Aaron Spears
In Memory: 1976-2023

Like all of us, we were shocked to hear of Aaron’s passing. When it happens without warning, like knowing about a sickness or disease, we have a chance to prepare. With Aaron’s passing it came out of no where with a simple post on his social media.

I was first made aware about Aaron’s prowess on the drums from JoJo Meyer. Once in talking about the guys that he was excited by and listening to – “Hey you gotta check out this guy, his name is Aaron Spears. He’s really something, doing completely new things on the drum set”. Shortly after that, in 2006, he appeared at the Modern Drummer Festival as part of an “R&B Summit” and completely destroyed the theater with his performance. His creativity and fearlessness on the drums completely blew everyone away and we were lucky enough to have filmed the event.

We knew we needed to work with Aaron on his own project and in 2009 released his dvd titled Beyond the Chops. His endless stream of ideas and energy coupled with his big, warm personality made working with him a joy. At that point Aaron’s touring career was taking off and the rest is history. He went on to tour the world with a who’s who, performing in some of the largest arenas in the world.

I was fortunate to have seen Aaron several weeks before his passing at the Zildjian 400th Anniversary event in Boston. I got the traditional “Aaron Hug”. I hadn’t seen him in quite some time and it was great to reconnect. I told him we were due for another project and his last words were “Call Me!!”…..

My prayers go out to his wife and son and hope they find comfort in knowing how loved he was by the music community and the drumming band of brothers.

  • Rob Wallis, Hudson Music
Play Video

Aaron Spears: Caught Up from the 2006 Modern Drummer Festival


Singer left a drum set open in honor of his late longtime collaborator.

Click here to read the full story at RollingStone.com.

Aaron was my best friend and I’m gonna miss him.

His skill on the drums was so amazing, because he had a talent for creativity. He could create something new each time the music came around, and in a lot of instances, he never played the same thing twice. That was a talent that I don’t know if most people know he had. I’m definitely feeling his loss and I’m going to miss him, and now I’m just responsible for his wife and his son to make sure that they are well taken care of.

My guy Aaron Spears forever.

  • Gerald Heyward

Photos courtesy of Gerald Heyward.

Aaron and David Chiverton

Aaron Spears was indeed a LIGHT in this crazy industry and world. It’s super rare that you find people that are so consistent and caring for everyone they come in contact with. Aaron’s life and legacy is literally a masterclass on how we should all love and treat each other everyday. I will truly miss my brother and I hope to continue to make him proud. Love you brother!

  • David Chiverton

One of the world’s greatest musicians will never be forgotten. He played from a place that amazed the world, that challenged the musician community, but also from a place that gave us hope that no matter what our sound was, just be sure in it and do it with a smile. Of course things will never be the same with him being gone but hopefully the impact of his life has made us all better. May his spirit and legacy be remembered forever.

  • Jamal Moore

Photos courtesy of Jamal Moore

Aaron and Kaz Rodriguez

As I hurt inside this time of silence, I ask god why, why my brother, why take the man that restored my darkness, why a loving father, a husband that made me aspire to have the family I now have… as I sit in sadness with my heart in pain, I have been praying and remembering our history, you always said “smile” give love , if someone shows you hate, just love on them… Aaron saw the light in everyone, he made me who I am today, choosing love to the world and Walking with God.. You brought out the kid in me and at the same time brought out the care and responsibility… You are a king, to the world , to your beloved Jess and Gus, and the friends you considered as your brothers and sisters… you are the king to my Son, godfather aa I will see him grow through your spirit and what you thought me … I know you are watching over us now with god taking you, and I will see you soon my bro, I love you Aaron   Thank you all for your love and support, this is a tough time for his friends and family, we greatly appreciate the love you are flowing to him, his legacy, and his family…

  • Kaz Rodriguez

Gerald Heyward brought Aaron to Manny’s one day. We met and he said, “This is the new cat.” When I got to Vic Firth, I signed Aaron right away. He was with the Gideon band at the time. Then he called to tell me he got the Usher gig. I said, “Great, get me Usher’s credit card to pay for your sticks while you’re playing with him. When you are off, the sticks will be free.” A week later a woman called me and said, “I’m Usher’s mother.” I hung up on her. She called back and I hung up again. The third time, she said, “Please don’t hang up. Don’t you know who my son is? Usher!” I said, “Yes, ma’am. He’s great, but these sticks will last the whole tour, and your son is very successful, so you must pay.” She again asked if I really knew who her son was, and I said, “Yes, but when your son is not on tour, he does not give my artist a retainer, and Aaron needs to feed his family!” Aaron wasn’t even married yet, but I got the card!

