Keeping the beat alive

Ryan Crump founded Philly Drum Project, a collective for drummers in the city.

Ryan Crump, an employee at World Cafe Live, wanted to stay involved with the local music scene while providing drummers an outlet to meet one another. | KATE McCANN / TTN
Ryan Crump, an employee at World Cafe Live, wanted to stay involved with the local music scene while providing drummers an outlet to meet one another. | KATE McCANN / TTN

A missing drum part, a basement full of mismatched gear and the ensuing frustration were the inspiration for Ryan Crump to start Philly Drum Project.

“The experience that started this all was that I bought a 1976 Ludwig drumset. I needed a [wing nut],” Crump said. “It’s pretty universal, but it’s nice to have the real deal that says ‘Ludwig.’ I went on eBay, but it was $8-$10 for the piece plus shipping. I thought, ‘This is ridiculous. In my basement, I have a ton of spare parts for drums.’”

Crump was frustrated knowing that there was probably someone with the part he needed willing to trade for a part that he had, he said. He wondered why there wasn’t a drum collective for local drummers to communicate these sorts of things.

Crump attended the University of the Arts for a semester to study jazz before transferring to and graduating from the University of Delaware with a degree in music management. With marching band drumming, classical drumming and stints in a few rock bands under his belt, Crump is no stranger to the drumming scene.

“I started when I was like, 4 years old playing on Tinker-Toy cans,” Crump said.

Busy working as a server and bartender at World Cafe Live and not in a band, Crump was looking for a way to scratch that drumming itch – and starting Philly Drum Project served as just that.

“It was an outlet for creativity to still be involved in the music scene,” Crump said.

Crump reached out to his friend Chris Previc, who runs a bucket-drumming group in Harrisburg, Pa., to help him with organizing the startup for the Philly Drum Project, which is celebrating its one-year anniversary with a show today, April 23.

“He’s very business-minded, so he’s the person I went to,” Crump said of Previc. “He’s sort of my mentor.”

Philly Drum Project has four facets to its mission – to provide drummers with gear, lessons, gigs and beats. All four of these aspects are fulfilled through the group’s monthly meetings called “Beats, Brews and Banter,” which are in the back room of the “R” Bar at 23rd and Walnut streets. While Philly Drum Project has approximately 150 members, Crump said the monthly meetings are intimate, averaging around 25 attendees.

RyanCrump_A&E_KateMcCann_0At these meetings, drummers can discuss who needs or is looking to give away certain parts. The project also helps drummers get and give gear by placing drop boxes in music stores around the city. Those looking for gear can pay 50 cents to $1 for the parts. Philly Drum Project also plays matchmaker for aspiring drummers and those looking to give lessons and allows drummers to meet one another to collaborate – or rather, share beats.

Attendees are not limited to just drummers, either – Crump said that often guitarists or other musicians will come to the meetings looking for a drummer for a particular gig.

A different notable drummer, who tells his or her story and hosts a workshop, hosts the monthly meetings. Past hosts include Eric Slick of Dr. Dog, George “Spanky” McCurdy who backs Lady Gaga, Freddie Berman of Amos Lee and Tim Arnold of Good Old War. Connecting big-name drummers to attendees has helped aspiring musicians realize their dreams. Ben Gullet, an 18-year-old high school student from Marlton, N.J., scored a lesson with McCurdy after going to one of PDP’s events. He found out about PDP from his private drum teacher.

“[McCurdy and I] talked about having confidence, auditioning, different ways to practice, being on tour, getting gigs, how to think outside the box, having a positive mindset and so much more,” Gullet said. “I was actually networking and setting up my lesson with [McCurdy] prior to his Philly Drum Project event, but the Philly Drum Project helped me because I got a chance to talk to [McCurdy] face-to-face and solidify my lesson.”

Gullet, who has been accepted to the University of the Arts, is not the only young drummer who PDP aims to help. The group is currently planning an all-day workshop to be held at the University of the Arts during the summer. Twelve students and 12 instructors, one of which is Temple professor Dan Monaghan, will have the opportunity to work together.

To celebrate all it has accomplished in its first year, PDP will be hosting an anniversary show at World Cafe Live tonight at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $15 or $10 with a student ID.  The show will feature classically trained percussionists Loop 2.4.3.

“They are sort of like, 20th Century in the vain of Philip Glass – minimalism, but there’s a mood,” Crump said.

The show will be headlined by Ari Hoenig, who will perform in a jazz trio with Philadelphia drummers Jonathan Levy and Tim Motzer. Hoenig, originally of Philly but now based out of New York, has penned many books about drumming.

“He’s big in the jazz scene, but he’s a really monster player,” Crump said, noting that Hoenig will often put his elbow into the drum as he plays it to get a different sound. “He’s really passionate about it.”

As for the future of PDP, Crump said he still has one major goal of the program to be realized – to give drummers a permanent space to gather, practice and perform.

“The vision is to eventually have a space for drummers to play,” Crump said. “Living in the city…it’s a risk [to see] if the neighbors are cool with it, if the roommates are cool with it. You have to play at certain times. It’s just not that ideal.”

A lack of resources for drummers in the city and an influx of enthusiasm prove that PDP’s purpose is not for naught, Crump said.

“I think it shows that there’s a need for this sort of thing, and a lot of drummers have reciprocated that.”

Gullet is a drummer who said he feels similarly.

“As a drummer, I feel like there is a need for groups like Philly Drum Project, because in the world we live in today, a lot of opportunities come from networking with people,” Gullet said.

While the anniversary show serves as a celebration for PDP’s accomplishments, Crump said he is hesitant to look in the rear-view mirror too often, keeping the focus on the initial four branches of the mission – gear, lessons, beats and gigs.

“I’m happy that we’ve focused on those four things, because that’s the original mission, and I’m excited just to keep on going,” Crump said.

Jenelle Janci can be reached at or on Twitter @jenelley. 

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