RS transparentthe official blog of the Percussive Arts Society

  • Five Question Friday: Justin Alexander (Virginia Commonwealth University)

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Jul 10, 2020

    Justin AlexanderJustin Alexander serves as Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Percussion Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. A dynamic and versatile percussionist, Justin has performed throughout the United States and the world, with recent performances in Australia, Sweden, Costa Rica, and The Dominican Republic. Justin holds a Doctor of Music Degree in Percussion Performance from the Florida State University. His primary teachers include Dr. John W. Parks IV, Dr. Blake Tyson, and Prof. Leon Anderson.

    Rhythm! Scene: If you weren't a university percussion professor, what career could you see yourself having pursued?

    Justin Alexander: I think I would be in architecture or design. I really love organizing spaces, and I could see myself being happy in that profession! Or, I'd be in comedy writing; my secret dream is to be a writer for SNL.

    R!S: What's one thing in your institution or city/town (other than your school of music or music department) that you are proud to tell people about?

    JA: Richmond is such a great city; it just made the New York Times list of places to visit in 2020! There is an amazing food and drink scene here, and it's rich in the arts. VCU is ranked the number one public art university in the U.S., and the city is very supportive of the arts. Numerous art galleries, a full-time symphony, the Richmond Ballet Company, Virginia Opera, and the Virginia Repertory Theater are all minutes from VCU in downtown Richmond.

    R!S: What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?

    JA: Most people don't know that I was a competitive gymnast when I was young. 

    R!S: What is your all-time favorite album and why?

    JA: My favorite album is probably Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness by Smashing Pumpkins. That album really changed my life, and a lot of my ideas about drum set playing, sound, and phrasing come from Jimmy Chamberlin's drumming on that album. 

    R!S: Where did you grow up and what’s one interesting thing about your childhood (musically or otherwise)?

    JA: I grew up outside of Little Rock, Arkansas in a small town called Cabot. I was fortunate that my nextdoor neighbor had a drum set in his garage. One day I wandered over to his house and started messing around on the drum set, and he showed me some simple beats. Thus began the musical journey I am still on today!

  • Product Showcase — July 2020

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Jul 09, 2020

    DW Time Keeper Snare

    Collector’s Series Timekeeper Snare Drum
    Drum Workshop, Inc. (DW) recently announced the official launch of the Collector’s Series “Timekeeper” Snare Drum. Aptly named, the drum is decorated with “Clock and Gear” wood inlays, with 351 individual pieces to be exact. Each piece of exotic and dyed laser-cut material is meticulously hand-inlayed into the 1/36-inch-thick top veneer of a Pure Purpleheart shell.

    Resident Woodologist and Drum Designer John Good created the Timekeeper motif as a fitting tribute to the artform. Good explained, “Some of my favorite drummers do just that. They keep time. And they do it in a way that is so admirable. These often-unsung players play for the song. It’s a cliché, but it’s so right on the money. The Timekeeper is in tribute to those players.”

    The 11-ply VLT Pure Purpleheart shell is expertly crafted at the DW California Custom Shop and outfitted with a host of professional features including custom True-Hoops with faux leather inlay, True-Tone Snare Wires, MAG Throw-Off System with 3P butt plate, True-Pitch 50 Tuning, DW Heads by Remo, and more. Finished in limited edition Antique Bronze, the 6.5 x 14-inch Santos Rosewood-clad snare is designed to be a playable piece of art.

    Good added, “Our goal is to not have this drum solely be a memento; it’s designed to be played. I think Purpleheart is an excellent choice for a workhorse snare, and we see more and more drummers discovering it and being blown away by what it can do.”

    The drum is supplied in a Deluxe DW carrying case. To find out more about DW, its artist and products, visit

    Gretsch Full Range FinishesGRETSCH DRUMS
    New Full Range Finishes
    Gretsch Drums has announced the addition of two new finishes to its line of Full Range drums. The new offerings join the value-price Catalina Series, as well as the more mid-priced Renown lineup.

