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Stephane Chamberland

Interview by Jillian Mitchell // April 29 2012
Stephane Chamberland

I really like to do many different things related to the drum set and music. Each aspect of my career fulfills a part of my journey. 

Stephane can most definitely be counted among drumming's elite. Having to first master the English language in order to study with his hero Dom Famularo, then to make the trip every month to New York from Quebec City, Stephane has never allowed anything to be considered an obstacle and has flourished in his native country of Canada, being the first to open a Wizdom Drumshed. The Black Page was recently given the opportunity to sit and chat with the inspiring Mr. Chamberland. Read on.

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Stephane, you truly are a Jack of all trades: drummer, clinician, educator, and author. Does one hold more enjoyment for you over the others? 

I really like to do many different things related to the drum set and music. Each aspect of my career fulfills a part of my journey. As an artist, I have this need for creating and playing, so performing live with bands gives me a sense of extreme pleasure and accomplishment. When I teach, it’s a totally different feeling. It’s more like helping someone else, and it’s all about the student. I see it as passing the torch. I had a great chance to study with some amazing teachers and musicians and they gave me knowledge that unlocked my personal expression and made it possible to find myself in music and play with total speed, control, power, and endurance. Seeing a student grow is amazing and it gives me as much pleasure as playing but on a different scale—more in the interpersonal stage instead of personal. Writing a book is also something completely different. The joy of sharing ideas with people all over the world is tremendous. I’ve had the opportunity to write books with Dom Famularo, Joe Bergamini, Paul Hose and Jim Farey. They are great friends that share a common vision of empowering people through music. We use the books to pass knowledge and send the message to as many people as possible. Using the books in my personal teaching programs is also rewarding because it was the first reason we started working on books—to get the best out of our own students. I really love each aspect of my career and treat them all as a separate division of what I do, but that they all contribute to your ultimate goal.

Undoubtedly, you are an internationally respected clinician. What do you focus on in your clinics? Which country has been the most responsive to your message? And what is your most memorable moment?

My clinics can be subdivided in a couple of different categories. First of all, I like to perform with tracks of my own bands and musical projects. I had the chance to work with some great musicians this year in Quebec City (Canada) that composed great fusion/latin/jazz songs for me; Mathieu Fiset, Jean Benoit Lemire and William Simard. I am playing these songs live to make sure music is a BIG part of the presentation. I believe that creating a bridge between education and the job of being a live performer is important. I use music to demonstrate that. The educational part of my clinics is really large and can change depending on the demand, but I usually talk about the books I co-wrote. Motivation is also important for me. I like to talk about the tools and the path of self-discovery inside the pursuit of a dream. I had so many great experiences from my travel around the world that I want to share that. Humor is a big part of who I am during a clinic. I really like to talk about what has happened just before the clinic. Life gives me so much material that I just need to be open and to listen to all the inspiration that comes to me.

When did your passion for drumming first ignite?

I was about three years old and my parents were playing in a band. I fell in love with drums and I wanted to play so badly.  I remember sitting on the floor and feeling the vibration of the bass drum head. At five I started to take drum lessons but my legs were too short and I wasn’t able to touch the pedals with my feet. It was really funny. I also remember asking my uncle who is also a drummer to show me my first drum beat. I started taking drum lessons when I was five years old. I never stopped taking lessons since. I went to the conservatory and took as many lessons as I could with local teachers at the music stores in my area. I played my first gig at five with my parent’s band for my uncle’s wedding. I never stopped playing as well. I don’t remember a time in my life where I wasn’t studying and playing.

Rumor has it your musical journey is a story of true dedication. Tell us about your start with Dom Famularo.

I met Dom when he came to Quebec City about twelve years ago. This was actually the first time I realized that I wanted to become a professional drummer. It was amazing and I didn’t have the chance to talk with him but he came back the year after. I was giving a master class and at the end of his session he offered to let us try his drum set. I decided to go play and he noticed me. He came to me and after I spoke only three words; he realized, actually we both realized that my English was not good at all.

So to be able to study in New York with him and ten other teachers, I had to learn English. I went to Toronto and learned English for about a year. After that I called him back and asked for lessons. This was the beginning of a ten year journey. I was going to New York each month for at least a week and I was driving twelve hours to get there from my house. It was the best education I ever could have asked for. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Dom became my main coach, and he still is to this day. I also studied with many other great drummers such as Jim Chapin, John Riley, Bobby Sanabria, Robby Ameen, Joe Bergamini, John Favicchia and Billy Ward, to name a few.  I wanted to reach a master level with respect to my technique, reading and drum set playing. I have learned to be proficient in all styles, Education is the best. Knowledge is so powerful!

You are fluent in both French and English. Any others?

No, I know Right and Left in Chinese that’s pretty much it.

Tell us about your many books and how we can get copies. Are these books available in both French and English?

The first book I wrote was The Weaker Side. We had this vision to create a followup of Stick Control to work on the weaker hand and the weaker foot. All that bringing us to the Open handed Technique. I wrote The Weaker Side with the goal of opening up new possibilities and helping people to balance their playing. The second book that I co-wrote was Pedal Control. Dom’s wonderful book It’s Your Move is the very best book to learn proper hand technique. With Pedal Control we applied the same principles to the feet. I began to realize how great this book was when I started teaching with it. All of the books have a logical order and approach.

