Can Playing Polyrhythms 

Give Birth to Polymaths?

By Christopher Norris for The Huffington Post


My Mind on Drums: How I Enable Creativity that Fosters Innovation and Advance Thought Leadership.

I can't speak for every drummer, but for me the process of drumming enables creativity and helps me foster innovation and advance thought-leadership. Studies show that drumming produces deeper self awareness by inducing synchronous brain activity. This coordination can lead to integrative modes of consciousness, which may include greater insight or creativity. So as the trend of crowd-sourcing entrepreneurs to solve social problems intensifies, one can argue -- and one will -- that playing polyrhythms -- the simultaneous use of two or more conflicting rhythms -- can rebirth polymaths into our rapidly growing knowledge-based economy.

A polymath -- a word Harvard Business Review says "is more likely to show up on the SAT than in everyday life conversation because there aren't a lot of polymaths around anymore" -- is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas; such as person is known to draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems.

Recently, Samuel Arbesman, a writer for Wired magazine, argued that to foster more polymaths people should "embrace the machine," particularly, by learning to code. In response, Alex Knapp, a staff writer at Forbes, wrote an article suggesting that if people want to develop "those creative, problem solving skills, the solution isn't learning to code -- its learning to paint. Or play an instrument. Or write poetry. Or sculpt."

As a self-taught professional drummer who also self-taught myself basic HTML coding and graphic design in order to support my "rogue" journalism initiatives, I agree with both gentleman, but would have to note that I believe my ability to create and scale an online business with no technological background has a large part to do with the fact that I have engaged in the arts my entire life, not just as a drummer, but as an actor, poet and now, at 27 years-old, a budding baritone operatic singer who dabbles on the piano.

When I sit down behind a drumset, playing polyrhythms is how I usually start off my practice sessions, which usually spans about an hour -- it was three hours before founding Techbook Online. I wasn't certain on the science behind what I was doing, but I knew for sure that something magical was happening to me when I played an ostinato over triplets, alternating between my floor tom and snare, for a sustained period of time.

Check out several examples of polyrhythms in my classic solo video: 'Pieces of a Puzzle"

Pat Brown, International Drum Month chairman and Percussion Marketing Council co-executive director, stated: "Playing the drums makes the brain think in a way that very few activities can. Being able to understand musical notes and dissect how rhythms work and go together is a very complicated thought process."

According to the study by E. Glenn Shallenberg at the University of Toronto, IQ test scores of 6-year-old children significantly improved after receiving drum lessons. After recruiting a group of 144 six year-old and separating them into four groups; those receiving drum lessons, voice lessons, drama lessons and no lessons, Shallenberg claims that the children who took drum lessons showed significant improvement in their IQ test, gaining an average of seven IQ points. It's also noteworthy that the children receiving voice lessons increased in IQ by six points, those doing drama increased five points and those who received no lesson improved four points.

Knapp notes in his article, that in the history of the Nobel Prize, nearly every Laureate has pursued the arts. According to research by psychologists Michele and Robert Root-Bernstein:

Almost all Nobel laureates in the sciences actively engage in arts as adults. They are twenty-five times as likely as the average scientist to sing, dance, or act; seventeen times as likely to be a visual artist; twelve times more likely to write poetry and literature; eight times more likely to do woodworking or some other craft; four times as likely to be a musician; and twice as likely to be a photographer.

And although Knapp believes "the science behind why studying the arts boost creativity is still in its infancy," the impact of drumming on our lives -- both physical and physiological -- is well documented and -- in my opinion -- is ready to be played on the big stage. Drumming does not require advanced physical abilities or specialized talents. It doesn't require participants to read music or understand music theory -- I'm admittedly a beginner in that context. Drumming, even a simple pattern, offers benefits to a huge range of people. Drumming is a universal language and last but not least, drumming is freaking awesome!

Want polymaths back in society? Let's all try playing polyrhythms, because I believe that by recognizing patterns and comprehending the similarities in various styles of rudimental application, we can see the similarities between different spheres of knowledge and give birth to innovations that occur at the boundaries of disciplines. Hey, it's worth a rimshot!

Thanks for reading. Until next time, I'm Flood the Drummer® & I'm drumming for justice!

A Philly drummer playing a global beat, Christopher A. Norris is an award-winning journalist, online content producer and professional drummer endorsed by TRX Cymbals. An American businessman, Norris currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Techbook Online Corporation, overseeing a strategic initiative of mobilizing local, regional, national and global communities by encouraging the production, safeguarding and dissemination of diversified contents in the media and global information networks.


