Here at DrummingMad, we always love to hear the story behind the drummer. To discover what inspired us all to engage in this newfound passion and the different ways in which we proceeded in pursuing its development.
Needless to say, every drummers’ journey is different. Some started young, some started later on in life, some were inspired by seeing their local band play and others may have been introduced by a friend. In exploring these stories, we look for ways in which they might both inspire and help others in their own drumming journeys.
In this article DrummingMad is proud to present the wonderful story of how Italian born drummer, Giorgia Di Girolamo, relentlessly pursued her love of the percussive arts, leading her into the world of Pipe Band Drumming, having the opportunity to travel overseas and winding up on the other side of the world taking on the position of Leading Drummer of a Pipe Band. One thing is clear, she never gave up on her dream to make a career from being a musician – and succeeded.
Giorgia’s story is full of passion and determination and we hope it inspires others as much as it has inspired us. Keep on drumming – DrummingMad!
I was born in a remote village of Italy where drumming is not considered to fit a girl properly. I have always had a great passion for music but my love for the percussions started when I was 13 years old. A friend of mine had just started to play the bass guitar and she suggested me to play the drum kit so that we could play together in a band. The day after I went to a drum kit lesson and I loved it!
At that time I didn’t know it but that day my life completely changed.
Azeglio Izzizzari, my first drum teacher, taught me how to play and read music and he contributed to make my passion stronger day by day. I spent six months between practicing over the pillows and going to some private rehearsal rooms before finally convincing my parents that I really couldn’t stop thinking about drumming; therefore they bought a drum kit and I never stopped playing it.
The music and especially the rhythm were with me during all the high school years and removed the boredom of living in a small town; moreover playing an instrument brought out a part of my being which was hidden inside, only now I realise how lucky I was to “be chosen” by the music.
When I was 15, I formed a great indie rock band and we played a lot in the nearby towns; however sometimes people looked at me suspiciously because I was a girl playing the drum kit. Then, when they heard me playing they changed expression. At first I liked it because people were always surprised and made me lots of compliments after a gig highlighting that even though I was a girl, I was very good at playing. As time went by I realised how wrong and narrow-minded it was to think that a girl couldn’t play as well as a boy, therefore after High School I decided to move to Rome.
Therefore, I enrolled for the Saint Louis College of Music, a modern music University, where I could study with some amazing musicians, especially with Claudio Mastracci who is one of the greatest Italian drummers and the head of jazz percussion department.
At the University I studied the music in all its forms, I learnt how to recognise notes and chords, how harmony and melody work, how to arrange for a big band, how to play the piano and many other interesting things, Unfortunately, while I was studying all of this, I was also realising that my country didn’t recognise my big efforts. In Italy nobody actually thinks that you can live as an artist. In fact when I told someone that I wanted to be a musician they asked me what REAL job I would have wanted to do. It was tough. I was spending so much time studying, preparing myself at the best and I wasn’t receiving anything back; no money when I played a gig, not a positive feedback of my choice of being a musician, not the hope of getting a job once achieved the degree.
I had a few moments where I thought I had chosen the wrong path but I never gave up and I decided I would finish at Saint Louis without thinking too much about the future.
Then one day I was asked to play with a pipe band. At that time I didn’t know what a pipe band was, they told me something about bagpipes, drums and kilts and I accepted the offer therefore I became part of the rock section of the City of Rome Pipe Band.
We prepared a huge show playing classic rock and Scottish tunes. We had Highland dancers on the stage and everyone (except us from the ‘rock section’) was wearing a kilt.
It turned out that I really enjoyed playing with this band, even if I didn’t know anything about Scottish music and traditions at that time. I realised I was quite fascinated by the kilts and the bagpipes… However the thing that struck me the most was the percussion section, especially all those beautiful marching snare drums and their crispy sound! Therefore, I decided to try playing it so I took private lessons from the percussionist and Lead drummer Emiliano Barnia. I got very passionate about the Scottish music and after a few months I joined the City of Rome Pipe Band as a snare drummer.
Soon all the things I knew before about music were not enough for this new genre and I had a new whole section to discover.
