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Beat the Drum: New Lab First of Its Kind

by Joanna Jurich
Beat the Drum: New Lab First of Its Kind
Students in USC Thornton School's Popular Music Performance program will be required to take courses in drumset proficiency.

The USC Thornton School of Music has a new partnership with Roland, one of the world’s top manufacturers of electronic musical instruments and gear, to establish the Roland Drumlab, the first of its kind in the nation.

Although many music schools require their students to take courses in keyboard proficiency, the Roland Drumlab will make it possible for USC Thornton musicians to also be the first to require drumset proficiency as part of the school’s newly created Popular Music Performance program, which begins in the fall.

“In order for popular music students to understand and be proficient in rhythm, time awareness and groove, USC Thornton is applying the keyboard lab concept to the drumset,” associate dean and program director Christopher Sampson said.

USC Thornton faculty member Peter Erskine was instrumental in the creation of the drumlab.

“The purpose of the class is not only to instruct students how to play the drums, but also to provide a historical overview of the instrument, to explain its role in the development of popular music and to enable developing musicians and songwriters to understand the role of drumming from both sides of the kit,” Erskine said. “What better way for a songwriter to effectively communicate song requirements than by having had the firsthand experience of sitting behind the kit.”

The Roland Drumlab was made possible with the support of the Roland Corp., which assisted in acquiring 10 TD-9SX V-Drums sets and their teaching lab conferencing system.

According to Erskine, “This system enables simultaneous instruction as well as practice capabilities for an entire classroom of students. We are now able to offer our jazz drumming students a place where they can practice at most any time day or night.”

Sampson added, “The Roland V-Drums provides the traditional feel and sound of an acoustic experience, but in an electronic environment.”

USC Thornton’s jazz and popular music departments also received assistance from Vic Firth Inc., which supplied drumsticks and educational materials; the D’Addario Company (Real Feel practice pads); the Drum Workshop Company (state-of-the-art drum hardware and drumkits); and the Zildjian Company (cymbals).

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