    Gretsch Brand Manager Andrew Shreve comments, “We’re always searching for compelling new finishes, ones that are in keeping with the historic look of Gretsch. We’re very conscious of what Gretsch fans prefer, and we always aim to please.”

    Delivering superior versatility and pro-quality sound, Renown drums feature 7-ply Gretsch maple shells, 30-degree bearing edges and exclusive “Silver Sealer” interiors. Satin Antique Blue Burst extends the color palette to five lacquer and two Nitron finishes, with all seven coming in a choice of eight distinct shell pack configurations.

    Catalina Club Yellow Satin Flame finish follows the successful Blue Satin Flame option introduced in 2018. The vintage-inspired wrap is one of two, alongside four available satin lacquer finishes. Catalina Club has received world-wide acclaim as the go-to around-town kit due to its build quality, value, reliability warm, punchy tone courtesy of all-mahogany shells with soft, 30-degree bearing edges.

    For more information, visit the Gretsch drums website at

    Three New Cajons
    Latin Percussion introduced three new cajons: the 3D Cube String Cajon, inspired by the artwork of M.C.Escher, the Black Box Wire Cajon with a stunning natural-wood face plate, based on the award-winning Black Box, and the signature USA Woodshop Tony Succar Cajon.

    The artist M.C. Escher was the master of illusion, exploring the contrast between the depiction of three-dimensional volume on a two-dimensional surface. The exterior of the new, hand-crafted 3D Cube String Cajon, inspired by this artist, uses solid pieces of dark stained and natural Siam Oak with Indian Lilac wood to create an optical illusion that is both two and three dimensional at the same time. The slightly wider than normal cajon has a huge bottom end, its six angle-mounted strings provide high-end snap and crack, and the Mahogany sound board offers a deep, rich resonance for a multi-dimensional sound. It measures 18 ¼ inches high by 13 ¾ inches wide by 11 ¾ inches deep and is supplied with its own carry bag.

    The LP Black Box Wire Cajon is based on LP’s Black Box, winner of Drum! magazine’s Drummies! Award for best cajon. An entry-level cajon, it is constructed with an environmentally responsible eco-board with a birch/poplar soundboard for great sound at an affordable price. The sophisticated matte-black finish gives the cajon a polished appearance, and its rounded edges make it easy to play. Tonally, the drum provides a clear distinction of snare and bass tones that is perfect for any style of music. It measures 19 inches high by 11 inches wide by 10 inches deep.

    Percussionist, composer, arranger, bandleader, producer, and Latin Grammy award winner Tony Succar helped design the Peruvian style Woodshop Tony Succar Signature Cajon. Made in LP’s USA Woodshop, the crafted Chilean Pine body breathes with resonance, and the Red Meranti soundboard provides punchy, bright tones with a graphic finish. This drum perfectly embodies Tony’s ability to combine tradition with modern and youthful energy with authentic Peruvian tone. The signature cajon is finished with Tony’s immediately recognizable initials in bright red. It measures 18 ¾ inches high by 13 inches wide by 11 5/8 inches deep.

    To find out more, visit

    TDR RackTDR
    New LoProfile Drum Rack
    By combining its unique, patented, curved design and high-quality components with the popularity, set-up consistency, security, and ease of transport long associated with drum racks, the new LoProfile Drum Rack from TDR Manufacturing raises the bar for modern drummers and their drum hardware.

    The TDR rack provides all the advantages of conventional drum racks plus the additional benefits of more comfortable drum positioning and a highly-distinctive look. Due to its advanced features, the new rack decreases the need for heavy, bulky floor stands, while its exclusive arch eliminates 90-degree corners that have often required awkward and unnatural drum, cymbal, and accessory placement on racks in the past.

    The pro-quality TDR rack is made in the U.S.A. from heavy-gauge, 1.5-inch stainless steel, fits around bass drums up to 26 inches, and accepts standard clamps and arms. It is available factory-direct in a choice of natural, chrome, and black finishes.

    For more information, visit

  • In Memoriam: Joe Porcaro

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Jul 07, 2020

    Joe PorcaroDrummer and teacher Joe Porcaro died on July 7, 2020.

