Do we find our callings, or do they find us? Ask drummer Walter Garces and he will most likely go with the latter. “Otherwise, I guess my life would have been determined by a 13-year-old named George,” he says with a smile. “This kid had been given a guitar, decided to start a band, and informed me that he would be needing a drummer.” That was all the invitation he would need. But, it would not be an easy path to follow. “My parents were devoutly unenthused about having a musician in the family,” explains Garces, “but, in the long run, I must have been more determined to play than they were to stop me.”
As strange as it is to find steely determination in a 12-year-old, it has been known to happen…at least once. Young Garces obtained his first snare drum though the only means available: a comic book offer. The bass drum would come from a Harlem pawn shop.
Enter Fate again. In 1971, the hit band Vanilla Fudge appeared on Ed Sullivan. The drummer was a man known by most everyone who’s even thought about playing drums: Carmine Appice ( Rod Stewart, Jeff Beck, Pink Floyd, etc) . Garces recalls the moment with wonder, “I had seen Ringo play, as well as some of the others, but I had never seen anyone play like this. The sheer power blew me away.” The next step seemed obvious. “Even as a kid, I realized that, in order to be the best, I was going to have to learn from the best,” says Garces. So, he proceeded to track down the man who was to be his first mentor. Carmine was teaching in Long Island, which would require Garces to travel 2 1/2 hours each way to a lesson. There was also the small matter of paying for the lessons, something he would have to do himself.
So, at the age of 13, Garces became an entrepreneur, holding a variety of jobs which would produce the lesson money and car fare. Not allowed to keep his drums at home, he arranged to keep them at school, where additional hours of practice were available. “It was always more than something I did because my parents didn’t want me to,” explains Garces. “When I was playing, I was happy. As a kid growing up in Harlem, happiness was pretty hard to come by. Even getting home from school could be a challenge of the most dangerous kind.” By the time he was 17, Garces was a full-time musician, starting with casuals, R&B and cover bands, and moving on to original NY bands. In 1977, Garces began study with Henry Adler (forever known as the man who taught Buddy Rich), a process which contributed not only to his chosen profession but, once again, to a profession which seemed to choose him.
A number of friends and associates expressed their desire to take lessons from Henry. As it happened, Henry was booked constantly, so they began to ask Garces to teach them. “I guess I finally just got tired of saying, ‘I don’t teach; I’m a player,’ So, I started taking students.” Many students would also be generated from the several music retail stores in which Garces found employment. “While at work, I played every chance I got, and people seemed to like my style, so they would ask to be taught.” He began employing Henry’s method of instruction, eventually developing his own comprehensive course of study which includes atin, jazz, rock, 4-way coordination, left-hand development exercises and rigorous hand development, as well as independence on the drum set, mechanics, computers and electronics.
In addition to his accomplishments as a musician, Garces has honed his discipline and control by obtaining a black belt in Go-Ju-Ryu, and running marathons as often as possible, both locally and internationally.
Please call (212) 741-0091 X104 for information on lessons with Walter, or email us at [email protected]