Here is how it went down----
I started playing trumpet in third grade because my older brother Dave was seriously into Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. That's all I heard in the house along with the classical piano my mom was always playing. I stayed with trumpet (and later on French Horn) until I was seventeen. When in junior high school in Verona, NJ, I met my excellent band director Harry Owens. His native instrument was drums and I started taking private lessons with him at age fourteen.
He encouraged me after he saw me banging around on some other student's drums. The turning point for me was being at the high school jazz band concert and not really being affected by the trumpet solo; but I went nuts after the drum solo! Now I HAD to have a drum kit-- one problem though, my pride and joy was going to have to go....my trumpet you think? No. MY GO KART!! Dad gave me an ultimatum, one or the other. I think that this was one of those proverbial "forks in the road!" Out went the cart and in came a $30 bottom-of-the-barrel drum set (with out-of-round shells and pot metal hardware) covered in contact paper. Within a year, I graduated to my first pro kit, a '72 Ludwig black oyster pearl 5 piece kit. I played that for two years until I bought my Gretsch kit, which I still own, and played that kit until I was lucky enough to form a relationship with TAMA drums. I have one of the first Starclassic prototypes they sent me to evaluate and I still use it for local gigs. They are great instruments.
In college, I studied briefly with Ed Soph (North Texas State) and then with Randy Jones (Maynard Ferguson, Dave Brubeck).
I credit Randy for instilling in me the concept that music comes first. All the technique in the world doesn't substitute for musicality. Your musicianship is a reflection of your life. Music is a powerful form of communication. If you spend all your time doing one thing and one thing only, you will have little to communicate to people. The broader your life experience, the broader your musical palette.
After my 2 years of college at University of Bridgeport under the direction of Neil Slater, I hit the wedding band circuit as well as toured with Matt "Guitar" Murphy. You can imagine my suburban white butt hanging with Matt, a black man from Memphis who grew up having to ride in the back of the bus, literally. It was a great experience in music and in life. After that came a couple years with Pure Prairie League - the most fun bunch of guys ever to hang with. We had a blast, doing double bills with bands including Marshal Tucker, Lynerd Skynerd, Alabama and Atlanta Rhythmsection.
Then I got a call from my friend Dave Weckl who just started working with Chick Corea. He informed me that he gave my name to Michel Camilo for an audition. (holy smokes!). I went on to perform and record with Michel for four years. This led to gigs with Steve Khan, Paquito D'Rivera and Eliane Elias and others. This brings us up to 1991 which is when I joined Spyro Gyra.
I still do as many other projects as possible, not only to make my monthly nut, but because I am always looking for an reason to learn something new. Sometimes I am not the best self motivator, but if someone hires me for a gig or session, I put in 110% to nail the project. I look forward to the challenge.