Alex Wolff: This is Alex Wolff from Long Island Portfolio, and I’m speaking with Sandy Gennaro, who is a very long-time master drummer and master drummer instructor, and he has played with some really awesome bands. Also in this conversation, we have Joanne Polichetti, who’s an instructional designer, who’s joining us for the call and getting some information for an article she’s writing for Long Island Portfolio. Just to get the 800-pound gorilla out of the room, Sandy, could you tell us some of the people that you’ve played with?
SANDY GENNARO: Sure. My very first professional project was a band called Blackjack. We were signed to PolyGram Polydor Records, and the personnel in that band was Michael Bolton when he was still Michael Bolotin, Jimmy Haslip, who went on to win a few Grammys with the Yellowjackets, sort of an adult contemporary light jazz quartet, and then Bruce Kulick was the guitar player, who went on to play with Kiss for about 10 years when Kiss took their makeup off. We all remain great friends.
That led to my playing, rehearsing with Blackjack for a second album. Benny Mardones heard me from outside the room, and he tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Do you want play on my record?” And I said, “Well, I’m in a band already.” He said, “Well, you don’t have… I’m just going to hire you for the record. I love the way you sound.” So I went in the rehearsal room where he was with his producer, and I heard some songs. One of the songs I heard him play for me was on a piano, was Into the Night, and I ended up recording it with him, and it became a top 10 single.
That put me, basically, on the map of national musicianship, or whatever you want to call it.
From there, I was asked to join the Pat Travers Band in 1980. I did the Pat Travers Band, two albums with them, and multiple tours 1980 to 1983. While I was with Pat on the road, I met a guy, Dave, signed an autograph for him. Three years later he ended up being Cyndi Lauper’s manager when she was still unknown. I auditioned for Cyndi with Time After Time and got the gig. The whole story is pretty, cool. This is part of my speaker presentation, how I engaged with him three years earlier, I wasn’t interested in working with an unknown band, travelling in a Winnebago instead of a tour bus, but he really thought Cyndi was going to make it big and he wanted to thank me for my earlier kindness.
Shortly after touring with Cyndi, I was asked to do a record in Frankfurt Craaft, a German band. Subsequently after that record came out, they wanted me to do the tour. And in a similar situation, it was in an opening act. You know Cyndi Lauper explodes, we were were playing arenas several nights a week, the biggest thing on MTV, blah blah blah, and I’m asked to go to Germany. I got paid very little to do it, but as a favor to a friend of a friend, and I went ahead and did it. Because my theory is, it’s like, if somebody wants me to play, I’m flattered. If somebody wants my drumming on their record, or on their gig, or on their live date or whatever, I’m flattered. Man, they like me. All right, so anyway.
The highlight of my Craaft association was the tour, opening for Queen. So from Craaft, I did The Monkees tour. I was actually doing it, again, as a favor to a friend. I filled in for a drummer that bailed out on him, and about a year later he gets the Musical Director gig with The Monkees. Based on, “Hey, Sandy, you bailed me out that night. I want you to do The Monkees tour, they’re reuniting.” So I did not only that Monkees tour, but almost every reunion tour subsequently.
After The Monkees
I did Davy Jones solo gigs and Micky Dolenz’s solo gigs or whatever. And that’s basically how I got the gig at The Collective, from rehearsing for The Monkees tour. So this is one of the lessons I share in my speaker presentation, “How you treat people comes back to you and rewards you in multiple ways, financially, emotionally, artistically.” After the first reunion tour I did with The Monkees, Joan Jett contacted me. I filled in for her drummer and I ended up being with Joan Jett for about two years.
After Joan Jett, I ended up playing with Johnny Winter for about a year and a half doing live gigs in the early ’90s. In between various gigs, The Monkees were going out again on a summer tour, and we put out a DVD and I toured with them and various solo dates for Micky. I basically left The Monkees for good when Davy Jones passed away. But prior to that, prior to Davy Jones passing away, I was kind of juggling The Monkees with Bo Diddley. So I did Bo Diddley’s gig the last five years of his life before his passing away.
I continued teaching at The Collective,
my day job. I always had something to do. In 2010, Pat Travers asked me to come back in the band, which I did, from 2010 to 2015. In the middle of that, 2014, I moved to Nashville; new place, a new house, and I finally had my own studio.
ALEX: From your apartment on 57th Street to your huseand there’s a big difference in size and capacity going from 57th Street to Nashville.
SANDY GENNARO: No kidding. I went from 57th Street, a one-bedroom apartment with a kitchen that was behind one of those alligator curtains. Shari and I bought a house in Staten Island in 94 when we were expecting. Were you ever there in my house in Staten Island, Alex?
ALEX: We were doing scuba diving lessons about that time, and I was locked up in my day job so I never made it out to Staten Island.
SANDY GENNARO: Right okay. But we went from the apartment to our 2100 square foot house in Staten Island, to 4300 square feet in Nashville. And we only have three bedrooms, so the rooms are humongous, and you saw the house and studio when we did the publicity shoot.
ALEX: Very comfortable, and your studio is great for teaching.
SANDY GENNARO: Yeah, it’s very, very nice here and great backyard and… Yeah, it’s really nice. I welcome, you guys, you have your own… Right behind that white door, there is a guest bedroom with Alex show all my photos from the road and stuff. That’s another passion we share.
