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Tommy Igoe Leads Drum Workshop, Jams With Local Youth

Famed drummer Tommy Igoe led a drum set workshop on October 9, 2012, for IUP students and high school students from Indiana, Leechburg, and United high schools. A jam session followed with Igoe and the IUP Jazz Ensemble.

Tommy Igoe in the workshop

As Igoe began his workshop on drumming technique for an eager audience, he stressed the importance of hands-on learning. Looking out into the rows of curious faces, he said, “I’m not going to be playing drums during this workshop . . . you are.” A wave of anxious excitement washed over the room. Igoe’s personality is full of an energy that demands serious effort from his students.

As the workshop moved forward, volunteers stepped up, each playing along with Igoe’s musical samples in ways that sound, at first, spot on. Once we heard Tommy’s advice, however, each performance was exponentially improved.

Tommy Igoe with a studentNear the end of the workshop, Igoe took questions where he spoke about his influences, experiences, and the irresistible drive to make great music. “You have to want it more than anything else,” he said to a student wondering about a future as a touring musician. “You have to go find a scene, you have to go live with five other musicians in a tiny apartment and eat Spaghetti-O’s for five years.” It became clear that Tommy’s truest classroom is the stage and no amount of study can compare to the lived experience of performing in a public space.

Following the workshop, Igoe sat down at his kit to jam with the IUP Jazz Ensemble. Playing a handful of pieces from their current program, the assembled musicians filled the room with smiles and nodding heads as Tommy provided both the backbone of the beat and the impromptu fill of transitional grooves streaming out into the halls of Cogswell. As the session went on, a crowd of students were drawn to the music, and the doorway filled with approving listeners.

Tommy Igoe with the IUP Jazz EnsembleThat evening, playing to a large house, Tommy Igoe and his Birdland Big Band demonstrated the afternoon’s lessons as they took to the stage in an incredible display of musical prowess. The show began with Igoe soloing with the IUP Jazz Ensemble for a couple of numbers and ended with their signature song, “Birdland,” and a standing ovation.

Signing autographs and chatting with fans after the show, Igoe’s passion and casual demeanor were evident, ensuring that the IUP community will long remember him and the music he showed us how to hear.

Tommy Igoe’s drumming workshop was brought to IUP by ArtsPath, the arts-in-education arm of the Lively Arts in the College of Fine Arts at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and in partnership with the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and a variety of dedicated sponsors and donors.

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