Teacher Spotlight:Rob Hirons
How many students do you teach, and what is their range of ability levels?
At the moment we have a roster of over 70 students at the shed of all levels ranging from the youngest enthusiast of 9 years old, beginners of all ages and walks of life, intermediate players burning with the passion to develop into accomplished musicians and advanced players who seek to solve current challenges in their playing. It is fascinating to see students from so many different backgrounds united by the same passion.
What are your favorite teaching materials?
I use It’s Your Move by Dom Famularo which is an excellent book on drumming mechanics, and I support this with Stick Control (GL Stone), Master Studies (J Morello) and many others for technique development. I also enjoy using Groove Essentials (T Igoe) or Messin’ Wid Da Bull (J Salem) to develop musicality. For beginners I will often use Eighth Note Rock and Beyond (D Famularo / G Ceglia) and I’ve just started using Drumset for Beginners (P Hose / J Farey) which is an excellent book for getting new players into using their own creativity immediately. These are just a few examples, there are so many to choose from.
How are you incorporating new media (DVDs, Mp3s, Internet, etc) into your teaching?
With beginners I will try to get them playing along to a song as soon as possible and film them so they can take home a DVD or USB key and feel good about what they’ve done. Filming and recording students is so important to their development so they can really see for themselves where progress is to be made. With more advanced players we can focus in on the feet or the hands and get a close up on the main flat screen in the studio.
It is also great to be able to demonstrate certain techniques using online videos or DVDs that are stocked in the studio. Jojo Mayer’s Secret Weapons for the Modern Drummer is excellent for supporting motion studies and recently I’ve been using exercises from Benny Greb’s Language of Drumming to develop musicality with my students. The Groove Essentials DVD is also fantastic as a support to the play along book by helping students to understand the different feels. With all that is available it is really possible to get the whole educational concept covered from all angles. So many teaching books today come with MP3 and video demonstrations and I have these loaded and ready on iTunes on my laptop linked to the sound system for instant access during lessons. After each lesson I send the student an electronic update by email with comments on their progress, books or DVDs to study and a web link to sites for them to check out for the next session. Not only is this a wonderfully effective way of teaching, but it also reflects to the student that we live in a world of ground breaking technology and that music is very much involved in this technological advancement.
Even though I am very serious about teaching, my studio is of the highest quality and I care deeply about each students progress, passers by could be occasionally forgiven for imagining otherwise. I tend to have a reputation for having a certain eccentric sense of humor which comes out in lessons.
One of my favorite teaching experiences has been witnessing the development of one of my students who has Down’s syndrome. Although I enjoy developing the technical aspects of drumming with my students, with this particular student we really don’t touch on these subjects. My job is more to develop his creativity and musicality. One of my goals with all students is to nurture their own individual voice, something that is a challenge for many due to peer pressure and the younger player’s fear of error which can prevent them from letting themselves go. I have found that this particular student has no preconception about what others expect of his playing and therefore he is open to total creativity. Myself and others have thoroughly enjoyed performances that have featured all manner of creative input to find new sounds at the drum set, using sticks, brushes, hands, the scratching of drumheads, whistling, even the shaking of cymbal stands! Although his approach is of unusual and unconventional dimensions that would not necessarily be found in a teaching program of any sort, he is an inspiration to us all in his uncompromising willingness to share his own personal voice.
What are your general thoughts on drumming, teaching, music….?
Although it can be seen as a cliché, I truly believe that we are all teachers and are all students. What makes the difference is our openness to accept that fact. A student is someone who has chosen to be willing to absorb the knowledge that others have to offer and make it their own. A drummer who has chosen to accept the role of drum teacher is someone who has chosen to maximize their capacity and willingness to share their knowledge with others in an educational manner. All musicians of any level have something to share whether it is shared in an educational setting or in a performance setting. Simply by playing music we are sharing something with others, therefore, in a sense we are teaching and the listener is learning whether or not they are conscious of it.