When I was a kid, it would be an understatement to say there was a lot of music going on in my house! Music has been a central element throughout my entire life. You may have heard of my Dad, Dick Johnson, also a lifelong professional musician. He played alto saxophone and clarinet at the height of the big band swing era with some of jazz's greatest stars: Buddy Rich, Buddy Morrow, and many others. In the early 80's, my dad stepped up to the conductor's podium and led the Artie Shaw Orchestra for more than 25 years.

To make things even better, my dad generously shared his musical knowledge and experiences with me and encouraged me from a very young age. While my ears heard the sounds of many different instruments, amazingly, it was the sound of brushes on a snare drum that really caught my attention. I loved that sound! I found my instrument: the drum kit. Little did I know then, but my life's trajectory had been set!

Over time, I have been fortunate to live through and experience an era of incredible musical creativity. Not only was I exposed to the early sounds of 30's, 40's and 50's jazz, (Armstrong, Ellington, Basie and Sinatra) but I lived through and absorbed the music of Elvis, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and the explosion of rock music by 60's bands such as Led Zeppelin, Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

My goal as a teacher is to guide my students through the fundamentals of rhythm expanding from the rudiments of snare drum para-diddles to the three-way coordination required of the snare drum, kick drum and hi-hat. My greatest satisfaction is to witness my students eventually taking total control of the entire kit. Throughout the process, I share with my students how different techniques are applied to the broad range of musical styles mentioned above. 

 

My teaching curriculum would benefit any student from youngsters as early as 4* years old to adult players. 

 

Because I grew up playing drums in public elementary, middle and high school band, orchestra and marching band programs and have taught locally for years at Milton High School, the Music Machine and now MockingBird Music, I believe I can be especially helpful to those young people who really want to get a leg up for playing in school music programs.

For those who want to rock out on a more casual basis, I'll show you what it takes to sit at the heart of a rock band and keep the whole thing together with a solid, steady beat.


*One of the unique aspects of learning drums is that, like the piano, students can get started at a younger age than most other instruments.

Experience and Credentials

  • Gary has been playing drums professionally for 44 years

  • Attended Berklee College of Music Instrumental Performance Program

  • Studied privately with Bill Flanagan, Fred Budda of the Boston Pops and jazz legend Alan Dawson

  • Specializes in jazz drumming and is fluent in rock, country, folk and pop styles

  • For four years he toured across the United States playing with the Artie Shaw Orchestra under the direction of Dick Johnson

  • Gary has made many appearances and recordings with jazz greats:

    • Dizzy Gillespie

    • Rosemary Clooney

    • Buddy DeFranco

    • Connie Haines

    • Scott Hamilton

    • Dave McKenna

    • Ruby Braff

    • Keely Smith

    • Ken Peplowski

    • Phil Wilson's Big Band

    • Lou Colombo

    • Bombay Jim

    • The Chris Taylor Trio

    • Berklee Professor's band The Ray Santisi Trio

  • Gary has played in every state in the union! He has performed at:

    • New York's legendary jazz club the Blue Note

    • Blues Ally in Washington, DC

    • Disneyland California

    • Boston's Copley Marriott

    • The Cohasset Melody Tent

    • Hundreds of other venues nationwide