Vinnie Colaiuta, Pete Zeldman and my Mind Blown!
Updated: Feb 11
Let me open this by saying that this blog may not appeal to you if you’re not a musician or interested in things "musician-y". But hang in there, because I think there’s something for anyone who’s willing to look beyond their immediate “understandings” and hear what God might do in your own heart to break you through to a new place.
I went to school in NYC back in the late 80’s. Renee’s solo career was busy and I had been with Geoff Moore and The Distance for a year or two. I loved playing for Geoff but I also had a desire to learn and become a much better player. So Renee and I agreed that I would quit touring with Geoff and we moved in with my sister and her family in NJ so I could go to Drummer’s Collective in the Chelsea district in New York City and Renee would continue her live dates, literally around the world.
My private instructor was supposed to be Rod Morgenstein from the Dixie Dregs who I’d been a huge fan of for years. Not too long before I went to school, I was informed that Rod was going out on a Dregs reunion tour and that I’d have a new private teacher. They put me with this guy named Pete Zeldman. He’d played for heavy weight artists like Joe Satriani and Sonny Stitt and been on the cutting edge of experimental drumming. He was going to teach me polyrhythmic playing and odd time stuff which is what I had requested to be taught by Rod M.
The first day I walked into meet Pete, he was playing but I couldn’t really get what he was doing and just kind of thought to myself, “Maybe he’s just warming up and making a couple of mistakes.” Ha! We chatted for a few minutes and he asked me what I wanted to learn and I said polyrhythms and odd time stuff. What happened next changed everything I thought I understood about drumming, time… music.
He said to me something like, “What I’m going to show you isn’t necessarily something you’ll use all that much but it will help you understand and play what you’re looking for.”
So he said, “I’m going to play a different time signature in each limb.” So he started playing and he’s telling what he’s doing each time and counting as he’s doing it…
“I’m starting with 3 in my left hand…” and he’s playing a pattern in 3.
Then he says “I’m gonna play in 5 with my right foot.” So he starts playing 5 and he’s counting the 5 while playing it, while still playing 3 in his left hand.
Then I think it may have been 4 in his left foot all the while, continuing with the others.
Then he says, “So now, I’m gonna solo in 7 with my right hand and he’s counting it while playing this unbelievable thing in 7 with his right hand.”
I may not be remembering the exact limb with the exact time signature, but he switched them around more than once or twice, so it kind of doesn’t matter.
At this point, my jaw was own the floor and probably, drool coming out of my mouth.😂
I really couldn’t make heads or tails out of what he was doing except I could hear the patterns and time as he counted them out loud. Yet if I wasn’t paying attention to his counting, it sounded like random hits and flourishes happening all at the same time on all of the drums and cymbals with no time whatsoever.
It was absolutely astounding.
I really did think that what he was doing was humanly impossible.😮
I sort of walked out of the room after our lesson thinking, “Why am I here? I should just quit thinking I can play drums and go home.”
On the other hand, I had just witnessed something that so stretched my concept of what was possible, I began to think about things in completely different ways.
He was an incredibly kind, patient and encouraging teacher and I just barely scratched the surface of what was possible.
When I came back to Nashville and would tell people about him, no one knew of, or had heard his name and as I would try to explain what he showed me, most musicians would say something like “Oh yeah… uh huh.” as if they had heard it before. I began thinking maybe I didn’t know that everybody knew this and it wasn’t as special and remarkable as I thought.
As the years passed, I would every now and then, search him up online and couldn’t find anything on him.
Then this morning on Facebook, I saw Vinnie Colaiuta’s podcast and he was interviewing… Pete Zeldman!
I heard Vinnie saying some of the same things I had thought!
If you're interested in listening to it, go here: https://breakfastwithvinnie.podbean.com/e/episode-26-special-guest-pete-zeldman/
So many times we encounter things that could shift our entire way of thinking.
We have a choice to either let it fall on our own “deaf ears” or we can dig into it and let God break open something new and unthought of by us.
He is so far beyond us but so right with us at the same time.
We’re stuck in time while He’s in eternity.
Yet, we’ve all been made in His image and called by Him to do things, by His power, only He can do.
John 14:12 “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.
Evidently, there are things that we can do by God’s power, through Jesus in us, that are more than we can ever dream of doing by our own strength and talents.
Let’s take the cap off of our thinking and let God blow our minds and see them come to pass!
What is God asking of you that you think “There’s no way I can do that.”?