Interview from:

I am really excited to share our very first interview with you. At the end of last year, I was lucky enough to be able to have a chat to an old friend, professional drummer, John Thomakos. He is one of the nicest guys I know out there and he agreed to share some of his thoughts on reaching your potential with us. (Thanks John, and a big Congratulations on your upcoming arrivals!)

When did you decide you wanted be a drummer?

I started making noise about it to my parents when I was about 3 or 4 years old. We used to go to a lot of Greek weddings, baptisms and dances where they had live music. I was always attracted to the band and loved watching the drummers play.

What is your first memory of drumming?

There are a few. But my earliest memory must be banging on the dashboard of my dad’s car. We used to listen to Greek music a lot and I really loved playing beats and rhythms on the dashboard and following along with the rhythms of those old songs as we rode down the street. Depending on the make and model, you can find some cool sounds on some dashboards. I kept telling my parents that I wanted them to get me drums. Later I do remember getting one of my first sets for Christmas. My brother taught me some of the first things that I ever learned on the drums. Then I remember my family wanting me to play for company every once in awhile when we had someone over visiting.

Was it your first choice for a career? What were the others?

Yes it was my first choice. I wanted to play professionally. – Whatever that meant at the time. But, I wasn’t really sure how I could do it. My father owned and operated a restaurant from the time I was born, so in the back of my mind, I thought that I might end up doing that if I had to. I actually worked there a lot when I was younger and didn’t really mind it, but it was basically a “job" to me.

Was everyone supportive of your decision to pursue a career in the Arts? (If not, how did you deal with it?)

After I started high school at the School for the Arts in Baltimore, MD, I think it became obvious that I was heading down that road, career wise. – At least that’s what I was thinking. I think that my dad was worried for me because of how unstable it is and with his Greek upbringing; he couldn’t really see how anyone could actually make a living doing what I wanted to do. In all fairness, I couldn’t really see it either. He did encourage me to think about a more stable field to get into, but at the same time, he never discouraged me from pursuing what I wanted to do. When I received a scholarship to Berklee from the Baltimore School for the Arts, I think that he was impressed. That might have helped my situation in his mind. My mom, on the other hand, was very supportive from the beginning. She encouraged me and took me to drum lessons. Going to the School for the Arts was an important experience. She also helped me pursue that. At that time, though, I actually didn’t feel like I had much support from anyone but my brother and sister. Looking back, however, I feel very lucky. I have to also add that, later on, I had some great local role models that were kind of doing what I wanted to do. They were all very helpful and encouraging. That helps a lot when you have people in the field that you can talk with and share ideas.

Is there a defining moment in your career?

Yes and no. I wish I could say that there definitively was a certain moment. Thinking out loud: I’m proud to have performed with many of the talented artists with whom I’ve worked. I’m proud of my books and I’m proud of a good handful of recordings that I’ve been a part of. – And there are some specific moments and performances that stick out. But, I want to play right now and play better than I played on all of the previous stuff, because I feel like I could do a better job if I could take another stab at it. Anytime I’ve had the thought that I’ve achieved something that I’m proud of, I soon again realize that I actually have a lot to learn. I guess it’s true that you ARE your own worst critic! But to more directly answer the question, I think about my life and realize that I am actually DOING it. Success, to me, is happiness. The longer you can live there (happiness), the better. I’m usually doing something that I enjoy. That makes me want to continue to teach and try and continue to help others not only play music, but find their way to doing whatever it is that they love. Doing that also gets ME motivated. So, I guess that that “defining moment" hits me every once in awhile out of the blue. I feel fortunate when that happens.

What advice would you give someone wanting to get into the business?

I would say to practice, take lessons and play with as many people as you can as often as you can. That experience may not seem like much as it’s happening, but it all adds up and it is truly invaluable later. Also, study and learn from the masters, past and present, in and outside of your field, but then focus on how you can be creative, a little different and unique. – Find your voice. I also believe that simple things like being on time, being polite, being respectful, being positive, having a good work ethic and all of those obvious things go a long way. Another thing is, who you know turns out to be just as important as what you know. Keeping that in mind is very important. And if you think that you have something unique, – if you think that you have what it takes, go for it! Be persistent and don’t give up. – One other important thing is to never underestimate the importance of fun. Find the fun in being productive and working hard at your goals. That stuff is magic and will take you a long way.

Would you say you’ve reached your potential in your career?

No way! There is so much to learn and so much more experience to be gained. I really crave and look forward to working and creating music with great musicians and artists who challenge me and open my eyes to new things. I’m actually at a bit of a crossroads right now, keeping my eyes open and eager to see what’s out there now. I’m finishing my current tour with Cirque du Soleil at the end of the year. I’m looking forward to a creative new project. – Anyone need a drummer?

If you could drum with anyone (dead or alive), who would it be?

Wow! That is a tough question! – Way too many to list. To make it easy on me, I’ll stick to a few of the greats who have left us: Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jaco Pastorius, James Brown, to name a few…

And finally, what advice would you give anyone trying to find and reach their purpose and potential?

Great question! Unfortunately one that I feel unqualified to answer. Music and drums were and are a very natural and effortless attraction to me. One thing I have realized however is this: I began playing and continued to play and pursue music because of the joy that I get from it. Not until later did I realize that this positive energy is also very much felt by the listener. Realizing this true gift of bringing joy to others has added a new level of satisfaction to my experience. This can also be very motivating. I believe that anything that you do to help other people is satisfying. With this in mind, I think that we can all find our purpose and true potential.