ALEX: Also, I saw all your key cards from all the hotels.
SANDY GENNARO: Alright, yeah! And I got my keys in a table and all my hard keys, the actual keys, are in this nice little display case. And then I have all the card keys, we filled up two potato chip tins worth of card keys and I have another tin that contains all my laminated passes. I collect those as well. Yeah, I’m a collector. I’m not a hoarder, but I collect stuff. I collect my photographs and my keys, I was cleaning out a drawer the other day and I found… It said, the envelope said global money. And I opened up and I went, “Oh, I forgot all about this collection.”
When I toured Europe and Far East, I used to… Before Euros, I used to get the lowest denomination of each currency in each city. So I have the German Mark, a 5 Mark. I have the Krona from Scandinavia, the Lira from Italy. And if I didn’t get a crisp one, I used to go to the front desk of the hotel and say, “Hey, can I exchange this 5 Mark bill for a crisp one? Do you have a crisp one”. So I would get the crispest newest Crazy, crazy. You talk about OCD, man. Jeez.
SANDY GENNARO: But anyway, So that’s… Yeah. And then I have another envelope where on that Queen tour, I saved all the little boarding passes that I had from flights that went from Milan to Copenhagen, just to spur the memory. And I didn’t even go in to the 30 years worth of journals, I have upstairs from 1968 up until 2000, something ridiculous like that. Every day I wrote in a journal, and there’s a forthcoming book where we’re in the process.
I’m writing a book with a ghostwriter.
ALEX: It’s about time.
SANDY GENNARO: Yeah, but it’s not going to be an autobiography. It’s not going to be your Sandy’s life or a big deal. I will speak about the things that I’ve learned, the lessons that I’ve learned, it’s going to be geared toward corporate, geared towards my Vistage audience, my CEOs, my managers, upper-level management, but it also the message, as you well know Alex, deals with the janitor too. It’s all about relationships. It’s all about how you treat other people, no matter what kind of political view you have, the color of your skin, your nationality, your sexual preference, your age, whatever, we’re all… I get kind of carried away with this message, but it’s true. It’s like the big picture. It’s like how you treat other people comes back to you, whether you like it or not.
ALEX: Interestingly enough, we met on the street in Manhattan, I think… I don’t remember if you saw my jacket, which had a scuba diving thing or if I saw your PADI book, but just from having that little bit of interest in somebody else, we’ve got this relationship now for about 30 years!
SANDY GENNARO: It goes back way earlier than that, because I remember I contacted you about training me, certifying me as a scuba diver because I was going… I was scuba diving at that point with Mars in Miami, uncertified, and he used to get the air and all of the tanks and all that. We used to go on in his boat. We would buddy dive on whatever. He was very, very OCD about safety, about not pulling anything out of the ocean, ecologically or whatever. But then I was going on my honeymoon, to Maui, to Hawaii and I wanted to be able to dive. So when I met you. You were so kind and giving me like a private certification. We went out to the pool at your place in Long Island. And that’s how it happened, that’s how we actually got connected in the certification process.
ALEX: Yeah. So let’s talk about teaching drumming. So I don’t know. Do you have any idea how many drummers you’ve taught over the years?
SANDY GENNARO: Oh man. No, I have no, I have no, no, no idea. I used to at my peak at The Collective, I was doing maybe about, I would say 20 students a week, that’s 20 hours a week, and so I used to go in like a five days a week, and teach four or five hours or whatever. And then at certain times of the year, there was the group classes. It wasn’t only private lessons at The Collective, they had several programs, two-year programs, all different genres of music.
So it was a very, very valuable experience for me because when you… My saying is, “If you want to learn how to do something really, really well, then teach it.” That’s why you’re such a great Scuba Diver Alex, because you teach it. And that’s why you’re a great photographer because once you teach something, you reinforce the principles in yourself.
So I became a lot better drummer
playing with the click all the time and reading and transcribing, I became a better reader. So what did that do for me? That gave me the confidence in accepting gigs that were charts, where prior, “Oh no, I’m not such a good reader.” And a lot of these gigs, they send you to charts, then you show up at sound check, then you’re on stage an hour later. There’s no rehearsing, there’s no hashing out. You read it like you’re reading a book. And so I felt more confident in getting gigs, taking gigs like that.
ALEX: You’ve been sponsored by a couple of companies over the years, whether it’s for a hi-hats and cymbals or drums, how about a shoutout to someone, to some of the companies that you’ve chosen to play, the drums, the hi-hats, and even who makes your sticks because your sticks are awesome.
SANDY GENNARO: Well, starting with the sticks, it’s a company called Hot Sticks in Waveland, Mississippi, and they… I’m kind of proud of that relationship. I’m one of those guys that endorse products that I really believe in, there’s a lot of people in the music business that endorse a product based on how many clinics they could provide the drummer, or iss it a paid endorsement, in other words, it’s more of a business relationship, or how much can you give me, and then I’ll endorse your product. With me, it’s the products I enjoy using, that’s what I endorse.
In my 55 years of playing drums,
I’ve only endorsed two drum companies, one was Ludwig, because Ringo was my hero, or still is. So Ludwig Drums, originally I had Ludwig drums and Paiste cymbals because that’s what John Bonham played, another hero of mine.
