Ron Vater
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Ron Vater

Drumstick maker Ron Vater died on January 25, 2020. Born on January 25, 1957, Vater spent much of his youth at Jack’s Drum Shop in Boston, which was owned by his grandfather, Jack Adams, who would take Ron and his brother, Alan, to see such drummers as Buddy Rich, Louie Bellson, and Elvin Jones when…

Guy A. Remonko, Jr.
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Guy A. Remonko, Jr.

Former Ohio University Professor Guy Andrew Remonko, Jr. died January 4, 2020 of kidney cancer. He was 78. Remonko was born September 28, 1941 in Connellsville, Pa. He attended West Virginia University in Morgantown, W.Va., where he received his bachelor’s degree in Percussion Performance and Theory Pedagogy in 1963, and a master’s degree in Music…

Neil Peart
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Neil Peart

by Rick Mattingly Back in the 1980s, before email, Neil Peart preferred writing letters to talking on the phone. Being that he was the one who wrote the lyrics to Rush’s songs, it made sense that he valued the written word. I received some of his letters when I was an editor at Modern Drummer…

John S. Pratt
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John S. Pratt

Drummer John S. Pratt, author of the well-known book 14 Modern Contest Solos for Snare Drum died on April 6, 2020. “Jack,” as he was known to his friends and family, was born on January 13, 1931 in Seneca Falls, New York. He began playing the drums at age ten under the guidance of his high school…

Alan Abel
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Alan Abel

In Memoriam by Michael Rosen. Photos by Lauren Vogel Weiss. Alan Abel was a giant in a trim package enriched by determination and youthful vigor. He was as indefatigable as he was generous—a sensitive musician and gentle soul. His exuberant nature coupled with a mischievous sense of humor were appreciated by all who met him….

Jimmy Cobb
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Jimmy Cobb

by Rick Mattingly Jazz drummer Jimmy Cobb, who played on Miles Davis’ Kind of Bluealbum and many other classic albums, died on Sunday, May 24, 2020, at age 91, after a battle with lung cancer. Cobb was the last surviving member of the Kind of Blue band—which included Davis, saxophonists John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley, pianists Wynton Kelly and Bill…

David “DJ” Johnson
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David “DJ” Johnson

Award-winning musician David “DJ” Johnson died of natural causes on June 7, 2020. Johnson enjoyed an accomplished musical career, including winning a Grammy Award for Best Classical Compendium in 2015 as a member of the Partch Ensemble. Johnson also performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, toured with pianist Roger Williams, and taught at the California…

Joe Porcaro
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Joe Porcaro

Drummer and teacher Joe Porcaro died on July 7, 2020. Porcaro was born in New Britain, Connecticut. His father had originally been a trumpet player, but due to trouble with his teeth he switched to drums. When Joe was five years old, he found his dad’s drums and figured out how to play the cadences…

B. Michael Williams
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B. Michael Williams

B. Michael Williams, who was Professor of Music and Director of Percussion Studies at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina from 1979 to 2016, died on Sept. 4, 2020. He held a B.M. degree from Furman University, M.M. from Northwestern University, and Ph.D. from Michigan State University. Active as a performer and clinician in…

Viola Smith
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Viola Smith

Viola Smith, once billed as “the fastest girl drummer in the world,” died on October 21, 2020, at age 107. From 1938–41, she was featured with the Coquettes, an “all-girl” big band that developed a national following. Her showcase piece was “The Snake Charmer,” in which she performed drumming pyrotechnics on a 12-piece drum set….