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Neil Peart’s first drum teacher now in Smithville
Millions of people around the world have heard of the band Rush. And many Canadians – even those who don’t like the music — know that Rush drummer Neil Peart is from Niagara.
Yet only a few are aware that Neil’s first drum teacher is living locally, and is teaching at the Guitar Loft in Smithville.
Don George started his musical career fairly young, accepting drumming jobs through the St Catharines Musicians Union. One day he got a call from Peninsula Conservatory seeking a drum teacher. “I had as many students as I wanted, basically,” he said. Neil became one of Don’s students.
“When he completes his assignments, then does extra work, and then has questions on top of that, you know a kid’s doing his homework.” said Don.
“He was aggressive, and worked at it. He wanted to be a drummer. Other kids work at it, but they don’t work as hard as Neil. Neil went to England, and eventually ended up in a band called Rush. He’s continually evolved; he’s never stopped learning, and has sought out different teachers.”
While known as one of the best drummers in rock, Neil has always appreciated other forms of music. He produced some CDs in the 90s with Buddy Rich big band on which he brought in other famous guest drummers to record different tunes. He still continues studying drumming.
Since starting with the “matched” grip, in which the drumsticks are held identically, Peart has since mastered the traditional grip. Other famous rock drummers — who are interested in improving their playing — have done the same thing.
Today at Guitar Loft Don is teaching students who want to become as good as his former pupil.
“A lot of new drummers tend to play fast single strokes. I prefer to texture the music. Of course it depends on the music you’re playing. You’re there for the music after all…you’re not there as a solo artist.”
Drummers have to be good listeners. They have to be able to hear what’s going on around them, and then know what to do with what they hear.
Said Don, “It’s all fine and dandy to say, ‘The original recording was done this way.’ But the other players in the band may not be able to reproduce that exactly. It’s a balancing act. It might be your band and you’re used to what’s happening. It’s another thing if you’re a guest or hired sideman – then you play for that band the way they want to hear you. You don’t have a preconceived idea of how to play the tune. You don’t want people who know the band to say, ‘Oh they’ve a different drummer tonight; you can hear it.’ You want them to hear the band the way they expect.”
Part of learning music is called “ear training”. When learning piano, for example, ear training is a large part; you’re listening to yourself. Whereas a drummer has to not only train himself to listen, but also has to become a good listener so he can complement the band.
“It’s hard to get across to kids that they might get a call to sit in with a band they’ve never heard before. I ask, ‘Do you want to be a drummer or a musician?’”
A drummer goes in a band and keeps time. If a guitarist says he wants to hear a certain pattern on the cymbal, he might tell the drummer to play in triplets. “There’s talk going back and forth when you’re rehearsing,” said Don. “You need a certain level of musicianship so you can communicate with them.”
His ideas of teaching have changed since the days when he taught Neil. “Part of that is my growth, because there’s a lot of information to make me a better teacher. And kids today have different values and ideas of what music should be. Music itself has changed considerably; especially pop music. But there’s still a lot of good roots music out there that hasn’t changed much.”
Dedicated practicing is what Don wants from his students. “You can spend an hour, but if you’re wandering and not dedicated it’s not going to do the least bit of good,” he said.
Don practices every day for two reasons — personal enjoyment and to maintain his skills. “I think it’s a bad thing when somebody says ‘He’s forgotten more than most people know’. It means he’s forgotten what he knows… that’s not a good statement to hear.”
Young music students don’t have any playing experience; they only play with other kids they know. Don encourages them to pick up different instruments if there’s one available, so they’ll have a better understanding of what other players in the band can do. It doesn’t mean they have to study another instrument… it helps develop their musical ear.
At Guitar Loft Don takes piano lessons, and Sarah the piano teacher takes drum lessons. “I think in a school it’s good that everyone is trying to expand themselves as musicians. As a university music grad, Jim [Edwards, Guitar Loft owner] encourages it too. If you’re taking drums and have a guitar at home it gives you a better understanding when communicating with other musicians.”
From the November 2008 News section of Neal Peart’s website: “During a break in this summer’s Snakes and Arrows tour, I scheduled a lesson with Peter [Erskine, a world - famous jazz drummer]. When I parked in front of his house in Santa Monica and walked up to the door, sticks in hand, I had to smile at myself. I was a thirteen-year-old beginner again, climbing the stairs to the Peninsula Conservatory of Music on St. Paul Street in St. Catharines, Ontario, for my Saturday morning lesson with my first teacher, Don George.”
