"Awesome...simply awesome", exclaimed aspiring guitarist John Farley (15) from Noblesville, Indiana. Farley visited Guitar Center Indianapolis with his mother and younger brother to look at electric and bass guitars but decided to also sit in on a Guitar Center Workshop that featured a live performance, question & answer, and meet & greet with Kenny Aronoff; not knowing anything about Aronoff. After the event, Farley could be heard saying excitedly on his way out of the store, "I wanna be a drummer now"! And that was just some of the impact legendary Kenny Aronoff, one of the world's most influential and in-demand drummers, made on workshop attendees. Aronoff was at Guitar Center Indianapolis on Tuesday, August 20th as part of his Yamaha DTX Electronic Drum Clinic tour which completed regional stops in Indianapolis, IN on 8/20, Chicago, IL on 8/21, New Berlin, WI on 8/22, Madison, WI on 8/23, with a return date to Chicago, IL on 8/24.
Appearing on over 30 GRAMMY nominated recordings, Aronoff's style of playing has combined power and finesse and he's best known as John Mellencamp's drummer. Aronoff has generally been acknowledged as having provided what has become the most famous and sought after drum sound...his quintessential 80's drum sound. Aronoff's break came when he appeared on Mellencamp's "Nothin' Matters and What If It Did" (1980) hit album and then followed-up with "American Fool" (1982); "Uh-Huh" (1983); "Scarecrow" (1985); "Lonesome Jubilee" (1987); "Big Daddy" (1989); "Whenever We Wanted" (1991); "Human Wheels" (1993); "Dance Naked" (1994); "Mr. Happy Go Lucky" (1996); "The Best That I Could Do 1978-1988" (1997); "Words & Music: John Mellencamp's Greatest Hits" (2004); "Chronicles" (2005); and "On The Rural Route 7609" (2010). He has also recorded and/or performed with many of the world's most renowned artists including, Bob Dylan, Jon Bon Jovi, Elton John, Bob Seger, John Fogerty, The Smashing Pumpkins, Rod Stewart, Melissa Etheridge, Alanis Morissette, The Rolling Stones, Chickenfoot, Waylon Jennings, Puddle of Mudd, Avril Lavigne, B. B. King, Mick Jagger, Ray Charles, Bonnie Raitt, Ricky Martin, Santana, Michelle Branch, Trey Anastasio, Vince Gill, Gladys Knight, George Jones, The Buddy Rich Big Band, Tony Iommi, Meat Loaf, Belinda Carlisle, Indigo Girls, Lisa Germano, Joe Cocker, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Alice Cooper, Travis Tritt, and Willie Nelson to name a few.
Born and raised in Massachusetts, Aronoff studied at the University of Massachusetts but moved to Indiana where he was awarded a 'Performers Certificate' upon graduating from Indiana University in 1976. He returned to the northeast briefly but relocated back to Indiana. The Guitar Center Indianapolis tour stop looked like a homecoming of sorts...many in the audience were friends from his early days in Bloomington, IN.
Aronoff arrived at Guitar Center Indianapolis around 6:55pm, met with photographers and posed for pictures in the percussion room. The evening began at 7:14pm with an introduction of the Yamaha DTX Electronic Drum system by Tom Griffin, Yamaha Corporation of America's resident drum specialist. Griffin then introduced Bob Terry, a consultant and clinician for Yamaha's DTX Electronic Drum division, who was also an accomplished drummer. Terry took a moment to relay a very interesting personal story. He explained that he grew up in Indianapolis during the 1970's and was acknowledged as the best drummer in the area. When he heard a really good drummer had recently arrived from the East coast, he just had to check him out. The new drummer was Kenny Aronoff. When Terry witnessed Aronoff's playing he said he [Aronoff] "REALLY WAS good". So, as Terry stated with a chuckle, he decided to immediately move to Los Angeles. Terry became an in-demand session drummer in Los Angeles and in 1985 began working with the British pop band, Wang Chung. Terry then gave up the mic and proceeded to showcase his drum skills on the Wang Chung hit, "Dance Hall Days". Then, Aronoff took a seat behind his Yamaha DTX Series 900 Electronic drum kit at 7:25pm. He lectured, performed to tracks by the Drills, Chickenfoot, Bombastic Meatbats, Tony Iommi, and others, then took a few questions before breaking at 9:45pm for an artist meet and greet.