Why Students Really Quit Their Musical Instrument 

(and How Parents Can Prevent It)

 By Anthony Mazzocchi for the National Association for Music Education


Every year almost 100% of public school students begin an instrument through their school’s music program (if a program exists).  One or two years later, more than 50% of students quit; unable to enjoy all that music education has to offer for the rest of their K-12 schooling, if not beyond.  

 During my time as an educator and administrator, parents and students have shared with me several reasons why the child quit their musical instrument, including:

The student is not musically talented (or at least thought they weren’t).

The student is too busy with other activities.

The student hates practicing (or the parents grow weary of begging the child to practice).

The student doesn’t like their teacher.

…and there’s more…

But the real reasons that students quit is often beyond their own understanding.  It is up to teachers and parents to create moments for students to want to continue on their instrument during the early years of study in order for the child to be successful and stay with the craft.

Here are reasons students quit, and ways to combat them:

Parents need to find music just as important as other subjects.  The sad truth is that many non-music teachers and administrators do not find music equally as important as math or English language-arts, but parents need to.  Besides, you wouldn’t let your child quit math, would you?  Many kids would jump at that opportunity.  Music is a core subject…period.  The more parents treat it as such, the less students will quit.

Students don’t know how to get better.  Without the proper tools and practice habits to get better at anything, students will become frustrated and want to quit.  It is the role of the music educator and the parents to give students ownership over their learning.  Teachers must teach students why, how, where, and when to practice, and parents must obtain minimal knowledge about how students learn music in order to properly support them at home.

Parents and students think they aren’t musically talented.  Sure, there are some kids who pick up an instrument and sound decent immediately, but they will hit a wall later and have to work hard to overcome it.  Most everyone else won’t sound that great at first.  Playing a musical instrument is a craft that, if practiced correctly, is something that all children can find success in.  As long as students know how to practice and that it needs to be done regularly, they will get better.  

Students discontinue playing over the summer.  Statistics show that students who do not read over the summer find themselves extremely behind once school starts.  The same goes for playing an instrument.  A year of musical instruction can quickly go down the tubes over the summer vacation if students do not find small ways to play once in a while.  Picking up an instrument for the first time after a long layoff can be so frustrating that a student will not want to continue into the next school year.

The instrument is in disrepair.  A worn down cork, poor working reed, or small dent can wreak havoc on a child’s playing ability.  Sometimes the malfunction is so subtle that the student thinks they are doing something wrong, and frustration mounts.  Students, parents and teachers need to be aware of the basics of instrument maintenance and be on top of repairs when needed.

Teachers don’t create enough performing opportunities during the year.  The best way to motivate students musically is through performance.  Weeks or even months on end of practicing without performing for an audience gets old very quick, and student will definitely quit.  Teachers should schedule performances every six weeks or so in order for students to stay engaged and practicing.  Parents can help by creating small performance opportunities at home — a Friday night dinner concert or a planned performance for visiting family members are great ideas.

 There is not enough “fun”music to practice.  It’s very important for parents to be aware of music that interests their child, because it exists in sheet music form for download or purchase.  It’s important that all students play music that is aligned to their interests in addition to other pieces that are worked on in school.

Other activities are pulling at the child.  Between art lessons, sports, karate, and other activities, parents grow weary of having “one more thing” to be on top of schedule-wise.  Parents need to understand that the enduring social and psychological benefits of music are as enormous as those of sports — in the same and different ways.  Budget time accordingly and children will have 10 minutes a day to practice an instrument, for sure.

Much like any worthwhile venture, practicing a musical instrument has its ups and downs.  Kids need to be reminded to practice, of course — but they should not be constantly pushed, and they should not be completely left alone.  It’s a balancing act where sometimes the parents will need to give their child a break for a few days and other times will need to bribe them to practice.  Either way, all children are capable of thriving with a musical education, and students will indeed thank their parents for not letting them quit.

 About the author:


GRAMMY® nominated music educatorAnthony Mazzocchi has performed as a trombonist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, New Jersey Symphony, San Diego Symphony, San Diego Opera, Riverside Symphony, Key West Symphony, in various Broadway shows and numerous recordings and movie soundtracks.

 Tony has served as faculty or as a frequent guest lecturer at The Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music, New York University, and Mannes College of Music.  He has taught students from K-college, and has served as a district Director of Fine and Performing Arts in the South Orange/Maplewood School District.  Tony has been a consultant for arts organizations throughout the NY/NJ area.

 Tony blogs about how to be a successful music parent at The Music Parent’s Guide.  He has written a method book for music teachers called The Band Director’s Method Book Companion.

