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Publication: Modern Drummer : MD
Date published:
Language: English
PMID: 78640
ISSN: 01944533
Journal code: MDDR


The Modern Drummer Pro Panel is an annually revolving group of internationally recognized player/commentators with one essential purpose: to help us master the physical and mental techniques of our noble instrument, the drumset.

The 2011 Pro Panel, consisting of Peter Erskine, Chad Smith, Paul Wertico, Rod Morgenstein, Horacio Hernandez, Will Calhoun, Jeff Davis, Jason Bittner, Allison Miller, Chris Pennie, Daniel Glass, and Susie Ibarra, represents a universe of drumming possibilities-from bone-crushing blast beats to delicate brushwork, soul-stirring grooves to cosmic percussive trips-and several lifetimes' worth of experience at the highest levels of musical achievement. Modern Drummer Readers Poll and Grammy awards, gold and platinum records, performances on the world's premier stages...yup, these folks have seen and done it all. Perhaps more important, each of them is a proud student of the drums-and an effective teacher.

In the coming year you'll see these ladies and gentlemen lending their expert opinions and knowledge on the crucial drumming topics we'll be covering in MD. They'll also be sparking conversations about the unique issues they've been grappling with lately in their own musical lives. The conversation will be lively, the lessons invaluable.

Let's meet our experts and get a glimpse of some of the hot topics they'll be exploring in 2011.


Peter Erskine, recipient of ten Modern Drummer Readers Poll awards in the jazz category, can be heard on hundreds of albums by the greatest artists of the era, including Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell, Weather Report, Diana Krall, and the Stan Kenton and Maynard Ferguson big bands. The author of several highly regarded tutorials, including Time Awareness For All Musicians and Essential Drum Fills, Peter is a decidedly big-picture musician with a fondness for shaking drummers out of inside-the-box thinking.

HOT TOPICS "Musical drummers are the real string-pullers in any band or ensemble, and the news is: Less is truly more. I enjoy spreading this message, like a reverse Paul Revere: The British are nor coming-and you don't need to know how to play so fast. But, hey, while we're on the's your time feel?"


Paul Wertico gained worldwide recognition as a member of the Pat Metheny Group from 1983 to 2001, during which time he won seven Grammy awards. He's placed on the Modern Drummer Readers Poll numerous times and appeared on the cover of the January 1995 issue. He has taught drums privately for over forty years, performed at the 1997 MD Festival, and released the instructional videos Fine Tuning Your Performance and Paul Wertico's Drum Philosophy. Today Paul continues to be extremely busy as a collaborator and leader, and he's an assistant professor and the head of jazz and contemporary music studies at the Chicago College Of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University.

HOT TOPICS "Working on not 'hiccupping' time; listening skills; choosing the right things to play so that you add to a track without drawing attention to yourself unnecessarily; swinging with a click."


Jeff "Lo" Davis is the godfather of modern gospel drumming. He's toured and recorded with many of the genre's most popular artists, including Richard Smallwood, Kirk Franklin, and Hezekiah Walker. Jeff is a great believer in the idea that to be a successful gospel drummer, you have to be a skilled and well-rounded player in multiple styles, a notion supported by his extensive credits outside of gospel. Davis was featured in the October 2010 issue of Modern Drummer.

HOT TOPICS "Odd-time playing and the proper approach and significance in mainstream platforms; shining a light on many of the past heroes of gospel drumming and tracing the evolution of the style; exploring the differences between great live and studio drumming, including when and when not to play complex fills."


Chris Pennie is the drummer in the popular rock band Coheed And Cambria. He studied music synthesis and technology at Berklee College Of Music, which he left at age twenty to start the influential progressive hardcore band Dillinger Escape Plan. In 2010 Chris opened the main stage at the Modern Drummer Festival (the same month he appeared on the cover of MD), released his first recording with Coheed as well as Automata by his project band Return To Earth, and started Fight Mannequins, an orchestral/media company that shows his talents as a writer and producer.

HOT TOPICS "Orchestral composition and film scoring; focusing on the live sound of the drums, including head combinations, drum sizes, microphones, and tuning."


Daniel Glass is the longtime drummer with the neo swing group Royal Crown Revue. He has also worked with Gene Simmons, Bette Midler, Mike Ness of Social Distortion, rockabilly legend Robert Gordon, and ska/reggae guitar great Ernest Ranglin. Daniel has meticulously detailed the history of American roots music via books including The Commandments Of Early Rhythm And Blues Drumming and DVDs like Principles Of Swing Time, through his series of columns for Modern Drummer magazine, and in clinics, including his master class at the 2010 MD Fest. In 2002 Glass released his debut CD as a leader, Something Colorful.

HOT TOPICS "The evolution of the drumset and the impact it has had on American popular music."


Rod Morgenstein is a founding member of the multiple-Grammy-nominated progressive/fusion group the Dixie Dregs. Rod has also toured and recorded with the Steve Morse Band, Winger, the Rudess/Morgenstein Project, the Jelly Jam, and Jazz Is Dead, and he was part of a select group of drummers chosen to play on the Buddy Rich tribute CD Burning For Buddy. A winner several times in the progressive rock category of the Modern Drummer Readers Poll and a longtime MD contributor, Morgenstein teaches percussion at Berklee College Of Music and is the author of many drum tutorials, including the books Drum Set Warm-Ups and The Drumset Musician and the video Putting It All Together.

