RS transparentthe official blog of the Percussive Arts Society

  • In Memoriam: Jim Sewrey

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Jan 22, 2024

    by Lauren Vogel Weiss

    J SewreyJames A. “Jim” Sewrey, a founding member of the Percussive Arts Society, passed away in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin on January 20, 2024, less than three weeks before what would have been his 97th birthday. A longtime percussionist and educator, Sewrey was involved in all aspects of the percussive arts.

    Born on February 9, 1927, Jim Sewrey devoted his life to music education for more than six decades. He was an instrumental music educator, teaching general music to 3rd and 4th graders, band and orchestra to middle schoolers, as well as directing high school bands. He was also a former college professor, teaching instrumental music education, applied percussion, and percussion ensemble. According to his bio on the Yamaha website, Sewrey served his profession as a “teacher, lecturer, conductor, director, writer, professor, manager, representative, advisor, consultant, clinician, advocate, performer, adjudicator, conceptual creator, mentor, visionary, arranger, and guest percussion educator at various summer music camp venues.” Throughout his career, he served as a clinician and/or conductor at various music camps, state music educators association conventions, and national and international band and percussion conferences.

    Sewrey earned his Bachelor of Music degree from Butler University (Indianapolis, Indiana) in 1951 and his Master’s of Music Education from the University of Colorado (Boulder) in 1959. He was a charter member of the American School Band Directors Association, which was founded in 1953, and was invited to be the editor of the “Percussion Clinic” column for their School Musician magazine. In 1959, he co-founded the Percussion Workshop of America, which hosted guest clinicians such as Frank Arsenault, George Gaber, Haskell Harr, Joe Morello, and Dick Schory.

    But members of PAS should remember Jim for a most important contribution to our organization. In his 90th birthday tribute on the PAS website in 2017, Sewrey recalled several meetings in which he participated. “In the late 1950s, there had been a lot of discussions at Midwest and various MENC state conventions—any place percussionists and band directors were gathering. Remo Belli was always asking, ‘Isn’t there a possibility we could have an organization through which we could discuss everything involved in our craft: how to teach it, how to play, and so on?’ 

    "Remo found out that I was giving a lecture in January 1961 at the Southwest Regional meeting of the Music Educators National Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico and said, 'Jimmie, I am calling a meeting for us to discuss a name for our percussion educator group, and I want you to come up with a suggestion.’ ”

    Sewrey continued, “So, on January 21, 1961, Fred Hoey, Frank Arsenault, George Frock, Remo and myself, met at the Sundowner Hotel, and, when Remo called for suggested names, I put forth the name Percussive Arts Society. The guys liked it, and in May of 1961, the name was accepted and became official.”

    John H. Beck, Past President of PAS and Professor Emeritus of the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, recalled his friend’s involvement in PAS. “Jim Sewrey was there in the beginning, the middle and the end. His passion for percussion, and in particular the Percussive Arts Society, is something to be admired. He was always there with an idea to make PAS the innovator of new concepts for percussion and percussion education. He was respected by the percussion community and his ideas were always held in high regard.”

    In 1963, Sewrey was named Assistant Professor of Percussion at Wichita State University in Kansas. He also served as Principal Percussionist with the Wichita Symphony Orchestra.

    From 1967 until 1974, Jim Sewrey served as Product Manager for Ludwig Industries, where he served as the Associate Editor for the Ludwig Drummer publication, Educational Director of the Ludwig clinic program, and Director of the Ludwig Symposiums. “For me,” he wrote in an email in 2016, “these were great times to be involved with the music industry, and in instrumental music education with bands, orchestras, jazz and rock groups, as well as those behind the baton or performing.” He also worked for Hal Leonard Publishing for a time.

    “I met Jim Sewrey in 1972 at the Ludwig factory on Damen Avenue in Chicago,” remembered Ward Durrett, a veteran of the music industry and member of the WGI Hall of Fame. “Along with Al LeMert and Dick Schory, they were the marketing team that put the Ludwig company at the forefront of the drum industry. Jim helped create so many educational tools that percussion educators still use today. He contributed so much!”

    In 1975, Sewrey began teaching at Carroll College in Waukesha, Wisconsin, where he served as an Adjunct Music Professor in Percussion for 25 years. During this time, he also created his own private percussion teaching studio.

    Beginning in 1979, Sewrey performed for over three decades as a percussionist with the Waukesha Area Symphonic Band (WASB). He also served as an educational advisory member, as well as Chairman, of the Woody Herman-Sister Fabian Fund Jazz Scholarship Committee.