And that was a good for 20 years or so, and then there was a personal thing. I became very close friends with Bill Ludwig, and Ludwig the company got bought by a conglomerate, Selma, and Selma kinda did a rotten business thing with my good buddy Bill Ludwig. I kind of felt everything changed after it became a corporate entity as opposed to a family owned business, so I kinda got disenchanted with the whole artist relations.
So I left and I went to a NAMM show, and, “Oh you’re the drummer with Cyndi Lauper, come here I want to show you something”, and it was Don Lombardi of DW, Drum Workshop, and they had just made the prototype of a double pedal.
So anyway, I endorsed their pedals for a little while, and then when the Ludwig deal fell through, I went to a meet-and-greet at DW and they asked me, “How’s everything with Ludwig?” And I said, I’m not with Ludwig anymore. They immediately sign me to their drum set, and they’re known as the Cadillac of all drum sets, Drum Workshop, DW for short.
And then a similar thing happened with Paiste. When I was with Lauper, I had to play Simmons drums, which was electronic drums with the pads, and Cyndi wanted me to play a hybrid of my Ludwig’s at the time and Simmons electronic drums, so the rep for Simmons was a guy named John DeChristopher, and he went on later on to work for Zildjian cymbals, and every time I saw him at a NAMM show or a music industry event, he would go, “Hey, when are you coming over to play our cymbals?” and I’m, “Hey, I’m loyal to Paiste.”
SANDY GENNARO: So when all that stuff happened with Paiste, as far as artist relationships, I said, “You know John, I’m going to take you up on your offer.” So I’ve been originally with Ludwig and Paiste, now for the last 25 years or so I’ve been with DW and Zildjian. Zildjian cymbals make all my cymbals and the hi-hats, and DW makes my drums, Remo, the drum head company makes all my drum heads, and Hot Sticks for my sticks.
I have a special relationship with Kevin Pokallus of Hot Sticks the CEO, because he started making sticks in his garage with his wife in the early ’80s, the first company that actually dipped their sticks in different colors. They’re multi-colored sticks, and when I got Lauper’s gig, he reached out to management and goes, “Hey, can I… Can you contact me with your drummer because… ” he called the office, management office, Cyndi’s management and said, “Because we make sticks that are all different colors, and we think that Cyndi would really, really like them.”
So they gave Kevin, my contact information, he sent me a bunch of samples and I really, really liked them. I showed them to Cyndi, she went through the roof. She loved them, because they were all different weird colors, they weren’t just wood, which fit her image. So that’s what started the relationship.
And now Hot Sticks went on to make and design sticks wholesale for Hard Rock Cafe, and for the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Disney World. He made sticks for other companies, House of Blues, The Grand Ole Opry, several corporations that sell drumsticks as souvenirs with their logo on it, so he had this particular computerized, digitized method where he can write anything on a stick, he sent me sticks with my picture on them. I go, “No, I don’t want that!” We’re still in a relationship now. Personally, he slipped into my house at Thanksgiving and whatever, so there’s my endorsement story.
ALEX: Cool. So just before we talk more about what you’re doing in the future, so when you’re doing your remote teaching, now for drums, do you require your students to have a certain amount of experience and talent, or do you work with beginners? Who are you able to work with remotely and be most effective?
SANDY GENNARO: Okay, as far as… It’s my same stance remotely or in person. I will… Anybody that calls me and wants me to… And thinks I could help them with drumming in general, or some aspect of their drumming, I’m there for them. There’s no kind of criteria you have to meet to meet with me to just talk about drums. I mean, all my time at The Collective, I taught the seven-year-old at the time, the seven-year-old son of Art Garfunkel, I went to his house to give a personal drum lessons, as part of a representative as a Collective faculty. They wanted somebody to do, not a remote but a house call. So instead of him coming to The Collective, I went to the apartment on Fifth Avenue and taught him.
I taught an 80-year-old that used to come to my studio in Staten Island, his name was Ramon, he’s no longer with us, but he was a sweetheart of a guy and just loved playing. And just for that enjoyment, he wasn’t going to be on any TV, he was. He can barely walk up my steps, but he loved sitting behind the drum set playing and seeing that in his face made me wanna teach this guy.
And it wasn’t basically teaching, I’m not teaching him paradiddles and all that, we were just playing songs, he would bring a CD of the song, the Spanish song he like ’cause he was Spanish and I would try to teach him what was on the track, and he just loved it. So I’ve taught Matt Dillon the actor who came to The Collective. He said, “Listen, I have to play a part of a drummer in a movie, I have to look like I know how to play the drum from the waist up.” So he brought the track that he had be filmed in the movie, and I taught him how to look like, how to lip sync to the track ’cause that’s all he was going to be doing on the movie was lip-syncing. So that was an interesting experience.
Lionel Hampton’s people called,
this is the owner of The Collective calling me, he said, “They want to send a faculty member up to Lenox Hill Hospital to rehab Lionel Hampton because he just had a stroke. He lost the use of his right side, so now he’s in rehab. They want you to bring up a couple of practice pads, some drumsticks, and just sit with Lionel in the rehab center and just go through some stuff.” And I went, “Man, I’ve seen videos of this guy play with two mallets in each hand, xylophone, he’s like a magician.
I’m going, “What am I going to teach this guy?” “No, no, no, you don’t have to teach him anything. Just play, just put the sticks in his hand and play on the practice pad.” So I went up there and I was showing them some stuff, let’s do some real simple stuff, and he was getting frustrated ’cause his right hand or whatever hand it was was just kind of is limp. His left hand is just normal, but when he tried to incorporate the other hand, it was like it kept dropping.