    Porcaro was born in New Britain, Connecticut. His father had originally been a trumpet player, but due to trouble with his teeth he switched to drums. When Joe was five years old, he found his dad’s drums and figured out how to play the cadences he had heard his father play. By the time Joe was eight, he would accompany his dad to Hartford, where his father played in an Italian symphonic band. Joe would play the cadences while the band marched.

    His first teacher gave him lessons in reading, time signatures, and note values. The Porcaro family moved to Hartford when Joe was 10, and he came in contact with Al Lepak. Porcaro said that Lepak was like a second father to him and allowed him to tag along to his rehearsals. Lepak taught at Hartt College and was timpanist in Hartt’s symphony orchestra. Lepak invited Joe to play percussion with them.

    When the Hartford Symphony formed in 1936, Porcaro was invited to be third percussionist. Joe was also playing in the house band at a local jazz club, where he played with such musicians as Mike Mainieri and Donald Byrd, and on weekends he worked at a Greek restaurant, playing in odd time signatures for belly dancers. He also did Broadway shows at the Goodspeed Opera House, and for a while he went on the road with the Tommy Dorsey band.

    Porcaro was playing at a jazz club when his longtime friend Emil Richards came by one night. Richards had been living in L.A. for ten years and enjoying a successful career as a percussionist. He invited Porcaro to visit L.A. and check out the scene. Soon after, in 1965, Porcaro went to Los Angeles and went on studio calls with Richards for a week. Later that year, the Porcaro family—his wife, Eileen; three boys, Jeff, Mike, and Steve; and daughter Joleen—left Hartford and moved to L.A.

    A couple of months after Joe arrived in L.A., he was recommended to play with Chet Baker for a week at Shelly’s Manne-Hole. Manne liked the way Joe played drums, and when he found out that Joe was also a percussionist, Manne recommended Porcaro to his contractor. Joe subsequently I got a call to record music for the TV show Daktari. Not long after, Joe got called to play on Mission Impossible with Lalo Schifrin. Word began to spread about Porcaro amongst other L.A. studio contractors. Porcaro’s was especially valuable because he could play drums and percussion. 

    During his career, Porcaro played on over 1,000 movies and TV sessions. Some of the films include North by NorthwestDancing With WolvesFinding NemoAce VenturaAnalyze ThisAustin PowersBeverly Hills Cop IIComing to AmericaCongoDante’s PeakDie HardEdward ScissorhandsEmpire of the Sun, The Outlaw Josey WalesThe Wild Bunch, and The Fugitive. He also recorded for such TV shows as I Dream of JeannieThe Smothers Brothers Comedy HourMurder She WroteColumboIronsidesLittle House on the PrairieHighway to Heaven, and C.H.I.P.S., to name just a few. 

    Porcaro recorded on albums with a variety of artists, including Frank Sinatra, Pink Floyd, Stan Getz, Bonnie Raitt, Madonna, Glen Campbell, Joe Cocker, Quincy Jones, Sarah Vaughan, Natalie Cole, the Rolling Stones, Willie Nelson, Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5, Sammy Davis Jr., Harry Connick Jr., Diana Ross, Barbra Streisand, Marvin Gaye, and Johnny Mathis. 

    Joe’s sons Jeff, Mike, and Steve have all had successful careers in music. A highlight was at the 1983 Grammy Awards, where Joe was playing in the Grammy orchestra, and his sons’ band, Toto, won six Grammy Awards.

    As a teacher, Porcaro was at the core of establishing two important drum institutions in Los Angeles. In 1980, guitarist Tommy Tedesco invited Joe to get involved with Musicians Institute. Porcaro enlisted Ralph Humphrey, and they began PIT—Percussion Institute of Technology—in Hollywood. Around 1996, Porcaro and Humphrey cut ties with PIT and helped to begin LAMA—Los Angeles Music Academy—in Pasadena. The school has since become Los Angeles College of Music, an accredited music college, where Humphrey is director of the drum school and Porcaro helped put together the sight-reading program and taught jazz drums.

    Read Joe Porcaro’s PAS Hall of Fame bio here.

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Percussive Arts Society
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