When I went to the show, I had never seen that type of drumming, with such speed, force, and musicality. After the show I asked if he was showboating for more free sticks, because he knew I was there. He said, “What do you mean? The tour manager and Usher love it, and tell me to go for it.” Later I told them, “Why don’t you let him play on an album, instead of using a drum machine?” From then on, he got more and more gigs; I would go to L.A. and take pics: “American Idol,” New Kids, Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, the Masked Singer, and many more.

Later I did a memorable ad with some artists at a dinner table. I called Aaron and told him and Gerald to be at this Italian restaurant in NYC. They arrived first on a train from D.C., Zigaboo flew in from Oakland, Jabo from Alabama, Clyde from Wisconsin, Rex Hardy from Chicago, and Paul John came from South Jersey. The “big man in town,” Questlove, showed up two hours late. Questlove thought I was lying about Clyde and Jabo being there—he said they were his faves, along with Zig. When he saw all of them, he freaked out.

The owner of the restaurant was getting really irritated because we had closed the place down. So we took photos, and ordered dinner and drinks for everyone, but poor Aaron and Gerald never got to eat. They had to go back to Penn Station to take the last train home. Aaron said, “Marco there’s always one in the family!” Ha ha!

While we were waiting for Questlove, Aaron pulled me to the side to talk. He said, “I am marinating.” I said, “What are you marinating, chicken?” We both laughed so hard. He said, “No, I’m marinating that you have me in this picture with all my heroes. I don’t deserve to be in this.” I said, “What? Are you kidding? You’re the new skool; you’re amazing!”

What can I say, I still miss him and his voice and laughs, the clinics we did, the international festivals; he always had the best spirits. No matter what went wrong, he was like, “It’s good, I’ll deal with it.” I have so many pics, but I could not find one with me and him yet!

I drove 275 miles to be at his service, and it was an amazing celebration of his life in an amazing church with over 3000 people there. Goes to show you how much he was loved by everyone: his attitude, no ego, and he was so grateful. I used to tell some endorsers, “You need to be like him!”

It was bittersweet, but it was great. Usher was there; when he spoke, he said, “Aaron was the only drummer that could catch my moves and hit the splash.” It was great seeing some of the family there as well; they flew in from everywhere. My heart goes out to his brother Jamal Moore and best friend Gerald Heyward. Just some of the drummers I saw that came to pay their respects were Dennis Chambers, Calvin Rodgers, Sput, Nisan Stewart, and Gordon Campbell, to name a few. There were lots of other musicians too, even his first Usher band! And the Gideon band played as well.

It hit me hard the next day after seeing him in the coffin. Why does this happen to the real good guys of the world and not the bad ones? My heart goes out to his wife Jessica and his son August, who he really loved. Aaron and I had respect for each other, and we always talked about family. He gave me support when I was going through rough times with my mom.

Aaron, I will deeply miss you, and I will see you one day up there, and you will still be tearing it up. Your playing lives on, and your smile will never be forgotten.


  • Marco Soccoli

Photos and advertisements courtesy of Marco Soccoli.

Aaron and Jules Thomas

Like the rest of the music community today, I am completely shocked and devastated by the unexpected loss of Aaron Spears. It doesn’t seem real. We just got to wish him happy birthday a few days ago. My heart is aching for his family and his massive circle of friends. Anyone who had the pleasure of spending any time with him knows what a truly genuine, generous and positive person he was. ALWAYS! And he had the biggest smile! Especially when he was talking about his wife and son. The pride and joy on his face anytime he mentioned them was inspiring and real. He was so much fun to be around. Whenever there was a festival or clinic that Aaron was going to be on, I truly looked forward to it because I knew it was going to be full-blast hilarious. All of his love and joy came out in his playing too. If you were in a bad mood, watching Aaron play would fix that right up.

The horribly sad news today has made me stop and remember all of the dinners, road trips, conversations and laughs over the years and realize how lucky I am to have those memories. This is one of my favourite photos with Aaron. We jokingly called it our “prom picture”.

God’s speed, my friend. You will be celebrated and remembered forever by all of the lives you touched. 

  • Juels Thomas
Aaron and Mike Dolbear
Aaron and Mike Dolbear


This week we lost not only a huge talent but a great man and wonderful friend. I’m stunned and heartbroken to hear about the sudden passing of Aaron; I loved that man and anyone who was lucky enough to spend time with him knows that he was a genuine, kind, caring and extremely funny guy with a smile and energy that was infectious! From the first clinic tour I hosted with him back in 2012, we hit it off and have been friends since. I will miss you buddy.

I feel privileged to have Aaron in my life… Nando’s will never be the same my friend….

Sending all our love and thoughts to Aarons family.