 Tony is currently Associate Director of the John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State University in New Jersey.  He is also Executive Director of the Kinhaven Summer Music School in Weston, Vermont.  Tony is a clinician for Courtois – Paris.

Kristen Rencher Nuss, Social Media Coordinator. March 27, 2015. © National Association for Music Education (


3 Things Parents 

Must Tell Their Children 

When They Begin 

a Musical Instrument

By Tony Mazzocchi for the National Association of Music Educators

Hopefully your child will begin a musical instrument through their school music program.  If so, when they bring home their instrument for the first time, it is more than just an exciting day…

 ...It is an opportunity...

 …Perhaps one of the greatest opportunities in your child’s life thus far.

If you are like me, you want your kid(s) to complete their K-12 education with far more than factual knowledge and an ability to score well on tests.  You don’t believe that your child’s success in life depends primarily on cognitive skills — the type of intelligence that is measured on IQ tests and such.  You don’t believe that school should be primarily focused on stuffing kids’ brains with as much factual knowledge as possible, but instead is focused on growing skills and mindsets that will last a lifetime.  Psychological traits that include

The patience to persist at a tough (and perhaps boring) task;

The ability to delay gratification;

The curiosity and grit to problem solve;

 …just to name just a few.

 And the musical instrument in your child’s hand could be the key to learning those skills.

You see, your child didn’t receive an instrument with the expectation that they would become a professional musician, just as they did not receive a math book with the expectation of them becoming a mathematician.  But, unlike any other subject, your child has the opportunity to develop some of the most important life skills through learning to play an instrument, and you need to let them know this is the case.

Here are three things parents need to know and be able to express to their child as soon as they begin learning to play a musical instrument:

“You are allowed to fail, and you will become better because of your failures.”  
There are no red pen marks for missed notes in music the way there are on tests — there is nothing to feel bad about when you play something “wrong” in music.  To become skilled at a musical instrument — and to become great at anything — one needs to struggle a little.  In your child’s case, they need to sound bad before they sound good; they need to work on things just beyond what they are capable of in order to get better and smarter, and that means they need to make mistakes.  There is a small gap between what we all are able to do and where we want to be, and focusing on that gap makes us better learners and better people.  Learning a musical instrument allows us to grow from our mistakes.

“Hard works trumps talent every single time.” 
Practicing a skill over and over, the right way, fires circuits in our brains that solidify that skill.  Sure, some people find some skills easier at first than others, but the people who practice that skill daily in order to “burn it” into their brain will always far surpass people who don’t practice enough.  Practicing a musical instrument helps children learn the universal truth that hard work trumps talent.

“This is a long-term commitment, and we are going to stick with it.”  
Studies have shown that students who identified that they would play their instrument for longer than one year outperformed students who only committed to one year of playing by up to 400% — practicing the same amount of time if not less!  The ideas and mindsets students bring to their musical instrument study have a direct effect on their success, and it’s the parents’ role to set the tone on the first day by not giving their child an “easy out” to quit.  Make the decision to invest in your child’s music education for at least a few years of their schooling and you will see results.

There are not many subjects taught in school that have the potential to give our children the life skills they need to be successful beyond their school lives.  Our children can learn how to have grit, motivation, problem-solving skills, flexibility, and character during and after their K-12 schooling — and music is the vehicle to teach these skills.

What if we as parents treated music like any other core subject and expected our children to study it for at least 4 or 5 years? What does “success in school” mean to you and your child?

About the author:

A GRAMMY® nominated music educator, Anthony Mazzocchi has performed as a trombonist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, New Jersey Symphony, San Diego Symphony, San Diego Opera, Riverside Symphony, Key West Symphony, in various Broadway shows and numerous recordings and movie soundtracks.

 Tony has served as faculty or as a frequent guest lecturer at The Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music, New York University, and Mannes College of Music.  He has taught students from K-college, and has served as a district Director of Fine and Performing Arts in the South Orange/Maplewood School District.  Tony has been a consultant for arts organizations throughout the NY/NJ area.

Tony blogs about how to be a successful music parent at The Music Parent’s Guide, and the book by the same name can be bought here.  He has written a method book for music teachers called The Band Director’s Method Book Companion.

 Tony is currently Associate Director of the John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State University in New Jersey.  He is also Executive Director of the Kinhaven Summer Music School in Weston, Vermont.  Tony is a clinician for Courtois – Paris.

 Kristen Rencher Nuss, Social Media Coordinator. March 30, 2015. © National Association for Music Education (