    In 1981, Sewrey, along with Ben Hans and Tom Schneller, compiled Modern School for Mallet-Keyboard Instruments. This book contained materials for the development of technique, performance skill, reading ability, and musicianship on marimba, xylophone, vibraphone, bells, and chimes, and addressed musical literacy, musicianship, performance, and technique as applied to two-mallet and four-mallet playing.

    Sewrey organized and established the Project Create Percussion Ensemble (PCPE) Program, the Community Drum Brigade, and the Spring City Area Percussion Ensemble (SCAPE), a pro/amateur adult endeavor. He was also instrumental in establishing a body of literature written and arranged around the symphonic percussion ensemble concept.

    Wisconsin native Steve Houghton, Past President of PAS and Professor Emeritus of Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, wrote, “Jim was a good friend and a dedicated educator who helped countless young percussionists. He actually judged the Wisconsin solo and ensemble contests – and my mom saved all my cards! His Project Create was a wonderful percussion activity that served the entire state. And his passion for PAS was never ending.”

    In 2003, Jim Sewrey received the “Outstanding PAS Supporter Award” at PASIC in Louisville, Kentucky. In 2006, he received the Milwaukee (Wisconsin) Civic Music Association Lifetime Achievement Award.

    Sewrey was called out of retirement in 2007 to serve as adjunct professor of percussion studies at Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee, where he continued to teach until 2014.

    He presented a concert bass drum session at the 2009 American School Band Director’s Association conference. A video of his presentation may be viewed at

    In 2011, Sewrey received the Wisconsin Music Educators Association's Michael George Distinguished Service Award for making a difference in students' lives.

    Throughout his life, he served as an advisor to the Wisconsin Chapter of PAS and maintained an active percussion studio, influencing generations of percussionists throughout the Midwest. Sewrey also participated in several Percussive Arts Society International Conventions, including an education committee panel discussion (“A Fly on the Wall in the Private Lesson”)  at PASIC 2005 in Columbus, Ohio, and playing rudimental snare drum at the Drummers Heritage Concert at PASIC 2016 in Indianapolis.

    PAS Hall of Fame member Michael Balter commented on Sewrey’s passing. “Jim's love for promoting percussion education not only to the next generation, but to educators themselves, is legendary. There is no question that PAS was part of his DNA and he helped mold the Society to become what it is today. Jim was overly proud of the fact that he was there from the very beginning.”

    Bob Breithaupt, Past President of PAS and Professor Emeritus at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, added, “Jim's trust and commitment to PAS never wavered as long as I knew him. He was a dedicated educator and proponent of everything we ever stood for. Jim lived a long and productive life… wishing the same for all of us!”

    In 2017, Sewrey wrote, “I am blessed with the opportunity to be active, mentally and physically, especially in the artistic field of percussion performance and education. I have had the opportunity to meet and know so many fine individuals, including performers, educators, conductors, directors, students, and their parents.”

    John H. Beck remembered his longtime percussion colleague: “Jim will be missed, but never forgotten.”

    LVW and SewreyAuthor’s Note: I had the honor and privilege of meeting Jim Sewrey early in my decades-long association with PAS. His experience, knowledge and guidance were extremely helpful to me as a chapter president, committee chair, and member of the Board of Advisors. Not to mention he was a delightful man, whose joy of all things percussion was infectious! Thank you, Jim, for giving my lifelong hobby the amazing name “Percussive Arts Society”….

  • In Memoriam: Chris Brooks

    by Hillary Henry | Oct 13, 2023

    Chris Brooks

    by Lauren Vogel Weiss

    Chris Brooks, Vice-President of percussion publishing company Row-Loff Productions, passed away unexpectedly in an accident at his beloved cabin in the Tennessee mountains on October 11, 2023 at the age of 66.

    Row-Loff Productions, founded in 1990 by Brooks and Chris Crockarell (RLP’s President), has hundreds of titles on prescribed music lists in ten states. Originally focusing on the marching percussion genre, Row-Loff expanded into concert percussion literature in 1993, as well as a wide selection of solos and instruction books. “We both had the desire to write and publish percussion literature that didn’t exist when we were kids,” Brooks stated in 2012. “Now I spend most of my time writing percussion ensembles.”

    Known for its clever parodies of pop culture in its marketing CDs, Row-Loff was one of the first in the percussion industry to use audio examples to promote its music. “We didn’t think that band directors would sit and listen to nine percussion ensembles,” Brooks explained in 2010, “so we integrated the comedy into our recordings. And it’s worked out pretty well!”

    A 1974 graduate of McGavock High School in Nashville, Brooks began playing drums professionally at age 16. “I have never played one chart on a country record,” he told Modern Drummer magazine in a January 2006 interview. “And I have made a great living as a musician in Nashville.”