  • Mike Dolbear

Aaron Spears checked all of the boxes. As a “jazz” drummer who grew up in church, “pocket” is something that I am used to. Aaron was not just a pocket/funk/R&B drummer. He was a musicians’ drummer. He was open to many styles of music and he PLAYED the drums like they were an extension of his body. Listening to him for me gave me the same chills as listening to Art Blakey, Billy Cobham, Calvin Rodgers, Dennis Chambers, David Garibaldi, Harvey Mason and many others. It wasn’t about what style he was playing. He was PLAYING the drums. His power when playing seemed to be the anthesis of his personality. Always with a smile and full love every time you saw him.

Aaron Spears was one of a kind. As they used say when I was a kid, he was “all that and a bag of chips.” There will never be another one like him, and he will not only be missed, but more importantly, remembered for who he was and not just what he did.

All love, 

  • Carl Allen
Aaron and Sarah Hagan
Aaron and Sarah Hagan

Aaron Spears was the inspiration we all needed in our lives. Just by being the kind of player, person, and friend that he was, he pushed us all to be better. He led by example in all ways and the influence that he had on people all over the world will be felt for generations to come. 

For me personally, Aaron was a once-in-a-lifetime type of friend. That friend who always picked up the phone or called you right back. That friend who sent appreciative text messages and voice mails, who made you videos on your birthdays, who had your back no matter what. Aaron’s presence in my life, and the lives of all of his vast group of friends was like a shining light of positivity and kindness. We will never stop carrying his message forward and spreading that light in his memory. And there will never be another Aaron Spears.

Thank you, 

  • Sarah Hagan
Aaron and Billy Amendola
Aaron with Billy Amendola and Gerald Hayward.

Hello friends, I’m still numb. I, like many of Aaron’s companions, spoke to him on his 47th birthday, only a few days before his untimely passing. 

Aaron was always smiling that beautiful grin. He was a happy person and appreciated everyone he came to know, and he loved his family dearly. 

I’ve always told Aaron how much I loved him, not only as one of the greatest drummers but as a friend and human. He would always say back, “I love and appreciate you!” 

I remember the first time I spoke to him, so many years ago, after trying for hours, the day after the Grammys with Usher. 

After that “wow” moment, EVERYONE was curious and wanted to know, “Who is THAT?” He became an overnight drum star without trying. He was doing what he does. It was an unforgettable performance. 

I researched and finally got his name and number from another legendary drummer and friend, Gerald Heyward. (Gerald helped many of the next generation of Gospel drummers become “stand-out” players. Thank you, my friend. You are a fantastic person and drummer yourself, and I know how close you were to Aaron, and I know how much he loved and respected you).

I did whatever I could for Aaron when he was that young, up-and-coming musician who only wanted to play music. I would invite him to attend the MD Festival as a guest and introduce him to a few of his heroes and legends, Earl Young, Danny Seraphine, and Thomas Lang; I could go on and on. Years later, just as everyone predicted, Aaron, along with the late-great Marvin McQuitty, Teddy Campbell, Nisan Stewart, and Gerald Heyward, performed with his heroes and friends for the R&B Gospel Summit segment of the show. (All captured by Hudson Music as history was made). Remember, this was when it was just the start of a sound that would last forever. 

We spent many times together over the years, and I’ll always have great memories to cherish.

The last time we hugged each other was at The Cutting Room in NYC for Zildjian’s 400th Anniversary kick-off celebration. Thank you, Cady Zildjian, for bringing us all together.

God Bless you, my little brother. My prayers go to your beautiful family, your fans, and our friends who ALL loved and respected you. Rest in peace    

  • Billy Amendola
Aaron and Uncle Milton Smith
Aaron and Uncle Milton Smith

I’ve often thought about what I would say if given the privilege to share my thoughts of Aaron.

We all know what an amazing drummer Aaron was, but I want the world to know the amazing and selfless man, husband, and father he was.  Aaron deeply loved and cared for his wife Jessica and his son August. I would often pick Aaron up from the airport and every time he could, he would stop at the grocery store and pick up groceries on the way home. He would walk through the store like a kid at Disney world, speaking to everyone.  What I found incredible was that I don’t think anyone there knew he was a world-renowned drummer – they just knew he was kind, warm and friendly.  Aaron loved taking care of his family.  He joyfully showed his love by doing things like grocery shopping multiple times a week, cooking for his family, and doing the laundry.  He loved doing anything he could do to make his wife Jess happy. While Aaron never felt worthy or deserving of any of his accomplishments, he truly treasured his wife Jessica and his son August.

