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Drummer Cafe


Serving drummers and percussionists since 1996.

Jim ChapinThis July 4th is the anniversary of the death of Jim Chapin (1919-2009). A better way to frame that departure euphemistically is “Jim’s arrival in the heavenly spheres.” I was amazed at how quickly time had passed since I last spoke with my “Father” of Life in Drumming.

Towards the end of Jim’s life when his body was not keeping up, I never saw him throw in the towel. Rather, he always had a buoyant presence and air about him. Never in the 30 years I had known him did I observe Jim being downcast. Even during our last conversation, he voiced accolades about other memorable drummers (yes, humbly I admit, I was included on the list).

Always modest, Jim never had his eyes on himself. Rather, they seemed always to be on “the other.” For the three decades I knew him, he appeared to be focused always as a superb teacher is, on “the other.” His attention was on what each individual student uniquely contributed and needed.

Jim did not however, relegate his interest only on the musical skills and requirements of the student. No, he kept his vision broad. He realized that drumming, as any art, required more that just technical skill. Just as natural as it is to have a limb on the body, the instrument must also become a part of the person.

In order for that transformation to take place, the heart, mind, and soul have to be connected to the instrument. In the case of percussion, all functioning limbs have to be integrated internally in order for them to produce optimally externally. This cannot be achieved if there is not some type of inner balance and center.

To have percussion become an art of beauty and grace, the individual must have some of those characteristics in him/her self. When those are not within, they cannot be produced without. We are each and every one of us, an externalization of what our personhood and identity is.

Jim knew this. He was well aware that each student had more than percussive skills and needs. Every percussionist also had psychosocial needs. If Jim noticed any imbalance in the facets that compose the complexity of what it means to be a functioning human being, he encouraged some type of stability.

Encouragement was a key to Jim’s success and legacy as a consummate drummer, person, and instructor. If there was anything that was easy to predict as a pattern of his behavior, it was his habitual encouragement. My goodness, near the end of his life, he was still cheering me on to play! He was also persuading others.

Jim knew the importance of the human emotional component of being a true artist. He was well aware that there were times that some students needed more persuasion than others. He was also astute when it was time to back off from providing too many accolades. This was for those who already thought that they were the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Jim knew balance. He realized the need for equilibrium in every person’s life. Simply, he understood what it meant to be human. He also comprehended what defined a drummer. The definition was not a ‘mechanical percussive technician.’

Jim endeavored, from what I know, to integrate all aspects of what it took to be a true percussive artist. More so, he emphasized that combination in his students as an instructor. That makes for a decent dad, even if a father of drumming. By the way, I do have a REAL genetic father who is 83 and a fine gent.

So, for this third anniversary of Jim’s departure from us, (or entrance into higher realms), I leave these thoughts with the reader to ponder. You, as an artist, have unique gifts. You will be remembered for how you used or didn’t use them. I guarantee you, you will be remembered for your gifts, your love or lack of love for them, and how you cultivated and utilized them.

Without a doubt, I am sure if you met Jim today, he would, upon hearing you, sway you to perfect your gift, but not without balance. Attending to your human needs as well as others is essential. This fosters control and enables you to incorporate your heart, soul, and passion, into your musical craft.

I can imagine Jim’s spirit is looking over my shoulder right now as I type this, whispering these thoughts into my mind for me to write and share with you. Drumming is more than a physiological activity. It requires thought, integration, and skill. It demands physical and mental coordination. To master the instrument calls for practice, focus, repetition, and yes, some sacrifice of time.

Yet, most importantly, in order for drumming to be transformed into more than just rhythmic sounds, it has to include the heart. Without this inner balance of a sense of being that can and will manifest in the end result of percussive endeavors, drumming will remain just a technical feat. For the TRUE artist that will not suffice.

My hope is one that I truly believe Jim Chapin would want you to have. This is that you will be able to realize this integration and equilibrium in all aspects of your life (if you have not done so already). It can be a constant juggle. However, in my clinical estimation, it is well worth the effort. By maintaining balance, you may achieve your fullest potential as a unique individual who happens to be a phenomenal drummer! Happy Anniversary Jim!

I miss you.

Dr. Julie H. GrockiDr. Julie Grocki is an adept drummer. She has been endorsed by the late great legendary Mr. James F. Chapin who taught Mr. Gene Krupa as being one of his “Top ten best students ever.” Drumming’s Global Ambassador, Mr. Dom Famularo dubbed this drumming prodigy, “Dr. J.”

Dr. Grocki is a master of the Moeller Method. She is also known for her speed, agility, flexibility, athletic strength, and endurance on the drumset. Dr. J has performed since her teenage years with many jazz legends. She was on tour with Aerosmith in 1984 where she was singled out by Mr. Steven Tyler and others for her percussive skills. She is highly knowledgeable about the aspects of the music business and performance. Dr. J has over 25 years of teaching experience in areas ranging from private music instruction to being a college professor. She is a prolific author and eloquent orator.