So he got very frustrated. He goes, “Sandy, just effing play. Just effing play for me.” I went, “Okay, Lionel.” But he was so sweet. He was a sweetheart of a guy. But I can see it in his face getting frustrated, and so I just let it go. I didn’t force the issue and I just played, and he was bobbing his head. That was a very, very… And I have a picture of that.
JOANNE POLICHETTI: Very emotional.
SANDY GENNARO: It was very emotional because I walked out of there like almost tearing up, thinking of this guy with all this facility, and then all of a sudden, boom, stroke gone, facility gone. And just, it was the tap on the shoulder like be thankful for what you have and things like that, things… Episodes like that are more meaningful to me and mean something as a human being to me more than Queen, more than headline in an arena, more… Another example was I went with a friend when I lived on 64th Street between the 2nd and 3rd Avenue above John’s of Bleecker Street pizza place, the Uptown one.
And I was asked by a friend to go visit one of her relatives, I forget the actually person, but I accompanied somebody to Sloan Kettering, and I ended up in the pediatric kind of green room, it’s like a community room with all kinds of games, and it’s where they go, the ambulatory kids can go and play or they have a guest that can go in that room or whatever.
So I noticed a drum set in the corner and it was all kind of dilapidated, the heads were all screwed up. So I told the head nurse, I said, “Hey,” and at the time, this was 1984, I was with Lauper, and Lauper was like the biggest thing on the planet, and I said, “Hey, would you mind if I… I’m a professional drummer, if I bring some drum heads and I’ll refurbish the drum set, this way the kids can play on it and be, you know, I will straighten it all out, put, maybe bring some different cowbell and whatever, so the kids can play.”
“Oh yeah, who do you play with?” And when I mentioned Cyndi Lauper,
she was like, “Oh I love Cyndi Lauper. Sure, you can.” So I have, started a relationship with the head of the pediatric nurse or whatever. I ended up going up there and as I’m fiddling with the drum, changing the heads, the kids were coming over and I was doing a little demo, whatever, and at the end of that little, I had to leave after a little bit, but I said, “Listen, I’d like to come up here and if you could organize everybody that’s ambulatory to have me to come while I’m here, and I’ll call Epic Records and I’ll get a bunch of Cyndi Lauper 8x10s. I’ll get the t-shirts, I’ll get some 45s of The Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. I’ll bring some drumsticks for the kids and I’ll do a little demo and play along with some songs or whatever.”
“Oh, that would be awesome.” So I went up there and it was like three hours, and I played on the drums, I gave… And you know, again, Cyndi was a household name at that point, so a lot of the older kids, like the nine and 10-year-olds knew it was like somebody not knowing who Kim Kardashian is today. You know what I mean? Everybody knows the name. I had some stuff for the kids, and after, the nurses would go, the kids would walk away, and a lot of them had no hair because they were all in chemotherapymany with no hair, and one with only about six months to live. So that hit me like a ton of bricks.
I had a five block walk down to my apartment on 64th Street, I sobbed out loud audibly to the passersby. One person said, “Are you okay? Can I help you.” I said, “No, no.” I said they are basically happy tears because I’m thinking about my own health, I’m thinking about how God put me in a position to bring happiness to these kids. I am not Cyndi Lauper, I just happened to play drums for somebody famous, but they’re attracted to that, and I was very thankful for being in that position to be able to share with these kids, giving them a little something.
Then I actually went back and around to the kids that weren’t ambulatory, that were in bed that were bedridden in the pediatric department at Sloan Cancer Hospital and gave them swag. Made sure they had a t-shirt or a record or a drumstick or whatever, so the fact that they were laid up in bed, I did not want them to miss on an opportunity to get a free piece of swag from Cyndi.
ALEX: Sure. Pretty awesome. So I just want you to go back to Art Garfunkel’s son for a second. You said he was seven years old and you were teaching him drums…
SANDY GENNARO: Yes, he was… He was seven years old.
ALEX: How old were you when you started playing drums?
SANDY GENNARO: I was 14.
ALEX: You were 14. So you were pretty close to seven, so you had some empathy for how to teach a seven-year-old because you learned not that much later.
SANDY GENNARO: That’s right. And it was a little different because this seven… I forget his name, I think his name was Jack Garfunkel. But the little funny incidents there is when you’re teaching, I always try to have the student, I give them something almost definitely that he can play or she can play, give them little successes to build upon. I always say, “Oh, I don’t know,” you get this a lot. “I can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.” Apples and oranges, but that’s all BS. It’s not all BS, but there’s a certain type of drumming that’s true, it’s called polyrhythmic drumming, where you play apples with one hand, oranges with another, but generally speaking, 99% of drumming, especially contemporary Rock and Roll drumming or Blues drumming, is playing different parts of the same rhythm. It’s the same rhythm.
So if you do one, two, three, four with your right hand on the cymbal, then just count one, two, three, four, and when your mouth says two and your mouth says four, play a snare drum, so you’re going one, two, three, four, and there is 66 and two-thirds percent of the beat. Now, okay, you wanna bring your right foot, your bass drum into it, play your bass drum the same way you’re playing your right hand, one, two, three, four, and then when your mouth says two and mouth says four, play your left hand on the snare. So now you’re going boom-bah, boom-bah, boom-bah. But slow, boom-bah. When somebody says to me, “No, I can’t play, I can’t, I can’t.” I go, “Listen, I could teach a monkey. I could teach a monkey.”
