Once I entered Comsewogue High School (grade 9), the social aspects of school and the pressures of “fitting in” came knocking on my door. Let’s face it; my peers considered me to be a nerdy and oddball kid. The oddball-ness came from my poor vision and inability to participate in gym and other school activities. However, my drumming talents were relatively well known and recognized by others.
My parents continued to support my drumming by enrolling me in drum lessons at Heywood’s Music, located in Setauket, New York. My instructor’s name was Fred Levine, and I learned a lot from him. He taught me to use metal sticks with a pillow to practice. He coupled this with the infamous book “Stick Control.” It’s also the first time I got to sit behind a double-kick Slingerland set. Man, those were some very memorable times. I remember a large Foghat poster in the drum studio, and I remember Fred allowing me to drum along to songs like Slow Ride and Fool for the City.
I then ran into Tommy Henriksen. I’m not sure how we were introduced or which specific year of high school was. For those of you who don’t know, Tommy is one of the guitar players for Alice Cooper. He also plays with The Hollywood Vampires and is an accomplished and sought-after music producer.
Tommy had rock and roll written all over him. From his attitude to his long curly, bushy brown hair. He was and still is the real deal. The first time we jammed was in my parent’s basement. Our first song was Jumping Jack Flash by the Rolling Stones. Our second song was Sweet Jane by Lou Reed. We then brought some other guys into the band, including Jay Calendrino (sp). Jay, like Tommy, was a great guitar player. I’m not quite sure who the other players were, maybe Greg Heyman or Kevin McArdle.
I somehow got kicked out of the band, as Tommy kindly reminded me of when he signed my yearbook. Probably because my drumming was more Carter Beauford style than John Bonhams. I’m still happy to call Tommy a good friend.
My parents enrolled my sister and me at The USDAN Summer Camp for the Arts during the summers. It was there that I met drum instructor Gary Hodges. He was an excellent musician and instructor. I was fortunate enough to be a roadie for his band for a few gigs. Several of my friends from the neighborhood, including Adam Lowney, also attended USDAN.
I also have fond memories of playing in band and stage band under the leadership of the amazing Greg Proios. I’m thankful that Greg and I remain connected on Facebook and that he continues to inspire me.
My life in various bands in high school gave me an identity that continues to live with me today. Drumming kept me focused and out of trouble. My clothing also changed from the preppy way my mom dressed me to cool, loosely tied ties and denim vests. I looked the part.
I was now able to hang out with the cool kids in the cafeteria, and music became the glue that helped forge so many friendships and good times. As I read through my Comsewogue yearbook, there were dozens of comments about my drumming and the bands I played with.
Sure I still had to deal with being a disabled kid who used a telescope to see the blackboard and had to work with an exceptional teacher (Mrs. Goldstien) but drumming made it all ok.
Back in October 2016, Gayle and I went to see Tommy play with Alice Cooper. When Tommy and I were sitting on his tour bus, we reminisced about all of the good times that music brought us both. It was like 36 years didn’t exist. He even razzed me about being kicked out of the band again.
So what about drumming and Bruce now? I will save that for Part 3 of this series.
Thank you for reading.