This month’s teacher in focus is Richard “Gus” Guastamachio.
Read on to learn more about Gus and his teaching practice in Hartford, CT…and if you’d like to be considered for the teacher of the month spotlight – please click here to complete our application form!
My studio “Gus’ Drum Pad” is located at 12 Highland Street East Hartford, CT 06108. It is a one story 1225 square foot complete studio, which houses 4 pedal timpani, 2 marimbas, xylophone, vibes, MalletKat, concert bells, chimes, crotales, steel drums, 2 drum sets, field drum, concert snare drum, bass drum and piatti, plus gongs, djembes, tabla, congas & bongos at all times, to allow the student to work on anything they may encounter in school band, or orchestra. The studio also hosts regular student recitals through out the year, and offers Percussion Ensemble classes for student participation.
I maintain a schedule of 42 students at this point in time. The ability level ranges from beginner to collegiate, and adults.
Q) What are your favorite teaching materials?
I have a reference library of over 800 titles in the studio, so there are too many to list, but some of my favorites include: For drumset & snare drum,Ted Reeds “Syncopation” & “Stick Control” are essential books. Some of the staples for drumset in my teaching practice include: “Groove Essentials” book 1 & 2, “The Drummers Cook Book”, by John Pickering, “Advanced Funk Studies” by Rick Latham, “The New Breed” by Gary Chester, and of course I use “The Chapin Book” for jazz studies. For beginning drum set work, I use my own self published material “Stick-Tips the Book”.
For snare drum (in addition to “Syncopation” & “Stick Control”) I use “The All American Drummer” by Charley Wilcoxon, The Garwood Whaley Series, Podemski, Harr, Goldenberg, and “The Snare Drum Plays The Zoo”, in addition to many others, & printed solos.
I also insist that each student become familiar with timpani & mallets, so throw the “Goodman” book in to the timp mix, and George Hamilton Green “Xylophone Methods”, Goldenberg, and “Masterpieces for Marimba” into the repertoire of materials used.
I use playalong mp3’s/CD’s each week. We use DVD’s as study tools, transcriptions, historic studies, and to expose my students to GREAT drummer footage (from drummers Baby Dodds, & Gene Krupa, to Jeff Queen & Thomas Lang). I also use Band in a Box to have the students create some of their own playalongs tracks.
I find the use of the computer and internet a GREAT resource in the studio. We use the internet to visit drum/percussion sites, to research information, and even view “You Tube” videos. The computer also gives us great opportunities to record, mix and burn a CD, DVD, or flash drive at each lesson for the student to bring home, or to find it on my web site with a secure interactive student center (which includes monthly events, music theory, rudimental studies, sight reading, mallet excerpts, timpani work), where the student can find their weekly lesson published on line, download files for playalong use, etc. The internet has opened up unlimited possibilities for percussion educators & students.
Growing up in New England, I was very active in the “Ancient” fife & drum world and I keep my rope tension drums on display in the studio. After showing, & explaining to a young student how the rope tension drums work, sound, & why the drummers of that time period used traditional grip, we continued on to our regular lesson. When mom arrived at the end of the lesson, and asked what we did, the student replied, “Mom it was sooo cool. Gus showed me all about his old drum, that HE used in the days of the American Revolution. I didn’t know he was THAT old, did you? She then turned to me and said, what year were you born in, if you started playing in 1776?”
Q) What are your general thoughts on drumming, teaching, music….?
As a percussion educator, I feel it is my job to assist my students in becoming complete musicians, to help them become aware of ALL aspects of percussion, and to give them a firm knowledge base of percussion from an historical perspective, to give them the working knowledge of music theory, and to expose them to all styles of percussion and music genres. Each student spends a few moments at each lesson, doing timpani tuning with a tuning fork in addition to using a mallet instrument of their choice to become familiar with “pitched percussion”. I feel compelled to teach my students to read music and to know how to notate music. I insist they know the PAS 40 rudiments, understand the use of percussion in a concert band or orchestra in addition to being able to play drumset in a variety of musical styles.
For my students each month, I publish an online newsletter covering a basic theory topic (time signatures, tempo, dynamics, roadmaps, intervals, pitch, scales, etc) and there is a written exam at the end of each month. I feel the days of band leaders being able to say “I have 10 musicians and a drummer”, should be obsolete. I hope that by asking my students to become aware of ALL of the percussion instruments they will be capable of becoming more educated, well rounded musicians who will experience the joy of music for the rest of their lives.
I also strongly recommend that each student perform in our regular studio recitals, and participate in our Percussion Ensembles. I believe one of the reasons we make music is to perform for an audience, and the recital and ensemble opportunities are a very valuable aspect of our music education. What could be better than performing for family and friends as a soloist, or as part of an ensemble?
As a full time performer I stay active performing five shows weekly at the Spirit of Broadway Theater in Norwich, and presenting regular professional percussion recitals. The Spirit of Broadway Theater has grown to achieve national acclaim and recognition for it’s commitment to the presentation of new theatrical works. My job as resident percussionist at SBT consists of performing each show, often creating the percussion parts working closely with the composers. I also feel that as a professional percussion educator, it is important to stay current by performing and continuing my education, so as to better assist my students with the demands of today’s musical styles.
Check out Gus’s website – www.showdrummer.com