March 9th, 2023

ToneGym Hero: Bradley Crowley

ToneGym Hero: Bradley Crowley

Drummer at heart, but multi-instrumentalist in practice, currently residing in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Bradley Crowley is this month's ToneGym Hero! 

Who are you, and Where are you from?

I am Bradley Crowley, currently residing in Atlanta, Georgia USA, I am originally from a town in west Texas called Midland. In 1985 I started at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, where I obtained a Bachelors in Music Education. I spent 8 years in Dallas after graduation, and moved to Atlanta in 1999. I've been in the ATL from that time to now.

How did you get into music?

I was born into a very musical family. Both my parents started playing guitar around 1961.  My father, at 87 years old, is still at it! I am the fourth of five siblings, and each of us play at least one instrument (and each of us can play at least a little bit of guitar… of course! It's sort of the price of admission for being in my family! LOL)

My parents, keenly aware of their children's musical instincts, found that I was very rhythmic and had a strong propensity to hit anything I could find around me with a stick, thus the drummer in the family came to be and I was given my first drum set at 4 years old. I started taking lessons when I was 9 years old. 

What do you like to do for fun outside of working on music?

I am a creative person through and through, and I also have a love of photography and computer graphic arts. If I am not practicing, I'm shooting or creating something on the computer. Of course I have wonderful (non-musical) friends with whom I hang out, but pretty much my social life resides inside the orchestras and concert band in which I play.

What's your most useless skill or talent?

I have an incredibly refined and pronounced skill in procrastination, and oddly enough, I find it utterly useless! Go figure! LOL ;-)

What inspires you to keep making music?

There was a time in my life, due to personal decisions made while in a long-term relationship, when I didn't have music in it at all. I found myself profoundly withering. When that relationship was no more (after 16 years), music immediately rushed back into my life. Itt felt like the relief one gets from that frantic gasp of air one takes when surfacing after being underwater for too long. I am not looking to be some sort of superstar in music. I just know that if I don't make/play music, I'll simply stop breathing.

If you could sit down to a session with any artist, who would it be?

Simple, the godfather of the Concert Marimba, Leigh Howard Stevens. He is where it all started for me on marimba 40 years ago. It is his efforts, talent, skill, and instruction that has inspired generations of concert marimbaists, myself included. That would be the honor of my life.

Any habits you have before starting a session?

It's a simple, quick, and silly ritual. When holding four mallets in one's hands (using Leigh Stevens' grip, of course), one can make a letter M by superimposing the middle mallets over each other. I make my M. I take a deep breath. I play my marimba, and life is but a dream!

What have you been working on lately?

Currently, I am steadily playing with two orchestras and a concert wind ensemble. Occasionally I stand in for other orchestras here in the Atlanta area when they are in need of an extra percussionist for a concert. Preparing for spring cycle concerts for these ensembles is keeping me quite busy. I'm most looking forward to playing the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. There's just nothing like playing Bernstein!

If you could pick one, what would be the theme song of your life?

Eeek! I'm so sorry, but I can't pick just one. This is like picking your favorite child. I am not sure it can be done, but I can give one from a few genres that define me. My life has many facets, and each one has its own soundtrack:

In my Symphonic world - Sir Edward Elgar's Nimrod - from Enigma Variations - The most influential teacher of my life, the late J. Randy Storie, loved this movement from these variations. He and this piece of music inspired me to become a music educator myself. This movement by Elgar was an ode to his best friend, and I think quite appropriate for the friendship Randy and I had. Bernstein conducts Elgar - "Nimrod" ('Enigma Variations')

In my piano world, without a doubt, Claire de Lune from Claude Debussy. I have heard this piece hundreds of times and it still brings me to tears by the third measure every single time. I think this piece is truly, simply, and quite literally perfection! Lang Lang – Debussy: Suite bergamasque, L.75: III. Clair de lune

In my Pop world - my all-time favorite - Erasure! Hands down. My favorite song from Erasure - Star. Erasure is the soundtrack for me and my tight-knit group of college friends who have been thick as thieves now for 30 years. Vince and Andy have been there with us every step of the way! Erasure - Star

In my Rock world - just about ANYTHING from Journey, but I can name about a hundred more amazing bands (Foreigner, Yes, Fleetwood Mac, U2, Van Halen, RUSH, Nirvana, and the list goes on and on) which tie me to my four siblings and my great friends! Journey was a big part of my coming of age and Steve Perry, in my opinion was the greatest voice that I feel defined my generation! Any Way You Want It by Journey

In my Jazz world - Pat Metheny, Pat Metheny, and yes, more Pat Metheny! The perfect accompaniment on long band trips going across the country. It's so easy to get lost in his brilliance!  PAT METHENY GROUP: "Last Train Home"

In the Country & Bluegrass world - The Lucky One from Alison Krauss and Union Station - this song helped me dig out of a very deep dark emotional hole just not too long ago, and it makes me feel hopeful every time I hear it. Alison Krauss & Union Station - The Lucky One 

What's your favorite musical instrument?

Being a former band director, I had to learn the basics on almost every single instrument from violin to harp, oboe to tuba, so I have had the joy of playing many instruments. Also, coming from a musical family, I have had the joy of playing guitar, bass, and banjo (I took 3 years of banjo lessons!) As a percussionist there are a countless number of instruments from which to choose, but no instrument has me rapt as much as the Concert Marimba. It has my heart!

What's your favorite ToneGym feature?

The games!!! We all know that learning and practicing can be tedious and a bore, but when, over a morning cup of coffee, I can play these fun little games that over time tune my ear and train my brain without me feeling at all like I'm being a student is brilliant! It is very rare for me to miss a day of doing my exercises in the gym! I wish I worked out my whole body as consistently as I do just my ears!!

What does the future hold for Bradley Crowley?

Play Play Play!! Don't let a day go by without playing music! Like I said, I am not looking to be any sort of a super star. I just want to be the best musician that I can be and play as much as I can play! I can't think of a better future!


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Stephen Craig
Mar 09, 2023
Yohai Zilber
Mar 09, 2023
You're a musical monster! It was great learning more about you and your journey.
Cuantas Vacas
Mar 09, 2023
Congratulations, Bradley! I'm amazed by your musical journey and your tight relationship with music in all its dimension! BTW, I swear I'd barely know how to properly place a banjo in its case after 3 years of lessons...

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