Born in Cincinnati, Ohio on August 24, 1952, Billy Ward first started playing the drums at the age of nine, studying with Jack Volk, a pro drummer in Cincinnati who was also a Rogers endorsee. Billy credits Volk for establishing the fundamentals of drumming in his playing. Billy says, "I am eternally grateful to him for his obsession with my being able to beautifully play drum rudiments open-closed-open ... as well as reading." By the age of twelve Billy had been through Jim Chapin's Advanced Techniques For The Modern Drummer. At the age fifteen Billy ceased his private studies, focusing more on playing with a lot of bands, and had his first studio experience as the house drummer for a local Cincinnati gospel recording studio/label. Two years later, at the age of seventeen, Billy was fortunate to take an extremely influential lesson with the legendary Elvin Jones; a lesson that lasted for almost six hours. Says Billy, "I will always be indebted to Mr. Jones for the many gifts he shared that day."
After high school, Billy attended the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. After his second year at the conservatory, Billy realized he wanted to play jazz and rock, so ended his symphonic career by transferring to North Texas State University. Says Billy, "I was too stubborn and headstrong to participate anymore in a college program, so I quit NTSU after one week ... but lived there and played in the Dallas / Fort Worth area for four years before coming to New York. All I did was practice- practice- practice ... weird stuff too (largely thanks to a Northern Indian Nonesuch record that I fell in love with) 7 over 5 over 3 kind of stuff! I then believed that jazz, or improvised music, was the only real art form. I now know I was way off base. The world is round, not flat, and there are many ways to create art."
When Billy moved to New York, he started working around town playing in local groups and mostly earned his living playing in local groups, including wedding bands. Eventually, his playing became more seasoned and improved along with the work he was getting.
In the last fifteen years Billy has toured and /or recorded (among others) with jazz artists Jim Beard, Bill Evans Supergroup, Leni Stern, B.B. King, George Russell and Living Time Orchestra, pop artists The Knack, Jimmy Webb, Carly Simon, Richard Marx, ex-KISS star Ace Frehley's Comet, and unclassifiable talents like Bill Champlin, Robbie Robertson, Yoko Ono, Chris Whitley, and a year and a half tour with singer Joan Osborne.
Billy Ward has performed in clinics and master classes all over the world, including The Montreal Drum Festival, Rhythm In Bath (England), Percussive Arts Society International Conference, Cape Breton International Drum Festival (Nova Scotia), Drummer Live (England), the Modern Drummer Festival and more. As a drum clinician, Billy emphasizes a more musical approach to drumming while at the same time re-enforcing the importance of drumming fundamentals. He offers a very articulate “real world” approach in his teaching.
For five years, Billy’s been writing the much acclaimed “Concept” articles for Modern Drummer Magazine and serves on MDs advisory board. His book, Inside Out ... Exploring The Mental Aspects Of Drumming is available through Modern Drummer Publications. The drum instructional, Big Time, has a completely new fresh approach and received the Modern Drummer Magazine Reader’s Poll Award for Best Drum Instructional of ‘05. Billy also was awarded the Eric A Bergquist Award for Excellence in Education in the Percussive Arts.
In 2005, Billy played on B.B. King’s Grammy Award winning album, 80. All told, Billy has played drums on more than 60 albums and 60 film soundtracks. His first solo album, Two Hands Clapping got a (perfect) 5 star rating in Modern Drummer which called the record Album of the Year. Voices In My Head is the title of Billy’s second Instructional DVD, which has just been released through DW Drums DVD.