Driven by passion, I researched more about the pipe band snare drum and lucky I found the website DrummingMad which soon became a benchmark for me. On DrummingMad I found information about pipe band music, drum scores, online lessons and the chance to buy books, accessories and musical equipment. It was like going to the shopping centre! Thanks to this portal, I could deepen my knowledge in the Scottish music, especially in the pipe band snare drum and most of all I found answers to some of my questions.
The discovery of DrummingMad made me realise how poor were the information we had in Italy about the pipe band world and generally about the marching bands. I knew it was niche music but I also understood clearly that it wasn’t popular among musicians.
However this fact never stopped me to pursue my passion and I kept studying that particular drumming technique and that different way of reading; I regularly played with the City of Rome Pipe Band and I got more confidence in marching. Unfortunately the better I got, the less people understood what I was doing. Pipe bands in Italy are not very popular, there are a few bands in the whole country and the City of Rome has the biggest drum corp. Therefore every time we played we just looked weird and nobody understood how much work there was behind our performance, as for any kind of artistic performance. I felt that for the second time my country revealed itself not ready for my passions, indeed everyday a part of me was realising that I was deep in a very tough path but I couldn’t ignore this strong passion.
Lucky there were some people who supported me in this. As a matter of fact my University teacher, Claudio, guided me in writing my thesis about the pipe band snare drum, even if my music course was “Jazz Percussions”. At first I was scared of judgments but then I decided to do it, not only because I was very passionate about it but also because I strongly believed there was a connection between the Scottish and the jazz music and thanks to my research I could find this connection.
In order to have more info about the pipe band snare drum history I decided to go to Scotland for a short period to find books and most of all to meet a major representatives of the pipe band world such as the Inveraray & District Pipe Band. Once arrived in Glasgow I first met the drummer Gurvan Sicard, who gave me a few private lessons. Then I saw some band rehearsals and I could meet and interview the eight times World Champion Steven Mcwhirter, who was very kind and answered clearly all my questions. Having the chance to see up close a number one band like that was something unique and every time I think back to those days I have goosebumps! The trip to Scotland wasn’t just an amazing experience, it gave me also the chance to meet the Tenor Drum World Champion, Jordan Bailie, who accepted my invitation to play with me in Rome during my concert degree.
I was so excited when he came to Rome… I really couldn’t believe that it was happening! Jordan helped me through the rehearsals and he did an amazing job playing with me and the City of Rome Pipe Band. Therefore my concert degree was extremely successful and all the people were very surprised to see a show like that. That day I felt that for the first time everyone understood my choices and my ‘weird’ passion for this instrument. It was remarkable and eye-opening because all those beautiful events were telling me that I wanted to be a professional pipe band drummer and in order to do that I needed to move to a country where pipe bands and musicians in general were more than welcome.
As fate would have it a month before my degree I auditioned for a drummer position in a grade 3 pipe band in Sydney, Australia. They picked me and so a few months later I moved to Australia to see my life changing completely.
I came to Sydney in January. It was summer and I was always hanging out, seeing new places, enjoying the city and the new culture as a tourist. After the first week I actually realised that I was far from Italy in every way and I didn’t come for a holiday so all of the sudden I felt overwhelmed by all the responsibilities that came. It was tough for a while then things became easier when I found a job, a place to live and I started playing with the band.
It took me at least six months to get settled and to get used to this new life, the language and the local customs and practices but it was worth to wait and it suddenly all made sense. I started working in a happy workplace, getting some friends, knowing musicians and enjoying the time here. Day by day I realised I was in a country where musicians are appreciated and respected and I could live on music, which is exactly what I do right now, working as a music teacher at the All Age Music School as well as a musician. A few months ago I also got the opportunity to be the substitute snare tutor at the Knox Grammar School, teaching to the Australian Champions, in one of the most amazing schools in Sydney.
Despite the amount of work I have also found the time to play with pipe bands and jazz groups and to win some competitions. Since last year I am the Lead Drummer of the Northern Suburbs Pipe Band where I coordinate the percussion section and teach to the new players.
Australia has impressed me a lot but what surprised me the most is that it is possible to realise your dreams. If you really want to do something you need to pursue your passions and do not let anyone or anything stop you. No matter how hard it would be, how many sacrifices you would need to do, it is worth it. If you really believe it, you can do it.
– Giorgia Di Girolamo