  • Milton Smith (Aaron’s Uncle)
Aaron and Otis Brown III

Like many of us that were close to him, and all of us in general, I’ve been struggling with accepting the transitioning of my good friend and brother Aaron Spears. I don’t remember the exact day/period I’ve met many people, but I know I met Aaron on 5/28/2005 at the MD festival. Immediately after meeting we were fast friends. He was already really well known but he wasn’t yet the drumming/music ICON that he would soon become. From that day until the day God called him home a couple weeks ago, we shared so many moments together that were special to me, and even countless more conversations. In seeing people remember him these past days, I’ve seen a few people mention things that he did “in true Aaron fashion…” I don’t think that there’s a phrase that could better describe him. From offering encouragement to a young drummer, to signing autographs, to sitting in the car w me and Jamal listening to almost the whole of what would become my debut album, etc., he was such a gift and did so many things for others just out of the kindness in his heart. He was a true angel here on earth. In talking about him recently, I tried to put into words how it felt to be friends with somebody that had a genuine heart of gold; I couldn’t do it. The only thing that makes sense in describing him is a phrase like “in true Aaron fashion”. I know for a fact that the reason we his good friends and colleagues, and the music world in general, are mourning him going on ahead of us is just what I’m describing. I, like many of you reading this, know a lot of famous musicians/drummers & personalities. You don’t really know what a famous drummer/musician is though unless you tried to walk from one side of any type of music event to the other with Aaron Spears to try and get lunch. I tried this at NAMM a couple times and didn’t get to eat either time. The same applied for PASIC, GMWA, or any other concert or event. The amazing thing about Aaron is that in EVERY situation like that, and the reason seemingly everybody the world over has photos with him, is that he never NOT stopped to talk, take pics with, or sign things for people. Whether it was the whole crowd at a clinic in Asia or a little kid that was just starting to play drums. in true Aaron fashion, he never saw it as robbery to give of himself. I think that the way he was able to be a gift to so many of us is because God gifted him with so many things. His spirit of humility prevented him from ever thinking he was too big to stop and talk to a fan or give somebody advice. He was so full of love that he’d never miss the chance to tell you that he missed you, loved you, or ask, sincerely, how things were going in your life. His appreciation, love, and respect for what we did as drummers never let him take any moment playing for granted. I don’t remember EVER seeing him at the drums and just going through the motions. That sound he had, his feel, the OUT OF THE WORLD things he could play….When he sat down at the drums, it was automatically 100%. I believe playing our instrument has deep roots in our ancestry. I know Aaron believed that too and it showed in his playing. Like he was with us here, in ancient times he would’ve been the master drummer of our tribe, the sage that nobody could play like. With all it’s challenges and inherent difficulties, he understood fully how much of a blessing & gift it was to do what we do for a living. He loved the art of playing so much that there was hardly a post or video of somebody playing that he hadn’t seen. If you knew him or not, if you’ve posted something online playing drums, Aaron probably saw it. There were so many times that I would make a post of me playing that I’d think not many people would see and it would rarely fail that the first like or comment would be Aaron. Most of the time, I’d get a text saying something like “that video is preeettttyy nice” or just one of his “whoooo’s” with a varying number of O’s at the end. Lol. His encouragement always mean’t the world.

I have so many moments and memories with him that I remember and will cherish, not one of them bad. From all that I’ve been seeing, that’s the case for all of us. From being at his proposal to the love of his life Jess, and later their wedding, to hearing how proud and happy he was when Gus was born. Every time I got to see him play in an arena or huge venue, which was a lot, I’d beam w pride. There are a couple memories that stand out in my mind though. During the pandemic we would talk quite a bit. Often about our families and just getting outside to get fresh air, as well as all of the social things that were going on at the time and how they affected us as Black men, fathers raising Black children in this world, etc. Around this time I had the idea to start an interview series w drummers called “Drum Talk Tuesdays”. As soon as I had the idea, I ran it by Aaron and he loved it. I was like “Great! I’m glad you like it….You’re the first guest”, and he was. Crazily enough, his interview is the only one that ig wouldn’t let me save but he was gracious enough to come back on last minute for my birthday. I got to save that one and have watched it 100 times since the 30th. Another favorite moment with him was when my son Josiah had a pretty big baseball game down at Georgetown Prep. Aaron brought Gus and they came and sat right next to me and my family. My son had a couple pretty big hits in that game and in one of the videos you can hear me going crazy…..and A was going just as crazy with his patented “whooo’s” again and an added “Good God almighty” and “ We want all the smoke..” In true Aaron fashion, he showed up.

In true Aaron fashion he left us with so much inspiration and so many examples. May we all love our spouses/partners, children, and families like Aaron loved Jess, Gus, and his family, biological and otherwise. I pray that we can also inspire others, strive for greatness on our instruments & professions, cultivate friendships & build extended families, remain humble, genuinely love and care for others, openly express love and concern for each other, give of ourselves genuinely without expecting things in return, and most importantly may we live so that others can see God’s love in us. All things that he did naturally…..In true Aaron fashion.

  • Otis Brown III