ALEX: So monkeys are better than we are.
SANDY GENNARO: I taught Micky Dolenz how to play some so it bears it out. But anyway, so Alex, the next time you come, Alex, and if you’re with them, Joanne, I’ll go ahead and we’ll see that the drum sets, and I guarantee you or your money back, I will guarantee you that you will be able to play as the simplest of beats, and you know what, the simplest of beats is not just used on one song, the simplest of beats is used on countless songs because you’re not only dealing with content of what the beat is comprised of, but you’re dealing with the tempo in which the beat is played. So you can play boooh-bah, boooh-bah. Or booh-bah, booh-bah. Or if you’re the Ramones you’re playing boom-bah, boom-bah, boom-bah, boom… That’s all the same beat, it sounds different, but it’s all the same beat played at different rates on the clock or the metronome or tempo, if you will.
Now, speaking of that, when I was 14 or when I was three. When I was three, I received this and I have a picture of my PowerPoint on my PowerPoint… With me beneath the Christmas tree playing with this drum.
JOANNE P: Oh, how cool.
SANDY GENNARO: And I’m there, I’m there at three years old playing this drum, and no matter… I never took it out of my sight, and I still have it to this day. It went from Staten Island… It went from New York City to Staten Island, to Los Angeles, back to Staten Island to Manhattan, back to Staten Island, to Nashville. And I’m still, very, very happy to… I’m just going to quickly see if I can… I don’t wanna waste your time, but I have pictures of me beneath the Christmas tree playing his drum.
ALEX: While you’re looking that up, I’m going to ask Joanne to…
JOANNE P: Oh, how adorable. [laughter]
ALEX: Yeah. See, when you said that you started playing the drums when you were 14, I saw this picture, and I thought that you were going to say three, so I knew that you started earlier than 14.
SANDY GENNARO: Well, I mean that, you know, banging on this, I still have the… I still have the little drumsticks, that went, that came, I even have the little drumsticks that came with this, sitting on that, sitting on that little, in front of the Bongos, but this is not banging on this, it was just… Even though I knew what drums sounded like, because my dad used to play like Gene Krupa and big band records around the house or whatever, so Louie Bellson, Sing, Sing, Sing and all of that. And when Louie Bellson did that solo in Sing, Sing, Sing, my dad used to go there’s the drum, that’s where that drum got, and I knew what drums sounded like, but that to me, I was just going… I wasn’t really playing, it was just a surface, and I was really enamored by the fact that I can hit something with sticks and not get hollered at.
It wasn’t me hitting on a nightstand or hitting on end table or something, so I got… But then, then February 9th, 1964, is what really changed my life. And it was when I saw The Beatles on Ed Sullivan. And now that’s the first time I actually was actually seeing someone playing the drums. Prior to that, I only heard what the drums were. And then when I saw, obviously what iced it to me is seeing how the women reacted in that audience, Ed Sullivan, there was screaming, I’m going, “Wait a minute, wait a minute, yeah this could be, not only is he a drummer, Ringo, but look how that band is making those… Those girls like all excited like that. Ooh, that might be for me.”
SANDY GENNARO: So from that point on, I ended up haunting my mother, “Oh mom, I want a drum set.” “Save your allowance, and we’ll, save your allowance, save your allowance, save your allowance.” And about a year later, December 31st, and I still don’t know why, we went into Manhattan from Staten Island on December 31st, New Year’s Eve, 1965, to buy a drum set. I didn’t have a dad at that point, he passed away, so my mom asked my uncle to drive into Manhattan, it was a place down by City Hall, mom and pop music store, and I still… And then my mother, before she died, bless her heart, she goes, “Hey, hon, look what I found.” And it’s on my office wall, it’s the receipt to my first drum set.
That’s how I know the specific date. And I never actually find out… Found out why did you decide to go on New Year’s Eve into Manhattan to buy a drum set, for me, but that’s what it was that I still have… From that first drum set is sitting over there, I still have the snare drum to that drum set, and I have a picture in here that… I have pictures of everything.
ALEX: Joanne, did you have any questions for… Do you need insights for sharing your article about remote learning in the arts or remote instruction? Any questions to come up?
JOANNE P: So one more question, in terms of, pacing for learning for your students virtually, how do you determine the right cadence for people to accelerate their skill?
SANDY GENNARO: Good question. I start out… Well, first of all, and this… I don’t see much difference in my teaching method from virtual, aside from the fact that we can’t… Like what I outlined earlier, that we can’t play together…
JOANNE P: That one technique won’t work, right.
SANDY GENNARO: That one technique won’t work, but as far as like my… What to give the kid or the person, male or female no matter what age they are, where do I start them? Where on the ladder do I start them? Because I’ve had students that never held drumsticks before in their lives, no matter what age they are. But I’ve had students that can play circles around me, and how I know that is because the first lesson, first of all, I asked them, “Are you a player? Do you play currently?” And sometimes I get, “No, this is the first time I’m holding the sticks.”
