The Great American

Once a year, Zepparella plays a hometown show in San Francisco at the Great American Music Hall. This is a wonderful night for me. I have loved this venue from the moment I moved here 16 years ago: the gold leaf ceiling, the warm dark red of the walls, the mojo. Someone once walked me around the venue and told me ghost stories.

All the great music halls in San Francisco have ghosts, as anyone who works there will tell you. It makes sense, seeing as they have often been theaters for close to 100 years. I think of all of the bodies who have worked there, on stage and off. I think of all of the audiences packed in over the years, and that adds up to quite a bit of plasma and energy that you can feel when you walk in. I also love to think of music as a conduit connecting worlds, and imagine all those melodies conjuring spirits from other decades. read more

Pain and the Constitutional Requirements of a Music Career

When we think about meditation, pain isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. We think of a relaxed body settling deep in the parts of the brain where dreams live. Most people from my genetic background of Viking have some discomfort when sitting for long periods of time on a floor. During a 10-day meditation retreat, there are three one-hour sits of ‘strong determination’ each day, hours in which we do our best to not move a muscle, to just observe sensation and not react to any pain. Speaking to meditators on the last day, I find that everyone experiences pain, no matter age or fitness level. read more

Let There Be Rock: What Dragonflies Taught Me About Practicing Drums

Today in the little park, the pug was sniffing around and I sat myself down in the morning sun. All was quiet except for construction noise a little ways away. It’s San Francisco, where some rich person is always building something.

I guess I hit the right hour for dragonflies, because there were a number of them zipping around the park. So beautiful and careeningly free. I recalled Thoreau and his thoughts about the innocence of nature.[1] I remembered that dragonflies have sex mid-flight and flashed on the word “ecstatic.” At that moment, I saw a dragonfly just pop out of the air. One minute, barreling through the sky, one minute, gone. It was funny, it didn’t seem out of the ordinary that it, flying, would vanish in front of my eyes. They’re so chaotic and authoritative that surprise wasn’t my first response. read more

The Power of Loud

My first drum lesson. I’m in my 20’s, a bartender in New York. A customer had passed me a business card.

“Well if you want to play drums, here is the number of the best drum teacher in New York City.”

I remember that card coming toward me. I remember the blue afternoon light deep in the restaurant windows. I remember grabbing my future out of his hands.

My teacher sits me down at the drum set.

“Okay, now hit the drum.”

I look at the snare drum. It is vividly white. I gingerly pick up the drumsticks lying on the head, and tap the drum politely. read more

Bliss and Drumming: An Introduction

The house exists only in this dream. Smell of salt and sea, shade of mid-day. Nothing of street or sky, just a path to green lawn. Hard warm concrete gives way to soft clover, cradling my feet.

I toddle across the lawn. My legs are unsteadiness and resolve. A Bird of Paradise flies at the far edge and I’m pulled there. The flower bends level to my crown: brilliant orange, yellow, a stripe of red along the rippled edges. I hold it slick and weighty in my two hands. I tilt the tip of the petals toward my mouth. read more