About

Keeping the Beat –

Franklin musician shares his ʻgift of drummingʼ

By Heather McCarron – Staff Writer
Kris Russell, Drum Instructor and President of The Drummer’s Studio, shows his studio on Thursday afternoon.
Kris Russell talks about his drums as if they were people.

“This one is warm,” he says, grooming one of his drums with a soft paintbrush before taking up a drum stick and tapping it firmly against the taut skin. “It just has a presence to it. It feels good.”

Then there’s the deep one, he continues, and the fat one and the throaty one.

“Fat is full. It has a good character to it. Deep is different from fat. You hear more low frequencies.”

When it comes to detecting the nuances of drum language, Russell is adept. And it has made him a sought-after drum technician and drummers’ performance coach in the professional music world.

He has toured with such artists as Billy Miles, Jennifer Lopez, Lionel Richie, Brian Culbertson, Taylor Hicks, Earth Wind and Fire and, most recently, Hanson, and he has teched, tapped out beats or managed the stage for more recording sessions, music festivals, club gigs and concerts than he can enumerate.

And now, the Franklin resident has opened a private home studio, “The Drummers’ Studio”, to teach drumming skills to others.

“I enjoy passing on the gift of drumming,” says Russell of his inspiration for starting a drum school. “Every time a new student comes in, I get to introduce them to this whole new musical experience where they can have fun, challenge themselves and become part of a World-wide fraternity for life and pass what
they find on to others.”

Russell is entirely in tune with his drums, and can manipulate them to speak in
whatever voice he wishes. Even the slightest change in tone doesn’t escape him. Want a ’60s Beatles sound or a ’70s Beatles sound? Russell can make it happen. “And yes, there is a difference between the ’60s Beatles sound and the ’70s Beatles sound,” he insists with a grin.

Russell got an early start in learning the subtle language of music.
“I had the unique advantage of being raised by two music-minded parents who were at opposite ends of the musical spectrum,” he says.

His dad, Sam Russell, was LA’s top booking agent and a manager for Hall of
Fame jazz artist Quincy Jones, as well as Nancy Wilson and Kenny Burrell, and
he contracted festivals such as Monterey Jazz, Long Beach Jazz, the first ever
Sunday Jazz Brunches, the Flip Wilson and Bill Cosby shows, and many TV
shows, concerts, recording sessions and club gigs.
His mother, Mary Russell, gained her Master’s in Classical Piano Performance,
“and played for and educated my brother Russ and me, while listening to all types of music, ranging from the classical composers to gospel, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, country western and world music.”
Russell plays a number of percussion instruments, from congas to timbales, and says he can play “a little piano.”

He remembered his first drums well.

“Our family went to Mexico and my dad and mom got a small set of bongos when I was really, really little,” he says. “But I didn’t get a drum set until I was about 10. I played it a little bit. In Junior High I was in the Marching Band were I because Section Leader  and Orchestra. In High School I was in Marching Band were I became the Head Drummer. I continued in the College Marching Band becoming Section Leader and than on to the Tournament of Roses Band becoming Section Leader.”

He developed a particular passion for Drum and Bugle Corps music and he taught the style when he lived in Southern California throughout the 80’s and 90’s.

“Part of my duties being Head Drummer in High School and Section Leader in
College was having the responsibility to maintain our drums, and this is really
where I gained valuable experience with drum tuning, shell construction and
hardware maintenance,” he says. “So doing it as a profession was a very natural progression.”

Russell started drum teching as a profession in the mid ’90s with two sound companies: Vintage Pro Audio’s Derrick Rogers and Phil Manor, along with

Maupin Entertainment’s Jarmil Maupin.

“People think the drum tech just sets up and breaks down. No, no, no,” he says. He makes sure the sounds from the drums are just right, and this can change based on the performance space. He has to consider the sound on stage and the sound as it is received by the audience.

Using an analogy, he explained, “If you go and buy a Mercedes, maybe all you want is to turn the keys and go. My responsibility is to know everything about
that Mercedes. How can I get better gas mileage, better performance, better
ergonomics?”

Russell’s role as a Performance Coach is equally as important. In many ways, he serves as a personal trainer.

“We watch posture, we watch emotions, we want to decrease tension so you can play longer and with less injury,” he says. “So I might be working with Ronald Bruner Jr. – he’s probably one of the top five drummers in the world – and he trusts me enough to say, ‘Hey, how did I do?’ At that point it’s my responsibility to be very honest, supportive and to always stay in the solution.”

