A Floridian by birth, Rick relocated to Alabama when his mother, Margaret Jo, decided to pursue a degree in vocal music at Jacksonville State University. Rick’s tendency to turn household items into a platform for drumming was not lost on his mother, who intrepidly purchased his first set of drums when he was six. Rick took drum and piano lessons from members of the Jacksonville State music faculty, and spent many Saturday nights sitting on the sidelines as the Jax State marching band took to the field.
His mother’s subsequent graduation and career in choral directing established Rick as a regular conscript in her current choir, secular or sacred. Equally developmental were the occasions when he was enlisted to provide percussion accompaniment to his mother’s choirs and choral ensembles. Evenings and weekends found Rick camped out in choir rooms across lower Alabama, doing homework, practicing piano or singing.
With early exposure to the big sound of marching bands, it was not surprising that Rick joined up the moment he was eligible at age 13. With plenty of drummers already enrolled in the Prattville High School marching band, it was suggested that Rick pick up the euphonium for that first year. He did, and today maintains a great fondness for low brass. The following year he transitioned to the drum line and eventually became section leader. Junior and Senior years found Rick arranging music for the Pep Band, in which he played drum set. Rick also performed throughout the region in a Top 40 rock band.
After High School graduation, Rick attended Troy University, where he majored in music with principle focus on percussion. In addition to the marching band (The Sound of the South), concert band and symphonic band, he maintained an interest in rock music and performed with local bands throughout college. After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education, he obtained his teaching certificate in Georgia while living in Atlanta, but decided at the time he preferred performance to teaching.
Rick has been a freelance percussionist in rock, jazz, blues, country, classical and world music since college graduation performing throughout the South and continued his training with two years of private jazz drumming studies with University of North Texas professor, Henry Okstel. For over 15 years, Rick has also been active as a musician with musical theater in the metro Dallas area.
After a brief spell of tutoring on the bodhran (Irish drum), Rick leveraged his percussion background to engage with the North Texas Irish music community, becoming a regular session player and member of an Irish fusion band. After reaching a level of proficiency, Rick took the opportunity to seek out the best in the discipline and participated in the 2010 Craiceann Bodhran Summer School, on Inis Oirr, Ireland and looks forward to the opportunity to imbibe once again. Also while in Ireland, he joined sessions throughout central and southern counties, which broadened his exposure to traditional Irish music performance.
In Irish music, Rick has found a counterpoint to his classical training. The earthy quality of Irish music lends itself to music-making in a social setting and provides opportunities for spontaneity which are not often present within the structure of classical music. Rick focuses on ensuring that percussion in Irish music (as well as other genres) is interesting, musical and most importantly, complimentary.
Over the years, Rick has taken a leadership role in the Irish music community, serving almost a decade on the board of the Traditional Irish Music Educator’s Society and the management team of the annual O’Flaherty Irish Music Retreat, which attracts participants from all over the U.S., Canada and Ireland. Rick has also been an instructor at the O'Flaherty Irish Music Retreat, the O’Flaherty Irish Music Youth Camp and a staff member of the North Texas School of Irish Music.
For well over 20 years, Rick has been resident percussionist and percussion coordinator for a large suburban church in the Dallas area, planning, managing and performing percussion in productions of major choral works, musicals and orchestral concerts. Inspired by his love of Celtic and sacred choral music, Rick composed “A Celtic Mass,” which debuted in 2012 and was performed most recently at the First United Methodist Church of Dallas.
Rick continues to compose and arrange music for chorus, ensemble and instrumental groups. He also accepts commissions to commemorate a special occasion with new music.
Photo by Phil Wirth