BY PHIL HOOD
Drummer David Stanoch’s groundbreaking book Mastering The Tables Of Time is celebrating its 10th anniversary, and is now available from Hudson Music in a digital format for the first time. On top of that he’s got some new educational media and percussion product plans in the works, and he has recently launched the David Stanoch School of Drumming, and next year he’s kicking off a record release nationwide tour with singer Shaun Johnson, who he has been working with as drummer and musical director.
This is a turnaround for Stanoch, who, in 2017, found himself temporarily unemployed. At the time he was teaching percussion at McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul, Minnesota. Just as finals week started, he says, “One of our founders sent an email saying, essentially, ‘That’s all, folks,’ just like that.” The buildings stayed open but security, sanitation, and food service personnel were gone the next day.
Most shockingly, the owners abandoned the place immediately. “Our faculty and administrators stayed the course for another week to help the students finish their final exams, juries, and recitals and to receive final grades, degrees, and transcripts,” says Stanoch. “It was surreal. We were bringing in food and having area restaurants donate food to feed students who were on food plans and were just cut off cold. It was a sad end to an otherwise beautiful experience. I taught there half my lifetime and will always be proud of the work our that percussion department, especially, did, and I will always be grateful to my boss, [Steve Miller Band drummer] Gordy Knudtson, for hiring me. Going out like that was unfortunate. A lot of good students and employees alike got hurt and there are unanswered financial questions being litigated still.”
Drum!: Seeing McNally Smith end like that must have been a shock to your system. How long after that did you conceive the new online school?
David Stanoch: I taught at McNally Smith for 27 years. Back when I received recognition for 25 years of service there, I began pondering my next move. I was happy at the school but I also figured I’d love to keep teaching for another 25 years and doubted it would all be there—a prophetic thought, in hindsight. So I had been outlining my next steps already and pushed into high gear when the college closed.
How do you see the different value of onsite versus online education now?
I guess it depends on what a student is looking for. There’s a lot of information available online at the push of a button and some of it is good and really inspiring and some is not. I believe, from my own experience as a student, in the value of the guidance the right teacher can provide. My main focus is based around working one-on-one with the student, whether on-site or online. My approach to teaching boils down to what’s working for the student, or what needs work. Providing them that feedback with direction forward is what teaching is all about. I’m also more comfortable to be providing a service where fees are dealt with upfront and you pay as you go versus the environment of saddling a student with an enormous amount of debt.
Is there a particular Stanoch nugget of knowledge that your students are hoping to get?
My students, be they working players, enthusiasts, or beginners, are all looking to play and sound more professional. I have a broad range of experience as both a performer and an educator. If there’s anything unique about me, it could be that I’ve played with several of our world’s finest musicians and I’ve studied with more than a few of the world’s greatest drummers, so I have a lot of practical experience. Some students seek me out because they’re interested in the method of my book, Mastering the Tables of Time. Others have seen me gigging, or doing clinics at PASIC or NAMM, and something piques their interest. Having helped design and refine the successful curriculum aimed to produce professional drummers with a complete skill set for as long as I did at MSCM, I believe it’s fair to say I can teach a broad range of drumming disciplines quite effectively, so the “nugget” varies from student to student but the overall goal is the same.
What is the challenge of teaching and also going on the road, be it with Shaun Johnson or someone else?
Scheduling effectively is key, obviously, but that’s more manageable than one might think. I just have to stay on top of it and I have loads of motivation to do so. Also important is taking care of my health to feel nourished and rested. The challenge, in a nutshell, is finding the balance between taking care of business and finding peace of mind.
This is the 10th anniversary of your book Mastering the Tables of Time, which is sort of the Real Book of Time. How do you think about the book today? What has its impact been?
Well, your own publication, Drum!, now has a lesson column in each issue called “Subdivisions,” which you didn’t see anywhere before the book came out, so that’s a perfect example of the impact I believe it has had. If anything, my method has enlightened drummers to the true value of studying the disciplines of drumming––be it limb coordination, rudiments, accent phrasing, dynamic control, polyrhythms and modulations, beats in a variety of styles, or hand and foot techniques––through the framework of the table of time. Our ability as drummers to keep and play good feeling time is what everyone else depends on us for and, ultimately, that is how we’re judged by anyone playing with us. To practice any of the above disciplines without the point of reference the timetable provides is, I believe, a disservice to ourselves.
I’m grateful for the book. I spent 10 years working on it. I was inspired by the playing of Tony Williams, Vinnie Colaiuta, and Jeff “Tain” Watts, in particular. In their playing, you could hear very creative possibilities the application offered. I’d also studied great ideas demonstrating its value in the teachings of Joe Morello, Gary Chaffee, and Peter Magadini, among others. I looked for a definitive study on the subject but there wasn’t one, which surprised me, and so I wrote one. It was immediately so well received that I was a little bit stunned, but not surprised. During those 10 years of development I could feel, without question, how rapidly the studies were improving my own playing and, even more significantly, the people I was playing regularly with noticed it as well. That was all the proof of its value I needed!
Has anything in the world of music changed to affect that?
I believe it is more relevant than ever. Time awareness, as Peter Erskine rightly describes it—the development of our internal clock, listening skills, and command in execution—is the goal. Drummers today must lock with quantized sequencers, clicks, and loops, as well as drive the band organically without them––as they always have. Back in the day, Jo Jones spoke of the timetables as an essential study, offhandedly, as if everyone knew that. Today, some examples of what’s relevant and trending in popular music are the styles of Trap and NeoSoul. Trap is heavily based in beats that mix a heavy dose of sextuplet and eighth-note triplets with sixteenth-, thirty-second-, 64th-note subdivisions. NeoSoul, with the J Dilla influence, thrives on utilizing the combined 3-over-2 polyrhythm, weaving back and forth from one side to the other, and also “loosening” the quantization of the polyrhythm and all basic subdivisions to bring more grease into the beat. Mastering the Tables of Time, and its supplemental materials, lays out clearly the foundations for these approaches and also explores possibilities effectively applicable to those styles as well as any others.
Yamaha recently gave you a Legacy Education Award. How did that come about?
No. That caught me totally off guard and was a lovely gesture by a group of very dedicated people at Yamaha I consider to be family. They are a company with a great dedication to empowering musical education, so it was an emotional moment for me and very humbling. I’m just a fella who loves music and the feeling I get making it. I love to explore through rhythm and sound. My primary teacher growing up, the late, great Elliot Fine, had three mantras he repeated over and over. “Make it work for you,” and, “You’re only limited by your own imagination,” were two that, as a player, I’ve found to be excellent advice. The third was, “You have to imitate before you innovate.” Learn the fundamentals then think outside the box.
What are some things that would make the next phase of your life successful, as an artist and teacher? How will we know it’s successful for you?
I’m raising two sons and love watching them grow into young men. My wife and I are very happy together working hard on the dreams we share for the future, all of which inspires me career-wise. Success to me is to be able to provide for my family doing what I love, and I’ve got a lot to look forward to.
Tell me something about yourself that almost no one in the business of music knows.
I dream of having a secret life outside of music living between Switzerland and the Bahamas, where I can ski, swim and read in tranquility and peace!
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