind Lisa Henry, a winner of the prestigious
Thelonious Monk Institute Vocal Jazz Competition in 1994. That same
year I performed with a 40-member cast of musicians, singers and
dancers representing the state of Kansas in a 16-day tour of St.
(Get an update on Lisa Henry as of August 2006, from The Kansas City Star)
John Cushon is one of the finest
drummers around. I consider
him a friend and role model.
Check out his playing with
I've played several 50s acts
including The Platters (shown),
The Drifters and The Ink Spots
(my very first professional gig),
who introduced me as "the Pink
I played bass drum in the 1986
College Band. Eighteen student
musicians were selected from a
coast-to-coast audition tour,
including stops at Eastman,
Juilliard, North Texas State,
Miami and others. I was the
only non-music major in that
year's band. It was the best 11
weeks of my life.
Twenty years later I played my
first gig in New York City at a
French bistro called Cafe Loup
in the West Village. It was with
Bob Kindred, who sounds like
the best of every sax player
I've ever loved.
When Bob booked me on a
full-fledged paying gig at a
private party in SOHO, he told
me he would be traveling and
someone else would lead the
trio. I was bummed. Then I
found out it was jazz cornet
legend Warren Vache. I was
overwhelmed. It was a
magnificent and memorable
music experience. (Thanks to
Andrea Fischman for the photo.)
|All content © Copyright 2006,
2007 by John Armato unless
otherwise indicated. Content may
be freely excerpted with attribution
for nonprofit use. All other uses by
permission only. Just ask me.
I'll probably say yes.