TIP Teacher Spotlight: Robert Ferrell
1. Where are you located, and where do you teach?
I teach out of my home studio in Mission Viejo, CA. When I first started teaching, I taught out of my home and did house calls. Then I taught for two years at a Mars Music store. When that store closed, I opened the Orange County Music Academy in Anaheim Hills, CA with a business partner. I quickly learned that owning a large studio wasn’t for me as it interfered with my teaching. After four years, I sold my shares to my business partner and went back to teaching out of my home and have never been happier!
2. How many students do you teach, and what is their range of ability levels?
I currently teach Monday through Thursday and have 52 students. My youngest is 6 years old. The bulk of my teaching roster is filled with beginners but I have several intermediate and advanced intermediate students. I just helped one prepare his audition materials for Musician’s Institute in Hollywood, CA. One of my other students is enjoying his sophomore year at Berklee in Boston!
3. What are your favorite teaching materials?
I love teaching the rudiments and having my students apply them to the set. My first good teacher (Roy Burns) was a huge proponent of One Surface Learning and applying rudiments and other sticking patterns to the set after getting comfortable with them on the pad or snare. I also enjoy Stick Control, Ted Reed’s Syncopation, Jim Chapin’s Advanced Techniques for the Modern Drummer and Gary Chester’s The New Breed. I love teaching songs to my students as I feel I can cover a lot of ground (reading, coordination, beats, fills, time, phrasing, vocabulary, etc…) all at one time.
4. How are you incorporating new media (DVDs, Mp3s, Internet, etc) into your teaching?
I use DVD’s to reinforce and elaborate different techniques. For example, Jojo’s video is the Holy Grail for hand stuff! I also like Weckl’s Back to Basics to showcase the toe slide bass drum technique. I use sites like Drummerworld.com to expose students to drummers they might not have otherwise heard of. I also use slow-down software for mp3s to help me transcribe tunes and burn practice CDs for my students. I use Finale 2009 for all my transcriptions and exercises. I currently have two online students (one in Oregon and one in Japan) who I teach in real-time via webcam. Technology is really amazing!
5. Do you have any funny anecdotes or stories from your teaching?
My favorite teaching story has to do with a developmentally disabled boy named Henry. I had been teaching him for almost a year and I prepared him to play “Island in the Sun” by Weezer at a big recital at Mars Music in Orange, CA. He nailed the song and was beaming from ear to ear. Two weeks later his mom came in to my teaching room when I had a break and asked to talk to me. She started crying. I thought something was really wrong. She then told me that Henry’s math grades had improved and she felt it was his drum lessons that did it! Needless to say I was thrilled. My years of teaching have brought me many fulfilling moments such as this.
6. What are your general thoughts on drumming, teaching, music….?
I am so grateful to be a full-time teacher/musician. I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do than teach drums. My students have taught me so much about life, learning and how to relate to people. I love hearing from former students and getting updates on how they’re progressing as drummers and as people. I love mentoring kids and boosting their self-esteem. I like knowing that I can make a positive impact on peoples’ lives through the gift of drumming.
Robert can be reached via his website at www.robertferrell.com