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Meet Ray LeVier: An Inspiring Drummer, Drum Teacher, Music Composer and Producer

Ray LeVier is a professional drummer with amazing chops. He’s a music composer, also involved in music producing and a drum teacher of advanced students. It was while singing and playing drums in a high school “battle of the bands” when Ray was bitten by the ‘performance bug and knew he wanted to be a professional musician.

In his teens, Ray played Rock and heavy metal, and became very competent in those styles. When he learned that his rock idols were also schooled in jazz, he determined to achieve the finesse and improvisational abilities required to be a jazz drummer, knowing that it would raise his playing in all other musical styles to a higher level.

The drum world is in awe of the New York-based musician’s skills. There’s another reason that his playing blows them away: He’s a drummer who lost most of both hands.

An Accident and a Triumph

Ray substantially lost all ten fingers of both hands to severe burns in a camping accident when he was only 12 years old. He had just started playing drums. That this became a triumph – not a tragedy — is testament to his inner strength and positive spirit. Ray was determined to play again and drumming became an integral part of his healing process. In the face of life-threatening injuries, while in the hospital he decided to live a full and creative life!

The creativity that comes out in his playing and composing is also apparent in other ways. He has an inventor’s mind. In the early years, he devised clever ways to hold sticks as he learned his craft, including a specially-fitted glove. As he became more committed to becoming a professional drummer, Ray underwent surgeries to gain greater functionality of the remaining parts of his fingers, allowing him to give up the glove and hold sticks. The final step was a risky and experimental operation to fashion a thumb on his left hand. Fortunately for the world of music it worked out well!

Ray has turned his challenges into creativity and has invented some very cool drumming gadgets that he is in the process of patenting.

Today, as when he started, Ray is focused on reaching the top of his game. He plays, tours and records with other world class musicians. His debut CD as a leader, Ray’s Way, brought together guitarists John Abercrombie and Mike Stern, vibraphonist Joe Locke, saxophonist Dave Binney and bassist Francois Moutin. He’s toured the world since 1998 as the drummer for urban folk and jazz artist K.J. Denhert.

Ray is an all-around musician. As a music composer he demonstrates a sophisticated understanding of how to create memorable intersections of melodies and rhythms.

Ray is always on top of the latest pop music styles, including Hip-Hop and electronica. He’s embraced technology and begun producing tracks for the entertainment industry, as well as live drum tracks for other musicians’ CDs. For this purpose, Ray created a state-of-the-art professional production recording studio 30 minutes from Manhattan.

Student and Teacher

Ray considers his teachers and mentors as partners in his success. As he healed from his injuries he sought out those who would challenge him and push him. He has never looked for sympathy, and, in fact, rejects such expressions. He has always wanted to be judged only by his talents, musicianship and character.

He has studied with some of the best teachers/players in the business including: Keith Crane, Sal LaRocca, Adam Nussbaum, Dom Famularo, John Riley, Lenny White, Marvin “Smitty” Smith, Horace Arnold, Kenny Washington, Tommy Campbell and Kim Plainfield. He also studied in the prestigious music program at William Patterson College in Wayne, New Jersey, under the directorship of bassist Rufus Reid.

As a drum teacher, Ray embraces technology and works with students around the world using the Internet – including lessons via Skype. He focuses on teaching advanced students fine points of drumming required to help them reach a professional level in their playing. He is producing a series of video tutorials and teaches at clinics hosted by the equipment manufacturers whose products he endorses: Yamaha, Paiste, Vater and Evans.

Ray LeVier is a modest guy, but is also aware that his achievements have inspired others. He is working on ways to expand that unique quality, including a book in progress.