    From his jingle work in recording studios – including ad campaigns for Dodge, Toyota, McDonalds, Taco Bell, Almond Joy, Clorox and even CNN – to his live performances with artists such as Toni Tennille, the Smothers Brothers and Lucie Arnaz, these musical experiences influenced and inspired Brooks as he began composing percussion ensembles.

    Brooks, along with partner Crockarell (who took lessons from Brooks when they were both still teenagers), wrote about two-thirds of Row-Loff’s percussion catalog. He composed over six dozen original ensembles – including Millennium, performed at Carnegie Hall in March 2013 by the Monterey High School Percussion Ensemble from Lubbock, Texas – co-written several dozen more, and arranged over 30 pieces for percussion. From Christmas music to arrangements of traditional classical pieces, Brooks’ music is known for its wide audience appeal as well as educational value for the young performers playing it.

    “I’m always thinking, ‘Are the kids having fun?’,” Brooks said in the 2006 interview. “I want them to find the groove on anything I write. I want them to hear something melodically and harmonically that’s going to pique their interest.”

    Brooks and Crockarell also wrote and released The Snare Drummer’s Toolbox (The Absolute Method for Snare Drum) in 2010. They have also been featured in the May/June issue of Drum Business magazine and were the cover story in the November 2019 edition of SBO (School Band & Orchestra).



    Chris Crockarell and Chris Brooks at PASIC 2015. (photo by Lauren Vogel Weiss)

    From wearing a grass skirt or Cupid wings in the exhibit booth, to a more “traditional” Hawaiian shirt in the office, “Brooksie” was one-half of the eye-catching duo promoting their percussion repertoire at numerous music educator conventions across the country, as well as at PASIC for over three decades. “We were considered pretty outrageous by music educator standards,” Brooks told MD. Their costumes became a tradition, as well as a pleasant diversion from the typical attire found at most of the exhibit booths.

    “He was my business partner for 33 years, and friend for 50 years,” states Crockarell. “I’m at a loss for words. In all that time, I remember few disagreements on anything. We would bend and meld with each others ideas. He was such an overall sweet, generous person… and one of the most musical people I’ve ever met. What can I say? Love ya, buddy. You are already extremely missed.”

    The Row-Loff catalog represents an impressive list of percussion composers, including Dan Moore, Julie Davila, Lalo Davila, Dennis DeLucia, Edward Freytag, David Steinquest, Bill Bachman, John R. Hearnes, Brian Mason, and John Wooton, to name a few.

    RowLoff and Lalo Davila

    (L-R) Lalo Davila, Chris Brooks, and Chris Crockarell. (photo courtesy of Lalo Davila)

    “Two of my dearest friends, Chris Brooks and Chris Crockarell, changed the face of percussion publishing worldwide,” Edward Freytag, author of two popular RLP solo snare drum books, wrote in 2014. “Prior to these guys and the writers they brought into the arena, percussion literature possessed huge gaps in the music available for high school, young college, middle school, and even elementary school percussionists. The vision of Row-Loff filled those gaps and created a brand new body of work that significantly brought percussion and non-percussion educators into the fold of published percussion works. It was my honor to bring The Rudimental Cookbook and Just Desserts to the table to document current rudimental events and to assist in launching a new generation of young and excited rudimentalists! These guys are the ones that made that possible. The percussion community should be incredibly grateful that Row-Loff Productions set forth a frenzy of new publications and served as the inspiration for the creation of other new percussion publishing entities that continually keep our art form thriving with ever new literature. Thank you, gentlemen...from all of us!”

    Dennis DeLucia, whose book Percussion Discussion was published by RLP in 1995 (complete with a cassette tape!), stated, “Chris Brooks was a talented, idea-filled person who, along with Chris Crockarell, started Row-Loff Productions as a way to create quality percussion literature at every level imaginable, and to make it available to schools’ percussion ensembles and drumlines. Brooks was an imaginative – some would say ‘wacky’! – person who loved his career. I was fortunate to be one of the early contributors to Row-Loff, an opportunity that I did not take lightly, and one that I cherish deeply to this day. I’ll miss you, my friend.”

    Julie Davila, President of the Percussive Arts Society, agreed about Row-Loff’s contribution. “Brooks and Crock were pioneers in developing a percussion publishing company that has served an innumerable amount of students and elevated percussion education worldwide. Their vision, starting Row-Loff Productions, was pivotal in shaping vast libraries of percussion publications that have developed into what we enjoy in today’s market.” Her Modern Multi-Tenor and Impressions on Wood books are integral parts of the RLP catalog.