So I start out with them. “Okay, this is how you hold the drumsticks,” whatever. With some students, I’ve had students that are jazz players that virtually, on a technological standpoint, can play circles around me in terms of technique. Well, then I always ask a student, “Play for me, just play a simple beat for me. Any beat you want, something you’re comfortable with.” And they play and that… Judging from that, I’ll ask the next question. “Okay, play a blues beat.” And I’ll ask them to play according to what I hear.
So I get an assessment of where they are on the ability ladder in terms of drums, whether just beginner or guys that can play. And I’ve had several, not over that long period of time of teaching, where drummers are technically more advanced than me. Okay, then why? If you don’t mind me asking, “Why are you here? Why did you pick me of all the faculty in The Collective, why did you choose me?” “Well, I love your backbeat. Into the Night, the way you play on, or they mention a certain song I played in, or a certain band they heard me with… And I love your backbeat, I want to know how to play your backbeat, which is your left hand on the snare or a certain… I love your bass drum technique.”
So they isolate a certain aspect of my playing,
even though overall, they’re better than me on a technological level as far as technique around the drum set. So I always assess where the drummer is and I give them something. The first thing, if it’s a beginner, I give them something, like I mentioned before, something that they would be able to play. “Oh no, I don’t know. I don’t know.” “Well, can you count to four?” “Yeah, I can count to four.”
But I always give them something where they can be successful, even if it’s a little nudging from me, and then I build from there. Then I give them a couple of things, remotely or live. And if it’s remotely, I write out an assignment and I scan it and email it to them. “Hey, Sandy, what did you do in that certain song with Pat Travers? Or the blah, blah, blah. Well, you know what I’ll do? Instead of trying to play it on a PA or play it through my speakers onlone, I said, “I’m going to mail you the MP3, email you the MP3, and I’ll email you the chart that goes along with it, and then we could discuss it at the next lesson. So listen to the MP3 and let me know on the time code where that fill is. Okay, it’s a minute and 32 seconds into the song, I have the marker there. So now the next lesson, I’ll go to a minute to 32 seconds, listen to the song, hear the fill and demonstrate the fill for the students.
Now virtually, I have to do it
and kind of work on it for the next lesson. So necessity is the mother of invention. So you figure it out. “Okay, I’ll send you the MP3, I’ll scan the chart, email it to you.” So there’s a certain amount of technical, technological expertise that you need to have. You have to have a printer that has a scanner, you have to know how to scan an email and scan a PDF and whatever, so there’s a certain amount of that. And I’m not really proficient as far as the technological part of it, but I know enough to be able to convey my ideas or send them a chart or whatever it is.
So in that way, teaching virtually is a little bit different. But to answer the question, I always build on success. I never want to intimidate a student. I’ll never voluntarily play a solo or play something that I know is beyond the student because that could backfire because it could inspire a guy or a student to play better, or it could intimidate a student depending on his personality. He might say to himself, “I can never do that.” And the case in point is my drum basics video, when I was with The Collective. I went to the director, again, at the time it was John Castellano, and at that point, VHS tapes were out and Drummers Collective was incorporated. DCI was the first company to put instructional video for drums on a VHS commercially available. But all of these videos I’m seeing were from Simon Phillips, all these famous hotshot drummers, and you put the VHS tape in and it’s them doing a solo, a technically unbelievable solo.
And so I went to the director, the VHS is $38 and you can only get it in the music store. So I went to John Castellano one day and I said, “We need to do a video, basic, very basic foundational video for the 12-year-old, or me thinking back when I was 14, I could really use a video on the basic fundamentals. This is a snare drum, this is a rack tom, this is a floor tom, there are rules of the drums where somebody playing drums would know that already. But this is for the 12-year-old that’s curious about the drums and doesn’t know how to get started, or doesn’t even know if he wants to play drums, but he’s curious about it.
We will do it in one shoot but we’ll cut to shoot in part one, part two, make it available on VHS for $12.95, 30 minutes each, not two hours, 30 minutes part one, $12.95; 30 minutes, part two, $9.95, and you don’t want to limit availability ito just music stores. So anyway, we got drum basics part one, part two, 30 minutes each and I said, “Music stores are where drummers go, what about the kids that are just shopping with their mommy in Target and they’re, you know, we should have a price point at the cash register. You should have a little display drum basics, whatever, $12.95 you know, learn how to play the drums, whatever.” And it became very, very successful, so successful that Yamaha included the drum basics video in every drum set that they sold.
ALEX: You spent your whole life learning and your whole life sharing
, and that goes to history, it goes all the way through to what’s been going on with COVID. What else is going on? And what’s the future? What are you still doing? I know you’re writing a book, I think I asked you about a year ago to write one. So I’m really glad that you’re doing that. And can you tell us more about your motivational speaking, and some of the organizations that you’re doing that with?
SANDY GENNARO: Yes, about five years ago, I started motivational speaking thanks to a mentor. Every major gig that I’ve had in my whole life, every good fortune that has come to me has been as a result of me reaching out to somebody at a prior time, and engaging them or doing something for them or them needing my help and as a result it ended up as a big windfall for me either emotionally, personally, or financially. Case in point is how I got into speaking, motivational speaking is that I throw drumsticks out to people during the, after the encore and I’m leaving the stage and they’re still applauding, and I usually look for handicapped people or I look for little kids or grandparents that are there or whatever.
