Varrin and Music

Music has been a part of my life from a very young age. It is not just something I enjoy doing, it’s a part of me. There would be no Varrin without music. I love listening to it and I love making it. I’ve spent a good portion of my life making music and have even had the pleasure of working with some of the top musicians in the world.

My music experience growing up got started with some coffee cans when I was very young (maybe 4 years old?). I would set up several empty coffee cans with lids on them and play them with drum sticks made from tinker toys while my dad played the piano. Apparently he noticed that I wasn’t just banging randomly but playing the music along with him. He began giving me piano lessons when I was 5 or 6. I didn’t stick with that for too long but it gave me a good foundation to build on with my later music training.

I always liked listening to drums and playing my coffee cans. Finally I would get my chance to play drums for real in the 4th grade. I began attending Manchester GATE in its first year of operation.  The music teacher, Rick Gratz, had a recruiting session. My parents allowed me to inquire about playing drums. Little did they know the noise I’d be making! Mr. Gratz got me into the band and percussion ensemble. That’s where I met my first percussion teacher Brenda Myers. She still teaches in Fresno (now at Buchannon). As time went on, I became interested in jazz and latin jazz drumming and have spent much of my musical energy on that ever since.

I had several opportunities in high school to expand my musical abilities. I toured Europe with an orchestra, played in a big band for two years that toured Japan and played in the Monterey Jazz Festival each year, spent 3 years in a recording studio every day learning engineering, song writing, arranging and producing, and mixed live sound at a large church each weekend for several years. With all that, I still found time to get C’s and D’s in my academic studies!

Here’s a brief list of people I’ve played with, played for, opened with, taken lessons from, or had some other close association with (most of these are jazz or latin jazz musicians).  This is by no means a complete list, and in no particular order:

  • Chick Corea’s Acoustic Band
  • Dizzy Gillespie
  • Branford Marsalis
  • Bill Berry
  • Paul Cantos
  • Bobby Shew
  • Poncho Sanchez
  • Dave Valentine
  • Don Menza
  • Jerry Steinholtz
  • Francisco Aquabella
  • Joe Lizama
  • Ndugu Chancellor
  • Gilbert Castellanos
  • Richie Cole
  • Jon Faddis
  • Maynard Ferguson.

I consider myself primarily a drummer and percussionist.  I do also play a little bit of piano and bass, though.  I now have a studio at home in which I record things I’ve written or arranged.  I normally play all the parts myself.

As for equipment, I play  Noble & Cooley drums.  They sound incredible!  I play mostly Sabian cymbals and have played Noble & Cooley Medium drum sticks for years (since before they came out).  They’re out of production now, but Carol Calato at Regal Tip informs me the Bob Gatzen model is a good replacement.

I do still find time to play regularly.  I commonly play percussion at Northwest Church on Sunday mornings.  I also play with a smooth jazz quintet called Point North when I’m in town.  Occasionally I sub playing drums around town at various churches and have done some other non-church work as well.  As far as future ambitions, I’d like someday to have a Fresno based latin jazz group that I can play percussion with.  Unfortunately I can’t devote full time to playing music because of my ‘day job’.  Maybe someday…

 

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