Drums & Piano
My name is Art Thompson. I teach drums, piano, and mallet percussion. I began studying music at age 10. Academically trained through my school band program, and having been born into a musical family, I was exposed to a variety of different kinds of music growing up. My father was a professional musician in the Pocono Mountains, which provided me some unique opportunities as an impressionable kid to perform with professional musicians in my father’s band from time to time. This allowed me to get some professional “real world” experience at a relatively young age, which I am forever indebted to my father for offering that experience to me.
After high school I had the honor of serving as a member of the U.S. Army Band. On one occasion during my tour of duty I was even given the privilege of performing for President George H. Bush. At the conclusion of my enlistment, I went on to pursue a bachelor’s degree in music from Mansfield University of Pennsylvania, where I studied both classical and jazz percussion. I later earned a masters degree in jazz studies from Georgia State University. I have studied under the guidance of Richard Talbot, Ted Rounds, Michael Galloway, Justin Varnes, Kevin Bales, and Gordon Vernick.
I have had an educational article published in Modern Drummer magazine’s “Rock and Jazz Clinic” column as well as having been featured in Modern Drummer’s “On The Move” column and also “New Blood” in DRUM! magazine. In addition, I have self-published my own method book, “The Beginner’s Handbook for Drum Set.”
I base my teaching style on the needs and interests of each individual student. While I feel there are certain foundational things every drummer needs to know, (rudiments, reading skills, technique, etc.) I try to find ways to apply those things in applicable ways to the material my students want to learn. I realize everyone is different, so if I can teach a valid musical concept via John Bonham or Zach Hanson then that’s how I’ll do it. My goal is to make sure my students learn something but also have fun and stay inspired.
When did you begin playing Drums, and why?
I began playing drums in the school band at age 10. I had always been interested in drumming as far back as I can remember, but what really sparked my interest was when my dad had a rehearsal at our house and I was able to sit up close and watch the drummer play. I knew right there and then that was what I wanted to do.
What other instruments do you play, and what is your experience with them?
Drum set is my main instrument but I play a variety of other percussion instruments including congas, concert and marching snare, timpani and marimba. I have done some top 40 and church gigs playing auxilliary percussion (congas, cajon, shaker, tambourine, etc…), played some solo marimba music for my previous church, and I have quite a bit of experience playing piano/keyboards in contemporary church services for the past 10 years. I also sing.
What are your personal goals as a musician?
Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked? Something you’ll remember forever?
I remember when I first learned how to play a double-stroke roll, when I was able to let my hands relax enough to let the sticks do the work for me. It was quite the epiphany! I also vividly remember the day I learned the six-stroke roll. It was at band camp one summer, and after I learned the rudiment as applied to my marching band music I couldn’t wait to get home and experiment with that lick on the drum set.
What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?
Don’t be a drummer. Be a musician who happens to play drums. Always play musically for whatever type of music you are playing. That advice came from my dad who is not a drummer but has worked with enough drummers to know what will help a drummer either keep a gig or get fired from one.
What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?
I think anytime I have decided to take on learning a new style of music I’m challenged. I grew up playing rock and country music as a kid, but when my band director got me interested in jazz I almost felt as if I was learning how to play the instrument all over again. It was a completely different mindset. The same can be said for any other style I’ve either learned to play or just dabbled with.
What is your biggest musical achievement?
For me my biggest achievement has been maintaining a career as a full-time musician. I love what I do and try to be the best I can be at it and I believe that has paid off in the form of musicians I have worked with recommending me for other gigs and students recommending me to other prospective students. I am also very proud of the method book, The Beginner’s Handbook for Drum Set, I wrote and self-published several years ago. That book was the result of many years of teaching drums and developing a curriculum that I felt worked well for my students.
Favorite thing about teaching?
Watching students grow and seeing the pride on their faces as they overcome each new challenge. I also enjoy seeing students accomplishing goals outside of lessons such as making first chair in school band, making All-State Band, or just feeling enough confidence to put their own band together with their friends.
What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?
Just have fun and enjoy the journey. Try not to get frustrated or put too much pressure on yourself. Life is too short for that. Have faith that, with practice, it will get easier. And when it is easy that’s when it becomes fun.
Personal music projects: i.e. bands, groups, shows, recording, etc.
I just finished recording drum tracks for a new album by my band, Mister Hyde, which has been fun. It’s sort of a jazz-fusion type of group. I also enjoy occasionally playing with an Elton John tribute act called Almost Elton John. That’s a lot of fun because the band is top-notch and I get to travel with them to different parts of the country.