Thursday, January 5, 2012

Party Percussionist John Donovan - Artist Profile

This is the first article in a new series for 2012 that introduces our Recommended Professionals.  We are pleased to kick off the series by profiling Party Percussionist John Donovan!  John is a fellow member of the New Jersey Disc Jockey Network (NJDJN).  He also provided a high-energy performance at the Kick-Off Party for the 2011 DJ Times International DJ Expo held this past August at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City.  

An Introduction to Party Percussionists

I first experienced party percussionists in Las Vegas clubs like Studio 54.  The DJ was the pilot of the dance floor, with a "Latin-style" percussionist serving as an accompanying player to the mix, drumming away on instruments such as bongos and timbales.  Not only was this presentation novel, but it added a visually pleasing element to the performance.

John Donovan practices an entirely different style of drumming known as Rudimental "Corps-Style" Drumming. After pursuing traditional drum lessons from the age of 4, Donovan discovered the drum and bugle corps at age 17 and immersed himself in the world of competitive drumming.  His talent and hard work culminated with his winning a Drum Corps International (DCI) World Championship.  In 2007, Donovan moved to Long Island and shortly thereafter carved out a niche in the private event market, performing at high-end weddings, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, Sweet 16s and corporate events.

In recent years, Donovan has made a splash in the private event market, entertaining guests at formal events with his visually stunning presentation.  Typically, Donovan performs alongside a disc jockey.  John believes that he is "the only full-time, commercial, freelance, individual Multi-Tenor player in the world."  What this means, is that given his high-velocity drumming, Donovan has been able to commercially express himself through the Multi-Tenor instrumentation (i.e., a set of drums that contains 5 or 6 drums), before anyone else in history.  To help this description come to life, check out the video clip of Donovan in action!

I recently caught up with John, and below are highlights from the Q&A:

Q:  How do your performances differ from that of a Latin-style percussionist?

JD:  While Latin-Style percussionists focus on a vocabulary of conventional patterns to support the rhythm of the music, because of my regimented drum corps training, I am not just able to play the conventional patterns, but I directly support the melody and framework of the music just like someone who is composing percussion parts for an advanced percussion ensemble.  Basically, I bring a high level of artistically sound intellect and physical prowess to all the events I am part of. To top it all off, because of my drum corps training, I am also able to produce visually hypnotic material, which tends to drop jaws and open eyes right on the dance floor. So while guests are dancing away enjoying the pre-recorded music which is mixed and beat matched properly by the DJ, they are also feeling the vibe of what I am contributing to the mix, AND they get an actual show at the same time.  The client truly gets a one of a kind entertainment package.

Q:  What is the best part of your job?

JD:  I have four answers. The first is the satisfaction from watching a room full of people jump in unison, what we call, “the bounce factor,” and that tells us the team did a great job for the client.  You really have to work well with a crowd, to earn their trust, and to groom them properly during the evening for this to happen, and when it does, it’s pure magic! Second, I appreciate when the client comes directly to me at the end of an event and expresses their gratitude for a job well done. Third, I LOVE when guests whom are also percussionists, as well as other types of musicians, come up to me throughout the evening and express how they are blown away by what I contributed to the music, and how I did it. That’s very humbling, each and every time it happens. Lastly, I enjoy when the event company owner expresses how they much they enjoyed working with me and that they feel further inspired to offer my services in the future.

Q:  Tell me about your practice schedule.

JD:  I practice for about an hour a day just to keep my hands conditioned. When I was in high school, I had zero social life because I was practicing for anywhere from 6-8 hours a day, plus the countless hours while I was in drum corps.

Q:  What is your favorite song to drum to?

JD:  My all-time favorite song is "Boom Boom Pow" by the Black Eyed Peas.

Q:  Why should clients add your party percussionist services to their event?

JD:  Hiring an in-demand, name brand LIVE entertainer adds prestige to an event and makes it stand out. A party percussionist is the perfect option for those groups who love to dance, as the combined effect of the DJ-Party Percussionist Combo raises the energy level, and adds a dazzling visual element to the evening.

Q:  Do you have any upcoming public performances that you would like to tell us about?

JD:  I will be performing at the NJDJN Mini Expo next week on Tuesday January 10th at the Crowne Plaza in Edison  The event runs from 6:30 PM to 10 PM and will feature the NJDJN's corporate sponsors, with deeply discounted gear, party favors, decorations, novelties, group disability insurance, credit card acceptance program, and a presentation by special guest speaker Tony Tee Neto about "Audio Imaging."  The event is open to all working disc jockeys and admission is FREE!  Be sure to attend this New Jersey Disc Jockey Network Event and get there in time to catch my set at 6:30!

To be a "World Champion" in any line of work requires superlative talent and dedication.  Now you can have international star John Donovan perform at your private party right here in the NJ/NY/PA Tristate area!  For booking information and to view additional demo videos, visit John on the worldwide web at

His Facebook Fan Page can be accessed at


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