For more information on music lessons contact The Guitar Loft at .
Providing women with what they want yet can’t find
The Dresser Drawer is a specialty women’s wear shop on Highway 20 in West Lincoln. It’s a popular destination for local women, for several reasons.
One is that the styles on display can’t be found elsewhere.
“If it’s in my store, you’re not going to see it in a mall,” said owner Laura Fevez. “I offer the work of designers and suppliers who do not deal with department stores.”
A second reason is Laura’s focus on individual attention.
“I take the time to find out about you. Do you want to be conservative or fashionable? Are you seeking a change?
Many women don’t put outfits together or accessorize. They’re not comfortable with their fashion tastes, or their ability to match styles and colors.
“Women come in and say, ‘my friend said you provide this great clothing experience’. And I do. I pick outfits they would not have chosen themselves. Women love it, because they don’t have the time, and they may not feel comfortable selecting complimentary attire and fashion accessories. They realize that having someone else choose for them is a very positive encounter. If you hate putting things together, come and see me. ”
Laura tries very hard to keep Canadian designers and manufacturers in her store. “In fact outfits from five different Montreal and Toronto designers are in the store today. With 1,800 square feet of clothing here, I can dress you for every occasion — from bathing suit to evening wear.”
Price is another reason The Dresser Drawer is popular. Laura’s prices are low because of her fashion industry contacts and the way she shops. For example, she knows an importer of high-end fashions from Los Angeles. If he has an outfit or two left from a large order, Laura takes his excess at a discount, and passes that discount on to her customers.
The Dresser Drawer Fashion Show offers you an opportunity to view a variety of outfits and styles. It takes place at Smithville Train Station on Thursday, October 29. Coffee, tea, and dessert will be served. Proceeds from the $5 admission will support the West Lincoln Historical Society archives.
Call The Dresser Drawer at
Offering unique items at last century prices
During her 30 years as a steel company employee, Cindy Kyle dabbled in the antique market. Under the name Vintage Vogue she’s been a vendor at Vineland Antiques… Prudhomme’s Antiques… and Forum Galleries in Niagara on the Lake. And for the past 16 years she’s had a booth at the largest antique show in Canada, at Christie Conservation area in Dundas.
“I couldn’t wait to retire to use my creative side and make the decisions,” she said. “Last year I rented a store on Highway 3 in Cayuga to see if I could make the transition from hobby to business. It worked out well.”
After buying the building on McMurchie Lane in downtown Smithville, Cindy established a permanent home for Vintage Vogue, allowing visitors to find the store more easily.
The shop is open four days a week – Wednesday through Sunday, which is the traditional day for antique store browsing.
She and her husband also raise and breed miniature horses – defined as 38 inches (96.52cm) maximum height. A recent acquisition is one of eight North American Curly Miniature horses in the world.
“Between the antiques and horses I probably spend more time working than when I had a job, but it’s work I enjoy.”
When you visit Vintage Vogue you’ll find a wide variety of collectibles and antiques. Glass… china… architectural – columns, windows, shutters, and signs… jewelry… furniture… farm items like wagon wheels, plows, orchard ladders… vintage clothing… linens… tools… and more.
And you’ll be surprised at how well the items are displayed. “I try to think of different uses for antiques, and display them in non-traditional ways. Right now I’m bringing out numerous vintage Christmas decorations, in time for the holidays.”
While Cindy has been a Caistor Center resident for four years, she’s a long time West Niagara resident. She lived in Smithville for three years, and Beamsville for 12 years prior to that.
So why open a store in Smithville?
“The township had done a study on ways of improving the downtown. A couple of years ago I read a report that said one of the things missing yet necessary to bring people downtown was an antique store. There isn’t an antique store here and I felt it needed one. And I live close.”
Despite years of Antiques Roadshow television proving otherwise, many folks still think antique = expensive. Cindy is doing her part to dispel that myth.
“Everybody who comes in here tells me our prices are really good. I call them ‘country’ prices. They’re lower than that what you’d find in city antique shops – such as in Hamilton and Toronto.”
McMurchie Lane connects to Hiway 20 in downtown Smithville. Contact Vintage Vogue at