HOT TOPICS "The current fascination with stretching the technique envelope beyond human comprehension versus the reality of how to get a gig and keep it; effective practice techniques; how to give yourself the best chance of passing auditions."


Jason Bittner is the drummer in the world-famous metal band Shadows Fall and the winner of several MD Readers Poll awards. A lifelong student of the instrument, including studies at Berklee College Of Music, Jason is also an active clinician, performing at the 2004 Modern Drummer Festival and releasing the educational book Drumming Out Of The Shadows and the instructional DVD What Drives The Beat.

HOT TOPICS "Staying focused and prepared with a practice routine; surviving as a working drummer in today's economic climate; preparing for life on the road; linear patterns and fills."


Susie Ibarra, who details her many fascinating multi-genre projects in her feature in this issue, is a prolific drummer, composer, and bandleader. Among her upcoming projects is the CD Drum Codes by Electric Kulintang, a Filipino trip-hop band that she coleads with her husband, percussionist Roberto Rodriguez. (The disc's release will be marked by a show on Earth Day 2011 at Lincoln Center in New York City.) Susie, who was chosen by DownBeat critics as top percussionist in the magazine's fifty-eighth annual poll, is also spearheading "Drumming For The Gulf," an environmental, interactive drum piece featuring the participation of an international group of players, schools, and organizations.

HOT TOPICS "Various tunings for drums and drumset; composition for drumming; using drums, percussion, and gongs as narration and/or dialogue; improvising and composing music that incorporates independence; how different drummers mix heritage with innovation on the drumset."


As the drummer in the Red Hot Chili Peppers since 1988, Chad Smith has appeared on multiplatinum-selling albums, played in the largest stadiums in the world, and earned the respect of a generation of rock drummers who appreciate his soulful yet precise feel, dramatic fills, and exciting onstage persona. A three-time Modern Drummer cover artist, Chad has branched out in recent years, playing on albums by Johnny Cash, John Fogerty, the Dixie Chicks, Kid Rock, Glenn Hughes, and the supergroup Chickenfoot (featuring Sammy Hagar, Joe Satriani, and Michael Anthony) and leading his own group, the Bombastic Meatbats. None of this high-profile work, however, has detracted from his main gig and musical home, the Chili Peppers, who are due to have a new album in the coming months.

HOT TOPICS "I see a trend, mainly among young players, that they want it all and they want it now. I want to get them to understand the hard work that goes into the craft. I also want to talk about the players who influenced our heroes-who Bonham and Moon were listening to."


El Negro, as he's known to fans around the world, is among the most sought-after drummers on the planet. Through his work with jazz and rock royalty such as Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Michel Camilo, and Carlos Santana, Hernandez is revered by drummers for his pioneering playing, including his development of left-foot clave. He has received multiple Grammy wins, for albums including Santana's Supernatural, Roy Hargrove's Habana, and Camilo's Live At The Blue Note. He's also the author of the method book Conversations In Clave, and, along with Giovanni Hidalgo, he produced the instructional DVD Traveling Through Time. Hernandez, who in 2000 appeared at the Modern Drummer Festival with John Patitucci, Michael Brecker, Hilario Durán, and Marc Quiñones, leads the band Italuba and coleads the group Third World War with the drummer Robby Ameen.

HOT TOPICS "Making music in the air: being a busy working drummer and finding the time to learn and make music on the run, for instance on planes and in hotel rooms."


Will Calhoun exploded out of the New York City club scene in 1987 with the incendiary Grammy-winning rock band Living Colour. Since then he has landed several times at the top of MD Readers Polls, and he was voted best drummer in a critics poll in Rolling Stone magazine. Will has done significant work outside of hard rock as well, with Harry Belafonte, B. B. King, Herb Alpert, Jaco Pastorius, Lauryn Hill, and Wayne Shorter. He has also released several solo projects, including his quintet's Live At The Blue Note album and the world-jazz CD/DVD package Native Lands, featuring Pharoah Sanders, Mos Def, Buster Williams, Stanley Jordan, Kevin Eubanks, Marcus Miller, and Wallace Roney.

HOT TOPICS "Exploring the drumming roots of hip-hop; examining the playing of groundbreaking drummers like Parliament/Funkadelic's Jerome Brailey."


Allison Miller is equally at home, and equally successful, playing with renowned singersongwriters like Ani DiFranco and Brandi Carlile as she is with jazz artists like Marty Ehrlich and Kenny Barron. She has released two albums as a leader, has had her music featured on the TV series The L Word, and was chosen by the U.S. State Department to tour East Africa, Eurasia, and Southeast Asia as a "jazz ambassador." Between dates on her busy touring schedule, Alli teaches at Kutztown University and gives lessons and master classes at colleges and high schools. She was featured in the February 2008 issue of MD.

HOT TOPICS "Living healthy as a touring musician; things drummers can do away from the kit to improve endurance; approaching the drumkit in 'stereo'; pre-show stretching techniques; thinking of the drumstick as an extension of the hand."

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