Part man, part machine – that’s the mindset of drummer John Donovan. A musician who’s
played with bands across the country, John sees himself as a cyborg – a dynamic embodiment
of drumline and drumset, both precise and persuasive – a performer whose mix of ideologies
reflects his training and his passion. This wizardry has earned John awards within the
industry and made him a valuable commodity as an artist. Now John has developed a new
Educational Performance DVD to inspire and train other drummers. Drumline Vs. Drumset
demonstrates the best of both worlds, and can kickstart the careers of both aspiring
and professional percussionists.
John has played with professional dance bands, rock bands, metal bands, jazz bands,
musical theater pit orchestras, cruise ship bands and DJ’S. In 2002, John performed with
One Man Religion, which opened for internationally recognized Metal band, Breaking Benjamin.
He is also a multi-world, national and state rudimental drumming champion, marching with
Pioneer, Jersey Surf and The Reading Buccaneers Drum and Bugle Corps. A music business
graduate of McNally Smith College of Music, formerly known as MusicTech, John has served
as composer, arranger, instructor, and manager for drumlines across the Northeast and
Midwest. John was featured in Modern Drummer Magazine, Percussion News and is a performing
artist and clinician for Mapex Marching Percussion And Vater.
Like most drummers, John began by playing rock and roll, but everything changed when
at age 16 he saw his first Drum Corps International drumline. Through intense drumline
training and regimented personal practice, he mastered rudimental snare, tenor and bass
drumming. He then aggressively incorporated those skills into his drumset techniques.
The resulting mix of machine-like precision and emotional depth proved addictive – and
lucrative. From the moment he dedicated himself to this extreme form of mental and physical
conditioning, his value as a drumset player increased exponentially. It was this realization
– that other drummers can jumpstart their careers by mastering his techniques – that
led John to create Drumline Vs. Drumset. It’s a project he believes will re-shape the
As a drumset player, John has the ability to nail the simplest grooves as well as execute
the most complex rhythms at blazing speeds, often without rehearsal. He attributes this
to his training in drumline. On cruise ship tours, guest artists might not arrive until
five minutes before curtain, giving musicians and musical director little or no time
to review the charts or segues. John thrives on these situations, playing shows to near-perfection
not only because he reads music well, but because his drumline skills provide precision
and mechanical muscle memory. Where some drummers feel pressure, he feels pleasure. John
knows his bandmates, as professional musicians, depend on his collaborative skills and
support, and he’s confident he can do the job.
Likewise, John’s drumset experiences feed his drumline instincts. The emotional and
intuitive expression of drumset performance finds its way into John’s love for composing,
arranging, instructing and managing drumlines. He derives immense satisfaction from guiding
a drumline over the course of a season – helping its members mature, becoming a collective
consciousness, passionate in their drive for precision. He believes there is no substitution
for hard work and dedication to the art form, and this belief is demonstrated on his
Drumline Vs. Drumset is a tool any drummer can use. Drumset players will want to explore
drumline playing to hone their mechanical skills and learn new academic theories and
techniques. Drumline players will want to explore drumset playing to expand their emotional
range and create new career paths and opportunities. This DVD showcases a conflict that
has been raging in John’s drumming soul since he was first introduced to drum corps.
The DVD explores various musical and performance elements, everything from extreme rudimental
drumming to heavy metal to classical musicianship.
Whether he’s performing with a headline band, recording, or jamming with other like-minded musicians at the famous Red Onion in Alaska – playing for free food and drinks, rotating in and out all day long and sharing new ideas with the thirty veteran musicians hanging with him – John is living his passion. He hopes Drumline Vs. Drumset helps other percussionists make the vital link between the two ideologies. Meanwhile, he’s working on a more fully developed book on the subject, which should be completed in the next few years. And he’s maintaining his human/mechanical mindset – showcasing his talents, the halves that make him whole.