Biography

Drawing on his years of professional playing experience, Geoff has taught countless students to play drums and percussion; many have continued to play professionally, whether it is in local, national or internationally recognised bands, or become successful drum teachers in their own right to continue passing on the knowledge and ‘improving the drummers’ lot’.

Geoff has spent his whole life in and around the world of drums. Son of a self-taught drummer, from about 4 years of age, Wallsend lad Geoff, went to his father’s gigs whilst he was playing in the northern region with ‘The Panama Jazzmen’. A popular band who played the vibrant 1950’s jazz clubs, dance halls, theatres and prestigious gigs, including accompanying Louis Armstrong on tour.

Geoff started drum and orchestral percussion lessons aged eight, with his father’s friend, ex-Army drummer Frank Gibney, who was the only drum teacher who taught formally in the region. Geoff was soon in demand and became the first Northumberland Combined Schools Orchestra’s percussionist. (Quite ironic, as around 50 years later Geoff was Head of Instrumental Tuition at Northumberland Music Service)

Geoff’s early listening included big bands like Duke Ellington and Count Bassey. But when the rock revolution happened and The Rolling Stones and The Beatles came on the scene, he knew he wanted to be a rock drummer and suddenly there were lots of opportunities to play music.

At age 14, Geoff played his first professional gig at the Gosforth Park Hotel, Newcastle, and didn’t look back. On leaving school, he gigged locally then toured England and Europe with various bands and groups and on returning to Newcastle, joined R&B band Halfbreed, who were signed to United Artists; but after releasing a couple of singles and an album, the group disbanded.

All the while Geoff retained a passion for different styles of music and rekindled his interest in be-bop, whilst playing with the jazz group The Lewis Watson Quartet, and the fusion style with Bob Plymer’s ‘Jack’s Giraffe’.

From a young age, Geoff realised that the ‘drummer’s lot’ was not a fair one as in school it was clear that drummers were not given the same opportunities as other instrumentalists. Outside London, there were very few drum specialist retailers. The drum manufacturers were not providing for children to learn to play drums, unlike the string manufacturers where they would produce, ½ and ¾ size instruments, books, study materials etc. so he decided to try and change this. By trying to develop an interest in playing in schools, it would then provide a market for the manufacturers to supply. Over the decades, Geoff has been at the forefront of some of the vast changes in the drum education regionally and nationally.

Among his first students were Neal Wood, Steve Wall and Tony Tuddenham, all who have made a career from drumming and are now drum teachers in their own right. After that initial success, Geoff is proud to have taught thousands of young drummers across the past 30+ years.

People want to drum for a variety of reasons from relaxation, fun, developing co-ordination or wanting to enter the music industry and make it their career. Whichever it is, Geoff believes all students should be on the same path of learning, they should all have access to the right information and technical development and all be given the opportunity to reach their potential; then the student has the freedom to decide how far they wish to travel along the pathway.

Geoff always judges his performance as a teacher by the standards and successes of his students. Of those students who have dedicated themselves to remaining on the pathway, many have and are achieving outstanding successes in the music industry. Many students have won scholarships to the world’s top music college, Berklee College of Music, Boston, USA., The Vic Firth Scholarship and The Steve Gadd Scholarship. Several students have won national and international competitions, such as the Shell LSO Competition, Mapex Young Drummer of the Year Competition 2008 & 2011 and Boosey and Hawkes Outstanding Musicianship Awards.

Studying with Geoff has given numerous students the opportunity to go to universities and colleges to further their studies and careers as professional musicians. Check out the Roll of Honour page, including Martyn Kaine (Kyle Eastwod), Simon Lowdon, (ARAM, LRAM, Principal Percussionist, Royal Scottish National Orchestra), Will Haywood Smith (Paperdoll), John Hirst, Michael Spearman (Everything Everything),
Andrew Chadwick, etc.

When Geoff first started teaching in North Tyneside, he put all his energies into trying to do the absolute best he could for people in the region. To improve the drummers’ lot and create a drumming community in the area, where students, teachers, retailers, manufacturers could work together was his vision.

Geoff is renown in the region through his students and the heightened profile of drums and percussion that he has been a key part in developing. With the assistance of local retailers, he has drawn many world-class drummers to the North East, such as Jojo Mayer, Terry Bozzio, Thomas Lang, Horacio Hernandez, Aaron Spears, Gavin Harrison, Will Calhoun, Steve Ferrone, etc,

After spending 20 years at Northumberland Music Service (now Northumberland Creative & Performing Arts), teaching in the county’s schools and as Head of Percussion, he continued to expand the interest in drumming and vastly increase the numbers of pupils wanting to drum, to the extent that the Service needed to employ a unique team of up to 15 drum teachers. For the last 3 years of his service there, he became Head of Instrumental Tuition, managing 90 peripatetic instrumental teachers.

Looking back over his career, Geoff is particularly proud of fostering so much local talent. At one time people didn’t consider drumming to be playing a real instrument, however, the musicians that have gone furthest down the road of excellence in Northumberland, so far, have definitely included the drummers.

Geoff has now returned to the school music room to continue to impart his knowledge to young children and also the students at Newcastle University as well as those adults who’ve always harboured a desire to drum.