Elliot Wallace is a sought after drummer, percussionist and educator throughout New England and NYC. Highly active as a freelance percussionist, he has a diverse output. Elliot has performed with groups and institutions such as: Apartment Sessions, Powerstation Recording Studio, Ghost Hit Recording Studio, Ivoryton Playhouse, Playhouse on Park, Off Broadway Theater, Schubert Theater, The Fairfield Theater Company, The Yale Alumni Association, Richmond IN Symphony, The Connecticut Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra, 10th Intervention, The New Baroque Soloists, New Britain Symphony, Waterbury Symphony, Hartford Independent Chamber Orchestra (HICO) and many others. He was recently a featured xylophone soloist with the Simsbury High School Band. In addition to music theater and classical music, he performs regularly with his rock band Art School Girls and plays frequent jazz and big band gigs. Elliot also holds the position of dance accompanist at the University of Hartford.
Elliot is also well versed in world percussion, studying with conga greats Michael Spiro and John Amira, as well as Brazilian music expert Rogerio Boccato and African percussionist Joe Galeota. In January 2014, Elliot traveled to Ghana to study ewe drumming from master drummer Bernard Woma. During school, Elliot’s primary teachers were Dr. Larry Snider, and Benjamin Toth. Elliot is currently the percussion instructor at Simsbury High School, The Loomis Chaffee School, Parkville Sounds, and Southbury Music Studio, as well as professor of percussion at Holyoke Community College and Naugatuck Valley Community College. He also recently (Spring ‘16) served as Sabbatical Replacement for Benjamin Toth at The Hartt School of Music. Elliot holds a Bachelor Degree from the University of Akron and a Masters Degree from the University of Hartford.
Check out these videos of Elliot!
Check out the below interview with Elliot!
Can you give our readers who don't know you a brief overview of who you are and what you've done in the Connecticut music scene?
I moved to Hartford to work on a Masters degree at the Hartt School, and after getting my degree I was working enough as a freelancer to justify staying in the area. My main gigs tend to be in the realm of musical theater, partially owing to my classical percussion education. These type of gigs tend to involve drum set and mallets at the very least, and usually you have to play pretty quietly to accompany vocalists. Freelancing will put you in some interesting situations, from playing timpani with an orchestra to playing marching bass drum in a parade. Things are always interesting, and you find yourself in playing situations that you would never have expected. I do have a couple of creative projects as well. Art School Girls is on band in particular that I’ve recorded and played shows with over the past several years. It’s been a nice outlet to have something that’s not as structured and allows more freedom for creativity.
You're extremely versatile in many different types of music/percussion. How did you get into all the different facets of drumming?
Both my major teachers, Dr. Larry Snider and Ben Toth, put a great deal of emphasis on learning hand drums and world percussion in addition to the standard classical instruments. It was through the University of Akron that I started taking lessons on different hand drums and was able to continue that into grad school. I found that I would get on kicks (and still do), really digging into specific artists and their work. Transcribing the music really helped me to learn it, but I found myself being drawn to a lot of different sounds, so I found getting organized was super useful to making a dent in what I was trying to do. There is also a lot of great published material out there full of transcriptions and listening recommendations that can set you off in the right direction.
Do you feel that learning Latin percussion has helped the other areas of your playing? In your opinion should students who study drums broaden their musical tastes to something outside of their comfort zones? What benefits can they take away from doing so?
Short answer…yes. It helps that I LOVE latin music and listen to it regularly. I think it helps the most with learning how to fit in a rhythm section, especially one that has another percussionist. You don’t want to do anything to disrupt the groove or step on each others toes, so every note has to add to the overall sound. There is no room for ego when you’re playing super tight rhythmic music. I think another benefit of expanding your listening and playing realm is that it is humbling to realize that there are amazing musicians in every facet of music, and that by studying drums you are becoming a part of a tradition greater than any one culture. Drumming is in every culture, so it’s a way to diversify yourself as a person, not just a musician.
For someone who has gone through a Bachelors and Masters of Music, what advice would you give prospective percussion students who are planning to pursue percussion at a collegiate level?
Continually practice the basics, and always be prepared. People will notice.
You have a wide range of teaching percussion at different ability levels. Are there any obstacles, regardless of level, that you find students have o overcome in their playing?
I think it’s common for students to forget to relax and to use their ears. Usually young kids have an easier time doing this, whereas older students who have been playing for a while sometimes have to learn how to relax. I find stretching and doing some calisthenics before practice can really help.
How has teaching impacted your playing?
Teaching has reminded me the value of working on the fundamentals, i.e. scales, arpeggios, rudiments, sight, reading, basic permutations, time keeping, etc… So often I see people trying to work on material that is quite difficult and they spend all their time working on one or two ultra specific things but then struggle with simple concepts. I now strive to find a balance between long term goals and a daily practice regiment.
Any other advice you'd like to share?
Learning how to play only half the battle if you want to freelance professionally. Understanding tax laws and deadlines, budgeting, and SCHEDULING is just as important as playing the right notes.