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Clayton resident, Eric Okamoto, is the newest champion of Extreme Sport Drumming. The Eastern Division Championship was held at the Gaylord Entertainment Center in Nashville, Tennessee during the recent NAMM (National Association of Music Manufacturers) Convention. Drummers from all over the US and Canada competed in the "Battle of the Hands". Eric blew away the competition and was awarded $5000 worth of drum gear. His highest score in the preliminaries was 1085 which ranks him currently as the 5th fastest drummer on record..
When did playing the drums become a competitive sport? A new invention called the Drumometer detects and counts drum beats per second, so now there is a legitimate way to determine speed in playing the drums. Competitors were required to maintain a rapid-fire single stroke roll for one minute. After 15 seconds, the muscles begin to seize - 60 seconds of a clean, ultra-fast drum roll takes great technique, stamina and raw talent. In final competition, Eric's score was 1018 single strokes in one minute - that's 17 beats each second. The second place drummer was 112 beats slower that Eric.
Eric was born in Elmer, NJ and moved to Garner, NC with his family when he was 3 years old. He started showing an aptitude for drums around the age of 5. He remembers his first drumset as being 2 suitcases and a cookie tin. He sites his early musical influences as the Beatles, The Who, Chick Corea, John Coltrane, and Miles Davis. As a young teenager, Eric was with "Lotus, " a San Francisco based jazz group. They played in nightclubs of the former underground Cameron Village in Raleigh. Eric also played snare all four years in the Garner High School Marching Band. After graduation, Eric enrolled as a percussion major at East Carolina University. There he received a classical music education and earned his Bachelor of Arts.
Since graduating from ECU, Eric has played with many different kinds of performing groups, from rock to church worship bands. Some of the bands are Lotus (electric jazz), Backfence (society), Stonehouse (Las Vegas Style), Notsodandylions (Grunge), Raleigh Little Theater pit orchestra, and the Providence Baptist Church orchestra. He also had the opportunity to play with Bob Hopeís show when he appeared in Raleigh during the 1980ís. Eric regularly judges the All-County Band auditions for percussion.
Eric also has 20 years of teaching experience in the private sector. He has influenced hundreds of aspiring, young drummers to become excellent musicians. He currently tutors over 70 percussion students privately at Burt's Music Center in Cary. Many of his students arrive in his studio wanting to become like the rockers they see on TV and "bash" on the set, but Eric makes sure his students first learn to interpret rhythms by reading. The parents of Ericís students appreciate the positive role model Eric has become to their sons and daughters. During his years of teaching, Eric was awarded a U.S. patent in 1997 for his percussion method book. This has been endorsed by drum legends, Jim Chapin (Master Teacher) and Bernard Purdie (Steely Dan, Aretha Franklin, Motown, Most recorded drummer in history).
People familiar with Ericís playing have always known he has amazing chops and lightning speed. The advent of the Drumometer and the "Worldís Fastest Drummer" contests have proven the accuracy of their perception. Training for this contest has improved Eric's awesome speed. Eric is quick to point out however, that being fast is not the same as being musical. "There are two halves to a whole: technique and artistry. Preparing for the contest improved my technique. We don't usually think like athletes, but if you are a professional musician, you need to train your body as though you were in a competitive sport."
Unfortunately, there is yet no invention that attempts to measure the artistry of oneís playing. Beyond his speed, what makes Ericís playing special is his sensitivity and creativity. He tends to use his drumset as a melody instrument while driving a beat. He thrives on polyrhythms and free form jazz.
Eric moved to Clayton after living in Raleigh and Garner. His wife Judy is also a music graduate from East Carolina University. She home schools their two daughters; Clarion and Brianna.
Eric is considering opening a second teaching studio in the Clayton area if there is enough interest. To get more information on his teaching studio, readers may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.