And at a show in San Diego, I noticed a handicapped person, a woman in a wheelchair and I threw a drumstick to her and some guy intercepted it. Now again, I could have just walked, kept walking. But I went back and I went, “No no, no, I want her to have the drumstick.”
He gave it to her, I replaced his drumstick, he was happy and I went about my business. The next day I get a Facebook message from the husband of the woman in the wheelchair. “Hey, you really made my wife so happy by not only noticing her but making sure that she had the drumstick,” thanking me. And I said, “That’s no problem and it’s what I do.” He said, “I’m coming into Nashville to speak. I’d like to meet you for coffee and thank you in person.” So I met with him. He asked me how I got Cyndi Lauper’s gig.
I told him the “Dave in the Doorway” story amongst others. Fast forward to his peace speaking presentation, I was on the side of the stage, he introduces me and says “Sandy, can I tell the Cyndi Lauper story?” And I said sure. So he told the Cyndi Lauper story, got a real good reaction. On the way out, he goes, “Well Sandy, you’ve been speaking in front of audiences for a long time with the drum clinics and sponsorships and at The Collective and group classes, why don’t you come to FedEx couple of weeks and tell the story itself, I’m doing a training session to the future leaders of FedEx.”
So I went to FedEx, Mike called me up, gave me 10 minutes, I told a story myself. It got a really good reaction. Walking out of FedEx that day, Mike says to me…
ALEX: Mike Pierce, right?
SANDY GENNARO: Mike Pierce is known in a speaker arena as Antarctic Mike. And he said walking out of FedEx, he said, “Hey, Sandy, you have a career in public speaking because that story is very, very powerful.” And he goes, “I’ll help you every step of the way.” So I took him up on that. And that’s basically what started my speaking career. You know, it’s basically how you treat people, I use examples from Joan Jett going from, you know, an unknown in Hollywood and an old girl band and a male dominated rock ‘n’ roll industry in the ’70s, with all those big hair bands, and she ends up in the Hall of Fame, or how Cyndi keeps a band together. And basically, the lessons I’ve learned in the music business are the same lessons that any corporate person, any CEO, would be wise to listen to because it’s how you treat people.
It’s how you treat your customers, but it comes from the leader of the band, the leader, the CEO, the leader of the company, whatever. So, I started out little by little, I started out getting my PowerPoint together, I had to learn PowerPoint, and embedding video, getting little bullet points on a slide and all of that. So it was a learning curve and I started doing Chambers of Commerce is here in Nashville, free events.
I spoke for free for about two years just to get my chops together, and I gave an evaluation form at the end of each presentation. So they were, “How can I make my presentation better? What did you like best about my presentation. ” So I took those comments and I hardly got any negative ones, even from the beginning. So that’s basically it, I am getting bookings for motivational speaking virtually as well as in person. I am especially looking forward to the in person gigs.
I’m still playing in cover bands. I plan on playing in three different bands here in Nashville, one is a ’70s, ’80s cover band, which I really enjoy, and another one is a Blues band, and the third one is a band called The Tummies, which is an all original kind of Beatles-esque kind of band, all original. We’re a band and we play on records, and we do some live gigs now, more like little private showcase gigs.
ALEX: And that started, I think when I was down there doing your head shots, right? When you just started on the road to the motivational speaking and the Tummies things that were just beginning.
SANDY GENNARO: Correct. I’ve been doing this speaking from 2016 the Tummies started around the same time. So even what I’m going to be doing in my retirement, which is speaking, I could do that until I can’t walk or I can’t talk. That all came from me engaging somebody, handing a handicapped person a drumstick. Cyndi Lauper’s gig came as I engaged a fan who was a fan in a doorway when I was in a really big cover when I was with Travers, I engaged him. What can I do for you? Sign this, please Sandy, I love the way you play. Take a picture or whatever.
Three years later, he remembered that engagement, and he just found this girl, he just signed to Epic Records, and it was Cyndi, and he goes, I want you to play in her band. So that’s the Cyndi Lauper story. The Monkees. Now, and during Cyndi Lauper’s tour, it was the biggest tour I ever did at that point in time, but I met my wife, I met the woman I started dating, we got married five years later, and she’s upstairs.
ALEX: Your daughter came from that.
SANDY GENNARO: Yep. So again, I sometimes lay awake thinking, “What if I would have just been a rock star a-hole, and just blew by the guy, the arrogant rock star and just… No, man, I’m in a hurry, and I was in a really legitimate hurry to get out of that dressing room, but I stopped and spent 5 minutes with the guy because he’s there to see me, he’s not there to see the headlight or a Pat Travers, he’s there to see the drummer in the band, “Hey man, I really love, what you play is so emotional when you play, but I get such a good feeling,” so I felt, “Hey man, this guy wants to see me. So who am I to blow him off?” That’s why I never understood the concept. But having a ring of security around you somewhere when you’re having dinner and keeping the fans away, why? The fans are the reason why you have a freaking dinner.
It’s because the fans… They keep your lights on, so… Show a little gratitude. Yes, some fans are a little over-aggressive and they need to shut it, but engage the people. Everything, my life as it is right now, and I look around has been as a result of how you treat people, and that goes for the CEO, and I treat the janitor the same way. I treated my roadie the same way as I treat Joan Jett, because we’re all common… We all have something in common, and that’s a soul, we are all human beings.
