Mike Johnston: 21st Century Digital Teacher
by Fred Gretsch
Many Gretsch drum artists are also excellent teachers. But Mike Johnston puts things the other way around. While a fine performer in his own right (with years of touring credits that include recording artists Simon Says and Filter), Mike is currently focusing on his career as an educator. And he’s primarily doing it the way you might expect in this digital age: online, via his educational website Mikeslessons.com.
As Mike himself explains, “When I was touring I’d put videos on YouTube for my students while I was out of town. I figured that when I came home I’d have seventy or so views from those students. But my clips would get 20,000 views in a weekend. Things kept growing, and when they got a million views I realized that there must be a need for online lessons. At the time DVDs with any kind of educational content cost $40—and sometimes a drummer might want just one chapter. So I thought, ‘What if I film everything in five to ten minute chunks?’ You could get just one rudiment…or just one funk pattern…or just the songo. So that was the concept.”
Since that time Mike’s concept has been wildly successful, propelling him to celebrity teacher status around the world. And he comes by that status legitimately, having himself studied privately for fifteen years with some of the greatest educator/drummers of our time, including Pete Magadini and great Gretsch drummer Steve Ferrone.
Since establishing his website Mike has expanded his offerings beyond pre-recorded lesson clips. He now presents thirty-six “live” online drum lessons monthly. In addition, he hosts ten International Drum Camps each year at the Mikeslessons.com facility in Folsom, California.
Mike is also highly in demand as a clinician. He spent most of 2012 touring the United States giving clinics at various music stores, and he performed both days at the 2012 Meinl Drum Festival in Germany. All of this activity earned him nominations for Educator/Clinician of the Year by Modern Drummer magazine in 2011 and 2012.
Although he spends most of his efforts teaching online, Mike hasn’t abandoned the more traditional forms of drumming education. He’s also the author of a critically acclaimed instructional book called Linear Drumming. About the book, Mike himself says, “It’s a collection of my favorite linear patterns. It covers three different subdivisions and uses them as fills and grooves. Each page is built around a simple system.”
You can get more information about Mike and his teaching program at (big surprise) Mikeslessons.com. But for just a taste of what Mike has to offer there, check out any of the many clips available on YouTube. Here are a few to start with:
Mike has also contributed several educational articles to Modern Drummer and DRUM! magazines. Here’s a YouTube clip based on one of those articles (“The 45-minute practice routine”).
And finally, some great clips of Mike discussing Gretsch drums and his teaching program are on his artist link at Gretschdrums.com.
All of us at Gretsch are proud to have such an energetic and forward-looking educator on our artist roster.