Every musician has the dream of one day attending and graduating from a highly acclaimed music school or institution. While it is always easy to dream big and aspire to be a drumming Jedi, implementation is a whole other ball game. Since 1977, The Collective has been the Yoda to many a drummers’ desire, boasting a list of alumni who are not only music makers, but are pioneers in their field of expertise.
However the reality of attending any school is a simple one—work hard you will, or succeed you will not. In an effort to guide you down the path of enlightenment I went straight to the Force … err, I mean source, and spent some quality time with The Collective alumni and current director Anthony Citrinite. For Anthony, The Collective is not only a place of higher learning, but a facility that allows a willing student to be immersed in their passion.
Anthony, The Collective is obviously a world renowned facility. What could a student expect out of The Collective?
I was once a student and I’ve been involved with this place for almost twenty years now. For drummers out there that consider The Collective, they can expect to be immersed in music and drumming. We have a wealth of faculty here from all walks of life that all have different specialties. They’re all professional musicians based in New York who have a knack for teaching.
Any student thinking of coming here should be ready to spend the majority of their day and night here at the school either in class learning different styles or learning techniques that are involved in playing those different styles. Every student gets practise time in our fully-equipped studios with professional gear. We have top of the line gear from all the different drum companies (Yamaha, Sonor, DW, GMS), top of the line cymbals (Zildjian, Sabian, and Meinl). Students get booked into private practice rooms everyday. Within any full-time program, it comes with practice time, and that practice time is booked for you at a time that we know you are not in class or you’re not booked for a lesson so that there’s no conflict. You get two hours of practice time booked but that doesn’t mean it stops there because most students, if they’re really hungry—and most of them are—they end up showing up at 8:00 a.m. to get that first hour in before their early classes and then some of those students—if they’re still awake at midnight—they stick around because we’re open till 2:00 a.m. We’re not open to the public till that time but for our students we are. If you’re a full-time student you can arrive as early as 8:00 a.m. and you can leave as late as 2:00 a.m., so there’s only six hours we’re not open. Some students commute and get their sleep in during those six hours and then they’re back here.
So you can plan on being immersed in being a drummer, being a musician and studying with many different faculty members to learn many different styles so that when you leave here you are a well-rounded musician and ready for any situation. It basically runs the gamut—we’re talking contemporary jazz, early jazz, rock, progressive rock, country, hip-hop, electronic drum and bass, gospel, Brazilian, Afro-Cuban, fusion, and the list goes on and on. And we have teachers that play those styles traditionally and teach them in a way that you walk away understanding the history and the groove mechanics behind the traditional rhythms that are part of that style. Once you go through each style—we call it a Certificate Program, which takes you through eighteen styles in twenty weeks—you can then zero in on any specific style and take what we call an EIP which is short for an Elective Intensive Program. So let’s say you are not familiar with eighty percent of these styles; once you go through the twenty weeks and learning all the styles, if you really fall in love with a specific style and you really want to pursue that, you can take an EIP with that style and really dive in even deeper and get into the nooks and crannies of that style.
So you offer a few programs, then.
We offer many programs. Basically most students who come here they take a two-year program. You can also take a one-year program; we offer a six-semester diploma program, which is a year-and-a-half or a two-year diploma program. There are also students who come and take a two-week intensive course; we offer a five-day-week intensive; a two-week, three-week or four-week intensive at certain times in the year. Those are the intensive programs.
Then we have a ten-week program. Usually a student who comes here and does a bunch of ten-week programs, they’re in a diploma program. We have a prep program which is Prep A, Prep B—twenty weeks long taking you through both A and B. That gets you ready to dive into the certificate program which is what I mentioned earlier that takes you through eighteen styles. In addition you take reading with that, you take musicianship. Every drummer plays a little bit of keyboard when they’re done with the program. They learn some theory background and some keyboard. It’s always good for drummers and all musicians to understand the relationship with the other instruments, and that’s what we try to let sink in with the students.
After you take the prep, which is twenty weeks, and the certificate, which is twenty weeks, that’s the first year. That’s when you start diving into these other styles a little deeper with the EIP programs. One of our newer programs is a new music EIP that takes you through a lot of the new concepts that are coming up every day. Peter Retzlaff, one of our faculty members here, designed that program. It’s one of the more popular programs here. We also have a PMP which is short for “Performance Musicianship Program”. That’s also a sort of stepping stone once you get through the first year of prep and certificate.
Then our top tier program is called the Advanced Performance Program, the APP. We have two of those—one of them focuses on recorded material and when you’re done with the ten-week advanced performance program you leave with a CD full of music that you’ve recorded professionally here at the school and you can use to pursue your professional career. So there’s an APP1 and an APP2. Some people opt to do both of them but a lot of people pick and choose because you’re only required to take one of the two to finish your diploma program and get your diploma. The other APP focuses on performance more than recording, even though both have a bit of recording and a bit of performance instruction within them. If you’ve gone through so much of the school to get to that point it helps you to rein all that in and use it in real life situations. In those programs the students run their own recording sessions and they run their own recitals at the end of the program, so it really brings them from student to professional. If they’re not at the professional level when they hit that program, they definitely are when they finish that program. That’s how you finish up your studies here at the school. Believe it or not some students even stay after that and pursue another instrument.
That’s one thing a lot of people don’t know; even though we started as a drumming collective, we are now called The Collective School of Music and we offer professional instruction and curriculum and have a world-class faculty for bass guitar, guitar, keyboard, and vocals as well as drums. I can list a handful of students that have taken the two-year program in drums and then taken a year or two in keyboard, or some people do the guitar thing. They want to be well rounded musicians; they want to understand the relationship with the other instruments or they may want to write their own music and they want to have the skills to be able to do all that. Honestly, that’s very smart. If I could do it all over again, that’s probably what I would do. I would pursue guitar and drums and I would go home and write some music. Some of us drummers get to a point where we don’t want to have to depend on someone else; you want to be the sort of person that can control your own destiny and it’s easier to do that when you have more than just one skill. Being able to lay down a guitar idea and then play the drums to it, you’re half way to writing your own song.
Someone who’s thinking about attending, what would you say is your minimum skill requirement? What should you know how to do by now to attend The Collective, or can you come in as a straight-up beginner?
We’ve had people come here who don’t have the skills but we can see that they have talent and are picking things up fast, so we can tutor them to get them to a point to where they would be accepted into our full-time program. The best answer to your question though is that we do have audition requirements that involve playing a couple of pages in Syncopation and you have to show us that you can play a little bit of rock, a little bit of jazz, that you understand it enough that you at least have your foundation together.
If you don’t get accepted we explain to you exactly what you were lacking so that you can work on it and audition again. We usually have the instructor that would be happy to work with that student to get them to the point to where they will be accepted. The student should check out the audition requirements that we have posted on our website. But they should definitely have a good foundation already set and understand at least one style very well. Most people come in here really understanding rock or jazz and wanting to get more involved in Brazilian, funk, or Afro-Cuban—a lot of people are in to Afro-Cuban because it forces you to use all four limbs independently and that’s a biggy that is constantly sought after.
Syncopation, the Ted Reed’s book, correct?
Yes, that’s been part of our audition process since I was a student in 1994. I remember playing a couple of pages of that book as part of my audition back in 1993. It is definitely one of the most popular drum books that people know. It’s been part of our audition process for over twenty years now.