The first step is to get great technique with your hands and feet, and then we learn to apply it to the drum set and incorporate all the techniques learned in each style and exercise that we then play with music. I also wrote Drumset Duets with Dom. We created really modern grooves with ghost notes. Drummer A plays the first beat, while drummer B plays the second beat. Both beats together create a synergy. This is fun and great to teach with. It comes with a CD so you can play by yourself as well. I had the honor of playing at the 2012 NAMM Show for Alfred Publishing. I played and explained the book with Steve Gendron, a great Canadian drummer. There is another great book that I wrote with Paul Hose and Jim Farey. It’s called Drumset for Beginners also available from Alfred Publishing. Finally, this year I worked on the new versions of the great classic books Stick Control and Accents and Rebonds by George Lawrence Stone. I am proud to be part of a great team of people and to share our knowledge with the planet. All of my books are available at www.wizdom-media.com. You can also visit Alfred’s web site to get more info about the other books.

Stephane, you teach online lessons as well. How do these lessons compare with in-person lessons?

I love teaching online. I think this has many advantages. The student can save time and money because he or she doesn’t have to travel to the studio. The comfort of their home could also be an incentive, and they can use their own drum set! For teachers, this is huge because we now can touch the international market. I teach students from Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, France, Italy, London, USA and Canada over Skype. Of course I really enjoy the in-person lessons as well. But with the distance separating most of my students from the studio, Skype is just the way to go for the best results. This is funny because most of them I have never met in person. It’s funny to realize that some of my students began at entry level and ended up advanced without ever seeing me in person. My studio has all the new technology to make the lessons as smooth as possible. The technology serving education, that’s the way to go!

We live in the age of email, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. In your opinion, how important are these mediums to a successful career in the drumming industry? Are you, yourself, using all three?

Yes, I am using all the websites and social networks. Every time I am touring for bands or clinics, when people enjoy what I do, they want to “follow me” and know more about my new videos, albums or gigs. I am using my personal website for more formal info, like if you want to hire me as a drummer, clinician or author, you have all the info on www.stephanechamberland.com. It’s linked to my Facebook page, my YouTube page and Twitter. Major news will be on Facebook and all the silly thoughts that I have will be on Twitter. For me Facebook is more business oriented and Twitter is more personal. These websites are a very important tool to create a fan base and keep them informed. Creating the demand and the excitement is important.

As a player for hire, who is the most interesting artist you’ve worked with? Who are you currently working with?

I like playing with bands live. I like many different styles; this is why I decided to become a freelance musician. I play with tons of people, many different genres and many different gigs. This year, I played with Mathieu Fiset, a very talented keyboard player. I recorded two tracks on his new album Robojazz. We are planning a tour for 2012-2013. I am also playing with Kabir Percusson with Christian Pare. We play Afro-Cuban, Brazilian and African music. I play all percussion and drum set as well. I had the chance to perform at the biggest shows and events in Quebec City with Kabir. We play with musicians from all cultures. I also play and work with the band Phonethemental. We play world music and I am recording their new upcoming album. I had the chance to work with Roxane de Lafontaine, a great violin player. We played in many festivals and concert halls. I recorded two albums with her. I am also leading my own musical projects and I work with artists from all around the world. I recorded a couple of jingles for Taiwan also earlier this year. I also play in many Top 40 bands and play corporate gigs. I believe that playing with other musicians is something really important and it’s a big part of what I want to keep doing through the years. I feel very lucky to play with such great musicians. I have a couple of new projects coming up!

Who are your top three favorite drummers, as well as your top three favorite songs to jam?

I like so many drummers, to choose only three is a hard task. I would say Claus Hessler, Jojo Mayer and Russ Miller. Song wise, I am a huge music buyer and I go to the iTunes store every week and buy a couple of albums. Right now I am listening to a lot of John Mayer and Big Wreck, Mute Math and Karkwa. I like the new stuff but I also listen to lots of jazz and Afro Cuban music. I listen to music with an open mind and I also make sure that I don’t only listen to the drums but to all of the instruments, forms and arrangements. I jam with a lot of play-alongs. I use all of the different books that are available. I have over 800 drum books in my studio and because I own a recording studio, I can record myself playing with music and study it after I’m through. Recording drums and creating sounds is another passion for me.

If you had to sum up your life motto, what would it be?

Life is a learning experience. You know, coaching students, I had to start working on my personal self-empowerment. I started reading many books like The Cycle of Self-Empowerment by Dom Famularo, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey. This year I discovered The Work by Byron Katie and some books by Wayne Dyer. Music is connected to the spiritual being. I believe that the more we discover and unleash our inner forces the better we become as musicians and as people. I made the most extraordinary discovery—what I play is not mine; I am just the link between my spiritual being and the music that becomes reality once it’s played. I play what comes to my mind and I believe that it comes from God, so it’s all good. Thinking that, I remove all pressure and stress and make myself a better listener and a better musician, connected to the source.

What do you have coming up?

People always ask me, what are your next moves or projects? Because I am already doing what I love, I can only answer, I just want to keep doing what I do and raise my personal goals. I will be recording more albums this year, traveling the world to perform clinics for my companies; I play Sabian Cymbals, Mapex Drums, Evans Drumheads, Vic Firth Sticks and Shure Microphones. I will also keep playing live gigs with as many different musicians as possible and I will continue to work on new books for Wizdom Media that I am actually in the process of writing. I also want to record new performances and educational videos. The rest will be a surprise because we live in the field of infinite possibilities!




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About the Author
Jillian Mitchell

As a professional vocalist (and self-professed grammar nerd), Jill brings a fresh perspective to The Black Page. In addition to earning a B.A. in music, creative writing and English, Jill has also studied vocals with Philadelphia-based vocal coach Owen Brown, known for his work with Mary J. Blige, Celine Dion, and Wyclef Jean. Jill makes up the other half of world soul group The Mitchells, alongside Black Page creator, Sean Mitchell.



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