Murray Spivack In The 1920s

Murray Spivack's Teaching Studio 1976

                                                         INFORMATION DRAWN FROM: "A Moment In Time: Surviving Child Abuse"
                                                                          Chapter 12: - Title: "Money {That's What I Want}"

To his credit, Randy worked hard to correct his musical deficiencies, and committed to learning everything possible about percussion in theory and practice.

He started taking drumming lessons with Chuck Flores. Randy used his scant band experience, the Flores connection and the promise of Murray Spivack's instruction in the offing when writing to President Remo Belli of Remo Drum Company, seeking employment. [Belli, like Louis Bellson, had been a student of Murray Spivack. Spivack and Bellson had invested in the Remo Drum Company at its startup, and reaped enormous profits as a reward for their foresight.]

It worked! He got the job.

Hired at Remo, Randy willingly performed all sorts of tasks. He proved to be such a good worker that the company promoted him to research and development.

There, he helped bring out pinstripe drum heads and custom-created drum heads from fiber. Soon after he started work at Remo, Randy wrote Murray Spivack to inform the teacher of his changed circumstances, hoping to impress the drum guru with his dedication to learning every aspect of percussion. He was on a roll: not long afterward, Randy received the phone call he'd been waiting for. It was Murray Spivack, and he was ready to instruct the would-be drummer now, in May of 1976, a good two years earlier than expected. Randy was excited, because he knew Murray could provide the musical knowledge he needed to succeed in his avocation.

What he didn't realize was that the teacher would also serve as something else Randy been searching for all his young life, something that
would be vital to his mental survival: a father figure.

                                                         INFORMATION DRAWN FROM: "A Moment In Time: Surviving Child Abuse"
                                                                                    Chapter 13 - Title: "Learn to Listen"

By the time twenty-year-old Randy Fowler hooked up with him in May 1976, seventy-two-year-old Murray Spivack had already enjoyed a long and full life encompassing three successful careers as musician, sound technician and teacher.

Born September 6, 1903 in Kiev, Ukraine, Murray as a child came to the United States with his family. (Younger brother Charlie Spivak, also a musician, would later become trumpeter with the Dorsey brothers, Bob Crosby, Jack Teagarden and his own orchestras).

The new immigrants settled in New Haven, Connecticut, where Murray took up drumming. He began playing professionally at age 12. In the decade that followed, he became house drummer at the Strand Theater, worked for radio station WOR, and opened his own teaching and recording studio in the Gaiety at 46th and Broadway in New York. Murray refined his playing techniques in study sessions with New York Symphony timpanist Carl Glassman, Capitol Theater drummer Dave Guiskoff and mallet virtuoso George Hamilton Greene. He was the star pupil of bass drummer-cymbal player and drum maker Billy Gladstone.

By his mid-twenties, Murray's talents (he was also one of the first performers to broadcast and to record on vibraphone) were in such great demand he was making $500 a week at a time when a Model T Ford cost less than $300 to own.

In 1929, Murray was lured to Hollywood, becoming head of the sound-effects department at RKO. It began what would be a more than forty-year association with the movie industry. Spivack served with great distinction as sound designer and engineer, sound-effects man, mixer and in other hands-on or supervisory capacities.

He was a founding member of the Cinema Audio Society and was later inducted into the Percussive Arts Society's Hall of Fame.

Spivack devised all animal sounds for the early classic, King Kong. He worked on more than 25 films in all between 1933 and 1973, including such stand-outs as:
Son of Kong - Flying Down to Rio - The Lost Patrol - Laura - South Pacific - Spartacus - The Alamo - Cleopatra - My Fair Lady - The Sound of Music - The Sand Pebbles - Doctor Doolittle - Hello, Dolly! - Patton.

In his time with RKO and with 20th Century Fox after 1938, Murray Spivack became well respected as an innovator and as a consummate professional. The industry recognized his achievements with two Academy Award nominations, and he won an Oscar for Hello, Dolly!

Meanwhile, to keep his hand in drumming, Murray started teaching again, and quickly gained attention around the Los Angeles area for his excellence in instruction.

In years that followed, his reputation for molding drummers into peak shape grew to international proportions. Spivack is today widely credited with serving as the individual most responsible for shaping modern techniques of teaching snare and drum set instruction.

By the time he received his newest student, Randy Fowler, Murray Spivack had already trained what would, to cognoscenti, read as a virtual Who's Who of classical, rock, and jazz percussionists: Walt Goodwin, Bobby Colombi, Louie Bellson, David Garibaldi, Gordon Fry, Rick Difazio, Wally Snow, Jack Varga, Chet Ricord, Mark Leon, Chuck Flores, Richard P. Wilson, Gordon Peake, Brooks Wackerman, Gary Ferguson, Christiaan Oyens, Carlos Vega, Joey Heredia, Bob Economou, Daniel Bejarano, John Wackerman, Vinnie Colaiutu, Walfride de los Reyes, Alvin Stoller, William Kraft, Chuck Silverman, Joey Preston, Bill Carpenter, Chad Wackerman, Mark Sanders, Roger Rampton, Frank Epstein, Ralph Collier Remo Belli, Frank Clayman Cook.

The majority of students came to Murray because he was an acknowledged master at getting a drummer's fingers and hands in shape.
It didn't matter how long you'd been playing or how successful you were. If Murray took you on, you became saturated in his comprehensive, disciplined approach, customized for each student's particular needs--or you got out. He'd make you relearn basics: how to hold the sticks, how to make a stroke, the mechanics of percussion, fundamentals of speed, force and direction. You'd get lots of practice perfecting rolls, flams, ruffs and drags. And you'd exercise the body part most important to drumming: your brain.

Though an eager pupil (he'd quit the Blue Jays to concentrate on lessons) Randy Fowler was hampered at first by the horror of his private hell and by his indifferent attitude towards education. He wasn't accustomed to studying or attuned to a regimen of daily practice. He wasn't yet on Murray Spivack's wavelength.

Lack of preparation showed in his playing. In November 1976 Murray called Randy on the carpet for it. The master told the pupil: "If you're not going to do this right, you might as well become a carpenter or a plumber."
The blunt words stung, but gave Randy much to think about.
Is this what he really wanted?
Did he have the talent to be a pro musician?
Was he willing to do everything necessary to achieve his goal?
He decided the answer to all questions was "Yes."
 It was time he got serious about his craft.

Murray Spivack's Office

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