About Dave Stark
Like most musicians of his caliber, Dave Stark was addicted to music from the start. It was a deep connection that his family observed when he was very young. Every day, he spent hours listening to it. It was a passion that was encouraged early on and nurtured by many as he cultivated his talent—from a boy with musical enthusiasm into a mature and skilled artist. His journey began with a guitar his grandparents bought him for his 5th birthday and lessons soon after. While he understood basic composition, with the help of small fingers and hands, he quickly determined that the guitar would not be the channel for his expression. His gift would be accessible through rhythm and drumming would be his method of communication.
A drum set in his cousins' New Jersey basement beckoned him at age seven. Sitting behind it, everything just made sense, even though he had never played before. There were merely four slots available for drummers through the school band, so lessons weren't merely just handed to him; they would be earned. Upon learning that an older student was moving away—and already sensing Dave's strong desire to play—his elementary school band teacher called for him to audition for the open chair, paving the way to a musical education and a career he knew he wanted to pursue. He had nailed his first audition and got the gig!
After about a year of playing snare drum and learning the rudiments, Dave's parents provided private drum lessons—something for which he will always be grateful—where his abilities improved vastly and rapidly. By age 10, he started playing in his first band with neighbors and friends. They played rock compositions influenced by Led Zeppelin, Yes, Genesis, ELP, King Crimson, Steely Dan, Rush, the Dixie Dregs, The Police, Missing Persons and Frank Zappa, and were well beyond the capabilities of most of their peers. Dave quickly tackled challenging time signatures by ear before he even learned about through his lessons. By the time the bike-accessible Long Island Drum Center (LIDC) opened one town over, he was ready to take advantage of the wonderful opportunities this new learning center and drumming community would provide.
Dave immediately migrated to LIDC where he first studied with owner/founder Jerry Ricci, while he tapped into the center's vast resources and its network of great teachers, including Dennis McDermott, Dom Famularo, Al Miller and Jim Chapin. LIDC offered Dave a constant stream of clinics and master classes, all bringing the best drummers in the world right to his classroom. It was the perfect setting to help further his career and it provided drumming knowledge that was both humbling and irreplaceable.
By the time Dave neared the end of high school and began receiving scholarship offers from music departments around the country, he already had his sights set on the best music education he could get: Berklee College of Music in Boston. It would be the first place that would truly challenge him to rise to the absolute best of his abilities and would serve as a benchmark for learning and teaching later in life. Berklee allowed him to join and contribute to ensembles made of some of the nation's best young musicians. While still in his first semester as a freshman, he was hired to play in senior recitals and arrangement projects, and invited to record original compositions in the school's world class studios.
Dave delved deeper into jazz and latin music to learn styles he never really had the opportunity to play until he arrived at Berklee. He was also exploring the music of Allan Holdsworth, Chick Corea, Mike Stern, Pat Metheny, and John Scofield. Berklee was truly an education like no other. After a few years in Boston, Dave decided it was time to make New York City his home base to play music full time while continuing his studies with his original mentors. Dom Famularo, Jim Chapin and Al Miller once again advised him on technique and chart reading while Gary Chester showed him how to play ambidextrously, and Frankie Malabe taught him the true meaning of playing Afro Cuban music. In between these invaluable consultations, Dave took regular road trips back to Boston to study with Gary Chaffee. Whenever there was a great drummer or teacher coming to the LIDC or NYC for a clinic or master class, Dave was the first to sign up for lessons with them.
Not long after arriving back in NY, Jerry Ricci took notice of Dave's continued intensity to learn and his natural ability to teach others, which lead to a teaching offer at LIDC. Dave quickly became one of the most in-demand teachers there and soon had a weekly schedule of teaching over 60 students with a growing waiting list; all of this on top of playing out at clubs with several bands five nights every week with a full load of college credits. Other LIDC teachers even started to sign up for lessons with Dave as he moved about all five drum center locations in the NY area. He gave lessons to fellow teachers and drummers Marc Slutsky (Splender, Hugo, Alexa Ray Joel), Guy Gelso (Zebra), John Miceli (Meat Loaf), Bobby Rondinelli (Rainbow, Black Sabbath), Steve Hass (John Scofield, Manhattan Transfer) and countless others.
As his reputation as a player, and now a teacher, quickly spread among New York's musical elite, Dave started getting endorsements from companies like Zildjian, ddrum and Yamaha. He was performing at NAMM shows annually while gaining national and international recognition in the music industry. He was invited to perform clinics and teach master-classes at Drummers Collective in NYC as well as PIT (Percussion Institute of Technology) in Los Angeles. Dave soon left to start his own drum studio-music school on Long Island called Star Drum Studios and eventually branching out to join other drummers like Joe Franco and Jonathon Mover at Smash Studios in NYC for rehearsals, teaching and recording.
While his clinic schedule began to fill up, Dave became more interested in electronic drums, triggering, and sampling, so it did not take long before ddrum offered him a position as head clinician and product specialist. During that time the ddrum3 came out which was years beyond anything else being made by electronic drum, trigger, and sampling manufacturers. They put their trust in Dave to truly show other drummers and studios the capabilities of the ddrum3. He started to work on designing set ups and began to work developing samples with drummers Dave Weckl, Kenny Aronoff, Shawn Pelton, Jonathan Moffett, Joe Franco, Jim Keltner, Nico McBrain and others. He was now performing clinics internationally.
Keeping up with his now long tradition of keeping a busier-than-normal schedule, Dave Stark, now living in Atlanta, is a drummer for hire—a session player, teacher and clinician in both the Atlanta and NYC metro areas. And, yes... he's still working on making himself the best player he can be.
-written by Rich Bindell
The "Drum House"
I could not begin to explain in simple words what the "drum house" was. I'll try since it was a big part of my life after leaving Berklee. When I came back to NY and started teaching at the Long Island Drum Center, I rented a house out on Long Island and sought out 3 other drummers to share it with. The "first" incarnation was my Berklee buddy and best friend (and great drummer) John Valentino, Matt Miller (son of my teacher AL Miller and an amazing drummer himself), Billy Auger (another teacher at the LIDC). Funny thing (but true) We ALL had Cherry Wood Yamaha Recording Custom drums set up in the basement. Four dedicated drummers all living together. It was INSANE! Between all of us practicing, trading rifts together, and seeking out more knowledge down in that dungeon of a basement...it was actually an intense time of both learning about drums and about life. After Billy Auger left, Anthony Cerabino moved in. He had just finished up touring with Maynard Ferguson and brought a new element and dynamic to that crazy house. We had so many great times there...and due to that...the cops were called often because the "noise" we created when all returning home after gigs at 4am! The jam sessions that took place there over two years between those that lived there...and the different musicians we all played with can not be summed up simply. Four hard working, dedicated drummers, all playing with many bands...all teaching...and all turning that house into an almost daily earth quake of sound! That was the woodshed...that was the place we all called home... but it more like an "Animal House" for drummers and musicians. I've never seen a place like it since. All that both lived there and played there will always remember it.