Russell’s knowledge is far from lost on those with whom he works.

“Kris is highly knowledgeable as it relates to drum and percussion equipment,” says Felix “D-Kat” Pollard, of Los Angeles, Calif., who drums for Clay Aiken,

Lionel Richie, Taylor Hicks and American Idol and has worked with Russell.
“He’s taught me a lot about the importance of making subtle adjustments in my playing that has given me more power and control over the instrument.”

Another fellow drummer, Trevor Lawrence Jr., also of Los Angeles, says Russell’s new drum school in Franklin is exciting. “The Drummers’ Studio is an important step to the development of drumming in the Boston area and Kris Russell is a great, very fundamentally sound teacher of drums and music,” says Lawrence, who has drummed for various artists, from Alicia Keys and Lionel Richie to Stevie Wonder and Herbie Hancock.

Marybeth, of North Attleboro, is one of Russell’s students and has found him to be a “very knowledgeable” teacher in many styles of drumming. “He’s a great teacher,” she says. “His classes fly by because he makes it so much fun.”

And Russell isn’t one to rest on his laurels. It’s always a learning and perfecting process for him as well.

“I’m always trying to challenge myself with different configurations,” he says  – and different styles. To keep up in the professional musical world, he says, “you have to know as much as possible.”

To learn more about The Drummers Studio, or promotions for new students email thedrummersstudio@gmail.com, or call Kris Russell direct at 626-676-2486

The Drummers’ Studio is a cutting edge, state of the art drum facility that specializes in fun, yet challenging, drum instruction. TDS was born out of the need for a comprehensive school where drummers can be part of the pulse of contemporary music, while they prepare themselves to branch out into the music field.  TDS founder, Kris Russell has years of experience working alongside some of the most prolific drummers on the scene today. His ground-breaking “Hear it, See it, Read it, Play it” teaching technique allows anyone to learn drums, while having fun challenging themselves to new rhythmic adventures.

Testimonials

We were looking for a drum instructor for our 13 year old son that could take him to the next level.  He had taken drum lessons at a small music studio and had reached the end of their study plan.  Luckily we found Kris Russell and The Drummers Studio right in our back-yard.  Our son’s stick skills and timing have improved drastically since starting lessons with Kris.  We feel so very fortunate to have found someone who understands the school music curriculum, but also has had experience in performing and the technical workings of “real music” world.  Kris is very in tune with the music industry and frequently heads field trips to see well known artists that come to the area. His knowledge of the different styles of drumming comes across during every lesson.  Our son has expressed how comfortable he feels with Kris’s approachable style of teaching.  We would strongly recommend anyone interested in beginning or furthering their drumming education to check out The Drummers Studio and Kris Russell.  I promise, you will not be disappointed.

The Fleming Family
Wrentham, MA

 

Dear Kris,
From the first moment my 9 year old son Micah sat down at TDS, he was hooked.  Most other drum lessons use pads and practice drills.  TDS is completely different.  The kids sit at and play real drums, which makes it so fun and so great.  You have a fabulous way of teaching them basics of drumming and they don’t even realize they’re learning.  They just think they’re having fun.  You also have a terrific and patient personality where the kids love “hanging out” with you. We look forward to continuing our drumming education at TDS.  We know it can be hard and requires a lot of focus and practice, but your style and studio setup makes it an excellent learning experience.  Thank you and keep up the great work.

Paul Levine
Franklin, MA

Before I started taking lessons at the Drummer’s Studio, I had previously taken lessons elsewhere. When I went to Kris, I didn’t think that there was all that much left for me to learn, because I had learned all I could from my other teachers. But when I got there I was shocked by the vast amount of drumming I’d never known or heard about! Looking back from when I started taking lessons at the Drummer’s Studio, I can vividly see the immense improvement. Even from week to week I can see improvement; improvement not just in playing ability, but in form and phrasing as well. Going to the Drummer’s studio was undoubtedly the best way to quickly improve my skill on the drums.

Freddy Rioles
Bellingham, MA

 

Kris Russell – President

kris@thedrummersstudio.com | M: 626-676-2486 | O: 508-520-1414 Twitter | Facebook

Drummers Studio founder Kris Russell is currently at the prestigious Drummers Collective in NYC studying styles, reading and Moeller technique and more. Enjoy

Drummers Studio founder Kris Russell is currently at the prestigious Drummers Collective in NYC studying styles, reading and Moeller technique and more.
Enjoy