We’re all members of the same family, and we’re all going to be together some time the souls are going to reunite somewhere sometime after we’re pushing up daisies and then our political shit is stripped away, our bank account is stripped away, the way we look at… The way we look in our human bodies are stripped away, our nationality is stripped away, our skin color is stripped away, we’re all the same, and what’s going to be left is what’s ticking inside of us, not the heart that’s going to die with the body, it’s our soul and it’s what makes us different than a dog.
And that’s what makes humans different and we’re all… It’s a cliche, but it’s true. We’re all a member of the same family, and the Hard Rock had it together when they said “all is one,” and “love all, serve all.” And if you look through your life’s glasses with those lenses of that, you are in a position to make somebody’s life better somehow, whether they ask you for assistance or you see someone needing assistance or needing a little perk up, like the woman or the man at the checkout counter at Kroger. They’re looking a little depressed, so you wanto cheer them up a little bit, you know what I mean, you want to say, “Hey, how’s your day going? Hey, you’re going to watch the Super Bowl,” or whatever, some sort of small talk…
SANDY GENNARO: Little random acts of kindness
could end up changing your life. And you are looking at example number one, little acts of kindness. And again, it’s attitude. In my presentation, I have this little acronym and it’s beats B-E-A-T-S, and it stands for belief, enthusiasm, attitude, tenacity, and service. And it all comes down from the A in attitude. B-E-A-T-S, it’s how you think, and your perception of situations and your perception of other people, that is the essence that’s going to determine your happiness, it’s going to determine what comes to you in your life, it’s going to determine what you give to other people, it’s how you think. And you know what, it’s the only thing on this planet as human beings that we have total 100% control over.
SANDY GENNARO: Nobody can tell you what you think, nobody can tell you Joanne, how you feel about that hat sitting on that shelf behind you. Only you, you could like it, you could not like it, you could not want to wear it ever again, you wan to wear it every hour of every day, but I am not going to, or your husband is not going to tell you, “Hey, you should feel that way about that hat, Joanne.” No, you are going to feel the way you feel about it, and nobody can control that. So that’s what we have control over is our thought process. Not only what we think, but our perception of things and people.
ALEX: So, Sandy, tell us how someone can sign up or find you in order to learn more and participate. I know that you’re teaching, doing sessions for Vistage, an international business group, you’re an approved featured speaker. I know you’re talking to, I guess, there’s Brian Cohen from the Long Island Speakers Bureau, about doing some speaking. How else do people find you and work with you?
SANDY GENNARO: Okay, well, you can always find me on the web, on my website, and there’s a Contact tab there on my website, sandygennaro.com. That’s one way. You can email me directly and that’s just firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m on Facebook Sandy Gennaro, and I’m on Instagram Sandy Gennaro. I currently have Sandy Gennaro on Instagram and on Facebook, as well as Sandy Gennaro Speaks
So that being said, Sandy Gennaro Instagram, Sandy Gennaro Facebook, Sandy Gennaro LinkedIn, and my website and my email, and ask any questions you want about the music business, about speaking, about relationships, about if you want a sounding board, if you’re going through some mental issues with COVID, whatever, I’m there to help you. You keep your checkbook in your drawer, you don’t worry about any compensation, but I’m there if you need.
ALEX: Always great to have a second opinion. Sandy, thank you so very much. You gave me way more time than I thought you had available.
SANDY GENNARO: And I really look forward to getting wet with you again, Alex. So that’s something in our little life plan before we’re pushing up daisies, I want to go on a dive with you somewhere, even if it’s Long Island Sound, I don’t care.
JOANNE P: No, not Long Island Sound. I know some place better than that.
ALEX: No, there are some really great wrecks and relatively easy diving off of Fort Lauderdale, so easy accommodations. The Keys are always a place that I like, both easy and easy places to be. Cayman Islands, nice easy diving, we don’t have to go far. And I know that you have a vacation that’s on hold in Turks and Caicos.
SANDY GENNARO: Yeah. We’re going, we’re going in December. We pushed it back to December, yeah, and we’re looking forward to that. I get to dive two dives a day for five days, man, that’s going to be so awesome. Joanne, you dive as well?
JOANNE P: Not anymore.
SANDY GENNARO: Oh okay, but you have.
JOANNE P: I have, once he was an instructor, Alex was the only person I trusted to teach me.
SANDY GENNARO: Awesome. Well, Alex, listen, thank you for the invitation and same goes for you and Joanne, you’re over here, there’s your guest bedroom right there. It’s got its own bathroom, its own walk in closet. You’re always welcome here for sure. And I could use some more headshots, so that’s maybe an impetus, and any time I could do anything for you, Alex, on a professional level, on a friendship level, whatever, I’m always there for you.
ALEX: I know and you have been, for my charity, you gave us some nice speaking for our virtual gala earlier this year, so much appreciated.
SANDY GENNARO: Any time. Any time, any time.
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Categories: drummer, motivational speaker, Musician, rock, speaker
Sandy, this was a fantastic read. You have had a career and it continues. Thank you for sharing and for re-enforcing behaviors and attitudes that make the world a better place.
Thanks Frank, Sandy is awesome and an example of how simple acts of human kindness bring us all a better life. We have lots of great content about wonderful people. Please feel free to read about our other artists, sign up for a free subscription, or gift a free subscription tona friend. You can even nominate your favorite artist for a featured artist interview!