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PAS Profile : Rick Mattingly

Jun 1, 2017, 00:00 AM by Rhythm Scene Staff
Rick Mattingly
Rick Mattingly has been the PAS Publications Editor since 1995 and served on the PAS Board of Directors from 1990–1997. He is also an editor, author, and percussion ensemble arranger for Hal Leonard. Rick is the author of All About Drums and Creative Timekeeping, and co-author (with Rod Morgenstein) of The Drumset Musician. In addition, he teaches music and journalism at Saint Xavier High School in Louisville, Kentucky. Rick has edited books by Joe Morello (Master Studies), Gary Chester (The New Breed), Peter Erskine (No Beethoven), Nancy Zeltsman (Four-Mallet Marimba Playing), and many others. He served as Senior Editor at Modern Drummer magazine from 1981–89, and, in addition to Modern Drummer, his articles have appeared in Down Beat, Jazziz, and Musician magazines, the New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, and The Cambridge Companion to Percussion. He was a percussionist with the Louisville Orchestra from 1972–76, and has played percussion and drumset in a variety of settings.


Rhythm!Scene: How did you get started in percussion?
Rick Mattingly: My first instrument was actually guitar, but they didn’t use guitars in the high school band, and I wanted to be involved with music, so I joined as a drummer. I was basically self-taught on guitar, but thanks to my band director and the older, more experienced drummers in the band, I became a much better educated percussionist.

R!S: Who were key or memorable teachers in your musical education?
Rick: Certainly my high school band director, Brother Edward Joseph, and then Ted Otten and James Rago in college. I also learned a lot from local professional drummers who I could watch and listen to up-close. Years later, while editing Master Studies and The New Breed, Joe Morello and Gary Chester both insisted that I learn to play at least some of the exercises in their books, so I got some amazing lessons from them as well.

Carl Palmer, Rick Mattingly and Joe Morello
Carl Palmer, Rick Mattingly and Joe Morello at a Modern Drummer Festival Weekend in the late 1980s.

R!S: What was one of your most memorable performances as a student percussionist?
Rick: While in college, I was hired two years in a row to play percussion when a show called Disney on Parade came to town for a week. There were a couple of other college musicians in the orchestra, but everyone else was a seasoned pro. I really felt I had hit the big time!

R!S: What is your favorite percussion instrument and why?
Rick: My biggest joy in being a percussionist has been the variety—not only of the instruments, but of the different types of music I can play. I still remember a great weekend when I played with the symphony on Friday night, played vibes with a wedding band on Saturday afternoon, and played drumset with a rock band Saturday night. In recent years I have played a lot of djembe and started an African drumming group at my high school.

R!S: Who was your percussion idol growing up?
Rick: Given my varied interests, I didn’t have just one. For jazz drumset it was Elvin Jones, and for rock it was Hal Blaine—although at the time I didn’t know who he was, but he was the studio drummer I was hearing on so many of the records I liked. As I got into vibes I listened to Gary Burton a lot, and my favorite classical percussionists were the guys in the Boston Symphony, including Vic Firth on timpani, who I could see and hear on the PBS shows Evening at Symphony and Evening at Pops.

Rick Mattingly and Peter Erskine
Rick Mattingly and Peter Erskine at PASIC 2014

R!S: What was your introduction to PAS?
Rick: When I was a freshman in college, a senior percussionist, Don Knaack, told me that if I was serious about percussion, I should join PAS. So I did. Thanks, Don!

R!S: What’s the first section you read in a new issue of Percussive Notes or Rhythm!Scene?
Rick: Being the editor, I start with the first article that is submitted for an issue. I end up reading every article in every issue at least three times, and even after doing this for over 20 years, I still look forward to reading everything we publish. I’ve learned a lot and have been able to apply things from articles dealing with instruments I don’t even play, like tabla.

R!S: What is one thing you wish all student percussionists knew about PAS?
Rick: Music is a competitive business, and the ones who succeed are the ones who are the best educated. Membership in PAS gives you access to an amazing amount of information that can prepare you for the professional world, and that can simply help you have more fun playing your chosen instrument. In addition, PASIC provides a wealth of educational sessions, as well as opportunities to connect with the top players and teachers in the percussion community.

R!S: What is your most prized percussion-related souvenir?
Rick: I have a Ludwig Supraphonic snare drum that Joe Morello used with the Dave Brubeck Quartet.

R!S: If you could give your 18-year-old self one piece of musical advice, what would it be?
Rick: Don’t let anyone talk you out of your dream. I did, briefly. I spent my first year in college majoring in business, because so many well-meaning people told me that making a living in music was very difficult, if not impossible—especially for one who hadn’t started playing until age 14. But I joined the college marching/concert band, which was filled with music majors, and I found that I fit right in. So I transferred to music school. Yes, music is a difficult profession, especially if you have narrow goals. You have to be open to whatever opportunities arise, which is how I became an editor at a drum magazine and a teacher, along with being a player. It has all added up to an interesting life. 

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