    “Chris Brooks always greeted everyone with his big southern accent ‘hello’, along with a beautiful smile,” remembered Lalo Davila, Director of Percussion at Middle Tennessee State University. “He was a true friend to all. His compositions touched many great young performers. I will always remember his voice telling me, ‘Lalo, you gotta come to the mountain and hang out!’ I’m sure going to miss him.”

    Freytag added, “I now have a huge hole in my heart and soul where Chris Brooks used to live. I will miss him terribly until I see him again.”

    “Most importantly,” concluded Julie Davila, “Chris Brooks was a dear friend. Truly family. His humor and his genuinely caring attributes will be memories that I will cherish forever. His untimely passing will leave a significant hole in our lives, both in the percussion industry, in the Nashville community, and, personally, with my family.”

    Authors note: I have had the honor of being an “unofficial” part of the Row-Loff family for more than three decades. I always looked forward to the first day of a convention to see what “Chris and Chris” would be wearing in their exhibit booth and hearing “Brooksie” say, “Well, Miss Lauren, come give me a hug!” The PASIC exhibit hall will be a little emptier than usual this year….

  • In Memoriam: Dom Famularo

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Sep 28, 2023

    Drummer, educator, author, and motivational speaker Dom Famularo, known as “Drumming’s Global Ambassador,” died on Sept. 27, 2023.

    Born August 26, 1953, Dom studied from such legendary drummers as Joe Morello, Jim Chapin, Al Miller, Charlie Perry, Colin Bailey, Shelly Manne, Papa Jo Jones, and Ronnie Benedict. He was known for blending the techniques of the past with modern concepts, developing a creative and personal style of drumming that combined elements of jazz, funk, fusion, and Latin rhythms. He posted on his website that, “I have studied with the Masters, and what they passed on to me was an enthusiasm for self-expression. The fun in my life has been in challenging myself to be the best I can be. But rather than limit myself to just playing in a band, I want to share my talent to pass on the musical and philosophical values I’ve developed, so others can find and enjoy themselves the way I have.”

    The first Western drummer to perform clinics in China, Dom was a special guest performer at the first-ever Buddy Rich Tribute Concert, an event which he helped organize. He was a host and performer at the Pacific Rim Drum Invitational (the first drum event to be simulcast live on the Internet), and he participated in such drumming events as the LaRioja Drumming Festival, Koblenz International Drummer Meeting in Germany, the Florida Drum Expo, the Paris Music Show, the Ultimate Drummers Day in Australia, the Heartbeat World Rhythm spectacle for Canadian TV, and the Montreal Drumfest.

    Dom had performed with the Buddy Rich Big Band, B.B. King, Lionel Hampton, Chuck Leavell (Rolling Stones), T Lavitz (Dixie Dregs), and the Louie Bellson Big Band, and shared the stage with Dave Weckl, Steve Gadd, Vinnie Colaiuta, Simon Phillips, Billy Cobham, Bernard Purdie, Rod Morgenstein, Chester Thompon, Terry Bozzio, Will Calhoun, Deen Castronovo, Russ McKinnon, Chad Smith, Mark Schulman, Denny Carmassi, Liberty DeVitto, Jeff Porcaro, Larrie Londin, and Jim Chapin in worldwide drumming events.

    Dom was an active educator at colleges, drum schools and camps. He performed at the Percussive Arts Society Convention (PASIC), Percussion Institute of Technology (PIT) in Hollywood California, Drummers Collective in N.Y., KOSA Camp in Vermont, North Texas State University, the Graham Cole Percussion Camp in England, Drummers Camp in the Black Forest of Germany, and many others. He served as education consultant for Sabian Cymbals, Vater Drum Sticks, Mapex Drums, Remo Drumheads, SE Microphones, and Wizdom Media, for whom he oversaw programs worldwide.

    Upon news of Dom’s death, Peter Erskine posted, “The drumming world turned out in force in April to welcome Dom Famularo back to the scene and in promising health. The drumming world now mourns the loss of this incredible human being. Dom was the most positive person I've ever known. He inspired everyone to find the better part of themselves. Rest easy and in eternal peace, brother. My condolences to all who knew and loved him.”

    Billy Cobham posted, “This is very difficult to take, but in life there is Yin and Yang. I can't imagine that the social world of music in which we live will really understand what Dom Famularo meant to life. His passing has not diminished his worth, as time will show. His spirit will grow and he will be reflected in every student who rubbed elbows with him.”




Contact Us

Percussive Arts Society
127 E. Michigan Street Suite 600
Indianapolis, IN 46204
T: (317) 974-4488
F: (317) 974-4499