Mike Sorrentino/John Favicchia Clinic Tour recap
Clinic Tour Recap by Mike Sorrentino
I just recently completed a short clinic tour in Europe with my friend John Favicchia. I’ve decided to include a few highlights here, with some insights into how you might be able to put together your own tour. It isn’t easy, but with some good planning it can be fun, profitable, and a great way to see parts of the world you might not otherwise have had the chance. One of the best parts for me was that most of the contacts I needed to put this trip together, I made through the TIP. It was really a group of drummers coming together to make something happen.
Our first stop was at Paul Hose’s MLC Academy in Nottingham, England. Paul runs a mid-sized music school with a few hundred students -studying drums, bass, guitar and more. Our stop in Nottingham lasted two days with an evening clinic on Friday, October 1st followed by a morning group lesson and an afternoon of private lessons on Saturday October 2nd. The clinic was held in a very cool, very retro looking, live music venue called the Central. While it was not a typical venue for a clinic, I enjoyed the vibe and the room and PA were the perfect size for the audience that attended. We had some challenges with equipment, as a sponsor pulled out at the last minute. So, we wound up playing on donated gear provided Andy and Dave from the Nottingham Drum Centre. (With a snare drum from Jim Farey!) While John has been busy doing clinics for many years, it was the first one I had done in quite a while. Playing in front of an audience is easy, but speaking is NOT! (at least for me) It was great to get the first one out of my system and we settled in for a long day of teaching on Saturday. We began the day with a group lesson to about a dozen students, ranging from complete beginners to working pros. We discussed some different ideas including John’s book Elements, technique, and general questions about some philosophies of drumming. Next, it was off to Paul’s school for an afternoon of private lessons. Each of the students who took a lesson attended the clinic the evening before. (except for Simon!) They all came in with questions so the lessons were a breeze, and a lot of fun. By the time the day was over we had each taught for about seven hours, which is about all my brain can handle! We rewarded ourselves with a trip to the oldest pub in the UK, and then headed over to Paul’s gig to watch him lay down some funk grooves to a packed club. It was great to see all of the guys who I’ve become friends with I look forward to returning to Nottingham in the near future.
The next stop was Marseilles, France to visit Rob Hirons at his Wizdom Drumshed school. It is a very inexpensive and easy flight directly to Marseilles from London via Easyjet, aside from some nasty London Tube strike that almost made me miss the flight! We arrived in just about enough time to set up the gear and take a quick shower before the clinic, which was held in the performance room at a music building in a suburb of Marseilles. The building is a group of individual rehearsal rooms and studios, with a common area with a stage and concession stand. It promotes a very healthy atmosphere to create in and we heard plenty of great music being rehearsed in the rooms. As this was both mine and John’s first clinic ever in France, we faced some challenges. The first was quite simply that we were both relatively unknown in that country. The second was a pretty serious language barrier in that neither of us speaks a lick of French. Rob was elected to be the interpreter for both the clinic and the master class the following day. I’ve never done a clinic that required an interpreter before and I won’t pretend that it was easy to make the adjustment. You have to adjust the pace of your speaking, and your jokes sometimes don’t make to translation quite as well as you might like! I was also surprised at how much shorter the clinic felt, as I was only able to speak about half as much as I would have liked due to the time it takes to translate. Something I’ll keep in mind for sure for the next one. We had an evening masterclass the following day, which allowed us a few hours to take in some of the sights, and we found ourselves in the seaside town of Cassis for the afternoon. The weather was amazing and the town has a very relaxing vibe about it. One of the cleanest places I’ve ever been, our stay was all too short and Rob picked us up to teach the group lesson. While both the clinic and group lesson had smaller turnouts than we had hoped for, the students that did come were highly enthusiastic and ready to pound us with questions. Again we needed Rob’s help, along with Thibault and Nico, to translate for two and a half hours. We covered a lot of ground, and this group had very precise questions including several about my gigs on Broadway. The students were some of the most welcoming people I’ve ever met and we were given so many bottles of French wine we lost count! Rob is doing a great job motivating the students, and promoting a cooperative and open minded attitude in them.
We returned to London (after waiting on FIVE LINES at Marseilles airport) to do the last clinic of this leg at Tech Music schools, formerly Drumtech. One of London’s biggest schools, they have about 250 drum students. Just about all of those students are pursuing music as a career. Darren Suckling organized the clinic and as we expected, the turnout was fantastic. The standing room only audience was intense, smart and ravenous with questions. As this is one of London’s top contemporary music schools, the gear was totally provided by them and we had first rate stuff. (While for some players, the school’s own endorsements may create an issue, for me it wasn’t a problem. For those of you considering outing your own tour together, pay attention to the gear you are allowed to play in certain venues. In these case sometimes having your own endorsement can be problematic. In others it can be a life saver. Pick your venues wisely). The clinic ran way overtime, and even after that we continued to answer questions until we were literally rushed into our ride back to the hotel. This school has some of the most intelligent students I’ve ever encountered, and Darren made it unbelievably easy from setting the date to providing equipment to ultimately…getting paid.
The day after the Tech date, John continued to Italy for a few weeks with Bruno Farinelli and I returned to four gigs in two days back home in New York. We had done five dates of clinics and teaching, spread over the course of eight days. The three days without clinics were set aside for travel. If you are an independent teacher who does not have a big company budget (those are getting smaller, and harder to get too) but want to get involved doing clinics, there are a few things I’d like to share. The first is that you CAN do it. Our trip came as a result of getting together with Paul Hose and some friends during their trip to New York. After that it was a matter of seeing who else we knew, making some cold calls (Yes you HAVE to do that and NOBODY likes it) and seeing what presented itself. I would recommend including teaching at as many stops as you can. We made way more money from teaching than doing the clinics, especially as the company support is very difficult to come by unless you are playing for a retail outlet. Our gigs were all at schools, where clinicians receive less financial support from the companies. I used some frequent flyer miles to help with the cost of getting to London, and John cashed in some hotel points. If you are creative and flexible, and willing to just put yourself out there, you would be surprised at the opportunities that await you. We will be discussing some more specific details in the TIP community at community.hudsonmusic.com. I look forward to sharing more with you there.