An Interview with Lindsay Artkop
Lindsay Artkop is the 2015 Hit Like A Girl Champion and a graduate from the prestigious Berklee College of Music, where she earned a B.A in Professional Music with concentrations in Drum Set Performance and Music Business. From performing on television to touring, she has already accomplished quite a lot in her young career.
Meet Lindsay Artkop.
Hi Lindsay, please share your story with us and how you got started as a drummer. How did you get to where you are today?
I was six years old, tagging along with my father and sister on to a trip to the local music store. My older sister was entering the orchestra at her school, and we had gone to purchase a clarinet for her class. I saw a shiny drum set on display and was immediately attracted to it. I started tapping on the drums with my hands, and my dad saw my interest.
I was lucky enough to come home that day with a pad and a pair of bright red sticks. My mom set up weekly drum lessons with our school's band director, Cheryl Weiner, who taught me the basics of percussion, such as rudiments, bell kit, and other orchestral elements. When I was old enough I joined the school orchestra.
At 8 years old I got a drum set, and played "All Star" by Smashmouth for my fourth grade talent show. I discovered my passion was Drum Set, so I went on to study more kit techniques and played in Rock Bands with other kids my age. Drumming felt like an adventure for me; I loved performing at concerts, talent shows, and gigs. I got involved with anything music related I could get my hands on, and my family supported me every step of the way.
Drums remained my main focus, while I explored guitar, bass, composing, and audio recording. I continued playing in orchestra, wind ensemble, jazz band, dixie land band, pep band, marching band, local cover bands and more all throughout middle and high school.
I got serious about music and decided I wanted to pursue it as a career in tenth grade. I studied Jazz, Afro-Cuban, Latin, and other advanced styles with Jesse Hameen II at Neighborhood Music School in New Haven, CT. Jesse helped me progress my drumming immensely, and also enrolled me in Educational Center for the Arts High School (ECA).
I studied Jazz Performance and Composition with Jeff Fuller at ECA, giving me a well-rounded education in music theory, ear training, large and small ensemble performance, and jazz studies. I also studied with Bernard Purdie during that time. Almost every weekend I'd be at a jam session or open mic, getting my butt kicked by older musicians, which was another invaluable part of my music education.
In Spring 2014 I entered my dream school, Berklee College of Music. My experience at Berklee powerfully shaped my musicianship, and introduced me to amazing people and musicians that remain close friends. Taking part in playing and recording with top level players, private lessons, ensembles, classes in music business, songwriting, drum labs and more laid a solid foundation in my drumming. I ate, slept, lived and breathed music during my time at Berklee, and I'm eternally grateful I had that opportunity. Some teachers I studied with during that time include Bob Gullotti, Dave Dicenso, Ralph Peterson, Kim Plainfield, Henrique De Almeida, Tony Thunder Smith, Jon Hazilla, Bernard Purdie and Terri Lyne Carrington.
In May 2015, I entered and won 1st place in Hit Like a Girl, an international competition for female drummers. Judges included Kim Thompson (Late Night with Seth Meyers), Venzella Joy (Beyoncé), Didi Negron (Cirque De Soleil), Hannah Welton (Prince) and others. Shortly after I began my work in being a Drum Set Clinician and Music Educator, presenting masterclasses at conventions, institutions and universities.
I was featured in the 2015 Percussive Art Society's International Convention, New York University's 2016 Annual Day of Percussion, and The Collective in NYC.
I also started teaching private Drum Lessons in Boston, and Skype Drum Lessons to students all over the world. I collaborated with DrumChannel, was featured in magazines such as DRUM!, Modern Drummer, and TomTom, and began writing for TomTom Magazine. I graduated Berklee with a B.A in Professional Music in May 2016, and was fortunate enough to be a featured drummer at the annual Berklee Commencement Concert, featuring Rita Moreno, The Isley Brothers, and Milton Nascimento.
I moved to Los Angeles in January 2017 to establish my professional drumming career. Since then I've played for various Pop, Rock, Fusion and Jazz artists and bands here in California. I also acquired extensive filming experience, playing drums for TV commercials, TV Show Pilots and music videos.
In August 2017 traveled to the cities of Dalian, Zhuhai, Macau and Beijing for my China Drum Clinic Tour, sponsored by 9 Beats Education Institution for Modern Music. I continue to teach private drum lessons, both at my studio in LA and globally on Skype.
I'm currently continuing to build my drumming career here in LA, focusing my aim to develop my own artistry and tour for more artists and bands in the future.
Overall, how has the journey been? Has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
This journey has been incredible, and its truly crafted a big part of my life. Being a musician brings opportunities to me that I wouldn't have been exposed to if I had a mainstream job or career. It forces me to grow in ways that I don't think I would have if I weren't a musician.
For example, I used to be very unhealthy and overweight as a kid. When I was 19 and in my second semester at Berklee, I realized that health and first impressions mattered in the music industry, which is what inspired me to turn my health around. I started eating nutritiously and getting more exercise, which gave me a clearer mind and better physical mobility and energy.
That alone has largely shaped me into the person I am. It taught me that no matter where you are, you can better your position and grow.
I'm also a naturally introverted person, and being a musician has required me to interact with others and develop my social skills, which has brought me some of my best friends.
There have of course been many challenges along the way. Sometimes, auditions and opportunities simply don't work out. The life of a musician in general can be inconsistent, unstable, and unpredictable, especially in the beginning. This is exciting because you never know where music will take you, but it's also a challenge to build and maintain a career.
As a musician, I'll be going about my daily life and get a message or phone call inviting me to take part or audition for an exciting show or tour. It's super common for these things to fall through, and when they do it can be difficult mentally.
I remember one particular opportunity to play on a European tour for a well known rock band that didn't work out, when I first moved to LA. It was disheartening when I didn't make the audition, and at the time it felt like the end-all. The truth is that there will always be opportunities coming up as long as you have the right intentions and continue working hard.
The meaning of your failure is whatever you decide it to be, so use it as a chance to grow and learn. The most productive thing you can do is to turn the situation into a positive, find out where you need to grow, and be that much better for the next time.
Focusing on growth, staying positive and enjoying the journey has helped me maintain energy and push forward through tough times.
What should someone know before pursuing a career in percussion?
I'd say the number one thing is you have to be all-in. If you're not putting absolutely everything you have and more into building a career, it's not worth wasting your energy, because anything less than that can't produce results. It's a hustle, and true passion is the only way to sustain it long-term.
Of course there are exceptions, but the majority of working musicians have gotten to where they are by dedicating their life to music. That means having a high level of self-advocacy, flexibility and time management skills. It's a challenge to balance things like practicing, gigs, lessons, and transporting yourself where you need to be, let alone the other responsibilities of life.
Musicians work many hours, face rejections, sleep less, relax less, vacation less, play games less, watch Netflix less, party less, etc. It's a trade off; you trade your time for amazing experiences. But you have to search deep within yourself to find out if it's your calling.
There's nothing wrong with playing drums as a hobby or for fun, and you'd be doing yourself a disservice to try to make something happen that doesn't feel right. Also, don't be afraid to change your path within music. I know a lot of people from college who started off in one area, like performance, and then realized they have more passion for something like music business or engineering, for example.
Bottom line, if you know drumming is your passion, go all in. Eliminate distractions and humble yourself. Work hard, be authentic, build relationships, and never, ever give up.
Turn the negatives into positives, own your story and don't make excuses, or they will become true. I believe it's possible for every musician to succeed in the space that fits them.