Memorable Kenny Aronoff quotes from his Guitar Center Indianapolis Yamaha DTX Electronic Drum Workshop:
- "Drummers in this day and age need to be technology aware, but I would never stop using my TAMA acoustic drum kit. I have been supplementing my acoustic kit, since 1986, with John Mellencamp, with the triggers and sounds from our records, because I had this drum sound that I became well known for off the Scarecrow album. Electronic drums allow me to trigger my sound live."
- "When I am out with John Fogerty, John is very particular. He likes to use the specific hand claps from the song "Centerfield". To get those hand claps, I trigger the sample electronically."
- "There currently exists a greater supply of drummers than demand of drumming opportunities."
- "less is more."
- "Functional Practicing: practice things that will make you sound great toda,y because you are being judged by how you play today. Try to accomplish as much as you can all at once."
- "Four basics of being a great drummer: pick the right beat for the song; the first two beats you play define tempo; groove is the combination of everything you are doing on a kit and placing it within the band; creative ideas enhance the basic beat you are playing."
- "You need to read and chart; have the ability to sight read and write musical charts"
- "practice, practice, practice."
- "Play the perfect beat to fit the song."
- "Musical choice: influencing other musicians by defining how they play to what you are playing."
- "the musical genius of my sound is the relationship between my hi-hat, my kick drum and my snare drum."
- "I was born to play the drums. So awesome to come back to Indiana. I could do this forever!"
Aronoff's presentation was powerful, effective and refreshing as he shared his amazing insights; you could actually feel the full weight and force of his words. He commanded full attention, not based solely on his legendary, historical achievements, but by his demeanor and his sense of being a friend and mentor to all. It was immediately apparent that Aronoff, first and foremost, had a genuine love and incredible passion for his craft. He has always wanted to raise the bar that he himself had already set so very high. He has a serious work ethic and his commitment to his craft is contagious. This speaks volumes of Aronoff as an educator, lecturer and mentor; he is a consummate professional and he is so inspirational! Les Van Buskirk, originally from Muncie, Indiana, but currently living in Indianapolis, seemingly out-of-breath from Aronoff's presentation stated, "just like a motivational speaker, I really enjoyed Kenny [Aronoff]! I was ready to get up and go mountain biking or something! It was high energy, very informative, and I'm not a drummer! Kenny [Aronoff] makes it one thing...go after it and you can do it!"
Aronoff was an associate professor at Indiana University. And, the Aronoff Percussion Scholarship was established in 1996 by one of his former students, Mike St. John. It has been awarded annually to a percussion student enrolled at IU School of Music. Since 2005, eight students have received the scholarship (no award was given in 2006). Aronoff regularly performs at drum clinics, accepts a limited number of students for private lessons, teaches master classes, and has even produced several instructional videos, including "Power Workout One", "Power Workout Two", and "Laying it Down: the Basics of Rock Drumming". He is available to record drums and/or percussion in the studio, or on tracks sent to him on a hard drive, on DVDs or via the internet. He is based out of his Los Angeles recording studio, 'Uncommon Studios LA'.
Josh Stuban, store manager at Guitar Center Indianapolis, pointed out that "Kenny Aronoff's Drum Workshop presented by Yamaha DTX Electronic Drums brought in a full house! We had standing room only with over 150 in attendance! Truly was a terrific event!" Stuban and his staff have provided a unique atmosphere at his Guitar Center Indianapolis location that supports creative expression and is a home away from home for talented individuals to explore the depths of learning their craft. He and his staff could have shuffled attendees out the door at 9:00pm, the official closing time. But, Stuban understood the importance of having an individual of Kenny Aronoff's stature and the inspiration he provided. Stuban actually allowed his store to remain open shortly past 11:00pm...everyone truly felt welcome!
Don't miss these upcoming Guitar Center Indianapolis events: Sonny Emory, featuring a live performance, Q&A, and Meet & Greet, Friday, September 20th, 2013 at 7:00pm at Guitar Center Indianapolis, 8475 Castleton Corner Drive, Indianapolis, IN 46250, 317-578-9570, and Gov't Mule featuring a live performance and autograph signing, Monday, September 30th, 2013 at 6:00pm at Guitar Center Indianapolis, 8475 Castleton Corner Drive, Indianapolis, IN 46250, 317-578-9570.