For this week’s Weekly Faculty Interview, in honor of the beginning of the Rutgers Youth Percussion Ensemble this Saturday, we interviewed drummer extraordinaire, drum set teacher, and the Programs and Faculty Coordinator of the Extension Division, Dan Silverstein!
Silverstein graduated with a BM in Jazz Performance from the Mason Gross School of the Arts in 2011 where he studied under jazz great Victor Lewis. On top of his work as Programs and Faculty Coordinator at the Mason Gross Extension Division, Dan is a working musician in the New York and New Jersey area, where he performs at various jazz and rock venues, and in theatrical productions throughout the region. Silverstein also coordinates Kids Create!, a summer program at the Mason Gross Extension Division for children ages 5–12 centered on music, dance, theater, and the visual arts!
What initially inspired you to go into the arts?
My dad was a drummer, and he was my first teacher. I loved playing the drums, and I always felt drums and music was the most natural thing. One day my dad put on Dave Brubeck’s Take Five and I fell in love with jazz and jazz drumming. I decided to study jazz drumming specifically, and went on to join the “Wells Fargo Jazz for Teens” program during High School. I met a lot of musicians there, and started playing gigs after that. Later I studied Jazz in college under the great drummer Victor Lewis at the Mason Gross School of the Arts here at Rutgers University.
Was there a teacher who made an impact upon your development as an artist?
I would say my first teacher, Steve Decker, really made an impact on my development as an artist. He would always encourage me to treat exercises musically and creatively, not just treat them as an exercise. If I was learning a particular rock beat, he encourage me to use mallets, or brushes, or one mallet and one brush, not just sticks, and it would create a different sound that I never thought possible. It made practicing a lot more fun!
What is the most rewarding part of teaching for you?
When I have a student who has been struggling with a beat, fill, or rhythm, and the day when they finally get it and they get really excited. Another rewarding aspect of teaching is when a student starts thinking creatively, and without asking them to do it, they come with their own beats, or their own fills.
What is your favorite drum, cymbal or piece of percussion? What is your favorite brand?
I love cymbals, and have collected quite a lot over the years. My favorite would have to be my 22 inch ZIldjian “Kerope Series” cymbal. It’s dark, warm, and sounds like the type of cymbals the jazz greats like Elvin Jones, or Tony Williams would play. My favorite drum would have to be a Ludwig brand snare drum that I’ve played for 10 years which goes well in any musical context. My favorite brands are Ludwig and ZIldjian.
Who is a drummer you think every single drummer or percussionist should know about?
Every drummer should know about Steve Gadd. He is one of those rare talents that could play in every musical context. He’s played with Paul Simon, Chick Corea, Eric Clapton, James Taylor, and James Brown to name a few.
What does “playing in the pocket” mean to you?
It’s hard to define. When I hear a drummer “playing in the pocket” during a song, they are in sync with the rest of the band in terms of tempo and musicality. Listen to Clyde Stubblefield on James Brown’s “Cold Sweat” and you’ll hear a perfect example of “playing in the pocket”.
Thanks Dan! If you would like to know more about the Rutgers Youth Percussion Ensemble or Kids Create!, please visit mgedrype.wordpress.com and mgedearlychildhood.wordpress.com!
The Rutgers Youth Percussion Ensemble’s mission is to help a drummer or mallet player, ages 13 to 18, grow to be a percussionist and to develop into a well-rounded, confident, and dynamic musician. RYPE’s repertoire includes: core literature; cutting-edge music by emerging artists, tasteful arrangements and adaptations of works by well-known classical composers, entertaining novelty music, authentic World/roots music, and engaging performance art. RYPE performs in a wide variety of musical settings. In 2012, the ensemble, which featured players from six New Jersey school districts, appeared at the New Jersey Day of Percussion at New Jersey City University, the Players’ Theater in New York City, and worked with famed percussionists Jonathan Haas and Leigh Stevens at the Randolph Percussion Festival.
Kids Create! participants explore music, dance, theater and visual arts all in one camp. Children from ages 5 to 12 develop their imaginations and skills through drawing, painting, collage, movement, music, improvisational theater and creative dramatics. Each week’s offerings are unique, so children may participate in one or both weeks. To bring our creative weeks to a close, participants will perform in a showcase, giving students the opportunity to perform for their families.