Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Charles Dowd aphorisms - part 1

Here are some choice quotes from my old percussion professor at the University of Oregon, Charles Dowd, who died last year. He was a star pupil of Saul Goodman and Tony Cirone back in the day, has written several classic drum and percussion method books, and has taught many, many outstanding percussionists and drummers since the mid-1970's- you can't swing a cat in the pacific northwest without hitting an accomplished musician who came out of his program.

I had a contentious relationship with him, but he was a tremendous influence even so, shaping my concept of musicianship and professionalism before I even knew I wanted to be one- his students, including my older brother, were around me all the time from an early age.

These are as his students remembered him saying them, pulled from his memorial Facebook page:


Take the stick. Hit the marimba.

I'm from the Hit the Drum School.

Take your stick in your hand... and hit the drum.

Play Loud!

Don't BANG, unless the composer writes in your part, right above the note, BANG!

Every note is a little pearl.

NO! VOICE your bass drum. Who's gonna hear THAT?

Who's gonna hear that? IT'S A SOLO 'p' so play it 'mf'. Play to the back row of the balcony. Don't look at me, look out there at the balcony.

I don't care if you use your fucking metal mallets. Just make a big fucking sound.

It's better to be sharp than to be OUT OF TUNE.

Dont bang!


Ride cymbal: "Dig in!"

You need a dark German sound. Look at Brahms... look at that Beard. Brahms needs your DARKEST German Sound. How DARK can you get your GERMAN sound? You need to get your darkest German sound like.... the Nazis.

It should sound like DISCO NAZI MUSIC!!! MORE DISCO!!! MORE GERMAN!!! MORE!!!!!!!!!!



Where's the MUSic?!




It's not a drum battle... it's a DUET!


U of O Master studion sign: Articulation + Sensitivity = Musicality

My Grandfather said, "I went to war, so my son could go into business, so that my grandson could study art and music."


U of O Master studion sign: Precision, Musicality, Sensitivity.

You can't have first note-itis.

The stoplights have rhythm! The day has a pattern! You sleep in meter! You wake at the same time every morning! You sh*t at the same time every day!

Play with BIG ears.

When times are hard, ESPECIALLY when times are hard, artists create their art with even MORE passion, with even MORE commitment.

If you're early, you're on time; if you're on time, you're late; and if you're late... you're fired!

Never be late for a gig. You will arrive, and it will be on the 7th floor, and the elevator will be broken.

HUSBAND your calendar!

Don't be double-booked.

Carry a pencil!

Don't let the schlep affect your playing.

One time Tony (Cirone) didn't check his ties and a cymbal flew off and almost KILLED the concert master.

Don't not thank and shake the conductor's hand. Don't not thank and shake the personnel manager's hand.


ONLY play good music with good players, good music for good pay, good players with good pay. Only one of these can be shitty. Don't play shitty music with shitty musicians for shitty pay. Don't not play good.

Don't play shitty music with shitty musicians for shitty money.

Don't FUCK UP or you'll get FIRED!


mummo said...

you probably don't remember me but I remember 'Little Pearls'

Todd Bishop said...

I might! Send me a private message if you don't want to publish your name. That little pearls thing goes way back- my brother and his friends were laughing about that one back in the 70's, when I was a kid.

Steve Wolfe said...

Good stuff Todd. I still think of things Charles said all the time. One of my favorites was when he would give a long speach before starting a rehearsal, setting the scene for how important this moment is. He would inevitably end the speach very seriously with something like: "You hold your career in the palm of your hand......please.....don't fuck it up...."

Mr. Dowd said...

I miss my dad . . . "Don't fuck up, Jason."

Gina said...

Thanks for these. I miss Charles, too, even though I haven't been back to campus since I graduated. I was an ed major, so I got a different (more basic) set of aphorisms. I particularly remember "No pinky-winky. No chicken wing." Which is probably still in my notebook.

Chris Williams said...

I only just now found out. I was Charle's student from 94-97. At that time He had put up a sign by his door "no posers" in almost abject criticism for some of the students being more interested in marching band than his department.

I auditioned before I was accepted to UO. When the school rejected me, he got me in.

Jonesworld said...

Just finding this for the first time - thanks Facebook posts. I have offerings. "MORE LIFT!" "LEGATO!" and more specifically, I remember how Charles demolished Eric's brand new LHS marimba mallet demonstrating a NOT legato stroke. and in a PE rehearsal I asked him if my snares should be on, he replied: "Um, Yes. Wait.. No. Wait.. ask me later." I miss Charles - and I miss the people in my life who could do the Charles Voice so well. We are a family, all of us who studied with him.

Anonymous said...

"FUCKADUH – FUCKADUH – FUCKADUH..." – My Dad, Charles, voicing the rhythm with a hard hand slap to your thigh.

Anonymous said...

I was just thinking about Prof Dowd and what a Good Man he was. I was never one of his students, just a local music lover who was "engaged". He always treated me as an equal comrade in the pursuit of honest music. He always greeted me, even from afar.
My fondest memory of him is witnessing a solo performance he gave in the basement of a local restaurant. His Wife was present, front row, center. They never took their eyes off of each other. It was as if they were the only people in the room. They smiled at each other and laughed together all through his performance. They shared with each other, and on that evening, with the audience, a joy and love that I will never forget. Fare you well, Charles Dowd. You were really something special.

David Lauder said...


TMc said...

Bishop, when were you there? Your name seems so familiar; I was there 86-88, with Shawn Brekke, Kelli Hartz, Ty the cellist, etc.

My all-time favorite Charles Dowd memory was of a solo concert he gave at Beall, using multiple percussion pieces. At one point in the performance, the cuff of his pants leg got caught in the pedal gears of one of the tympani; as he rushed away to play something on the chimes or whatever it was, the cuff of the pants tore away, and to his credit he didn’t miss a bloody beat. He finished the rest of the performance with a shredded pant leg, took his bows looking like a dog had savaged his leg, and although you could tell he was fuming (possibly because someone, who may or may not have been me, was in the front row still crying laughing) he was the consummate professional throughout the entire ordeal, and I’ll admit, my respect for him rose ever higher after that. I wasn’t a music major, just a former tympanist in high school who dabbled a bit in college, so I never had any direct contact with him except in the hallways, but I admired the hell out of how he handled that crazy performance.