I started playing hand drums in 1991. I knew nothing about how to play, so I took some African drumming classes at a community center in Portland, Oregon, near my home at that time. The teacher was a master musician from Ghana, and I found the classes interesting and inspiring. My first drum was a Kpanlogo drum, from Ghana. After a few sessions I was hooked, and it seemed I had some aptitude for hand drums. That's how I got started with percussion.
In 1993, I discovered the ancient didgeridoo from Australia. My passion for playing drums and didgeridoo led me to quitting my career in the corporate world in late 1993. By early 1996 I was combining the African hand drum called djembe and the didgeridoo in live play. In 1999, I was traveling the world, busking on famous streets, playing up to five instruments simultaneously.
In 2004, while busking in Oxford, England, I was introduced to the original handpan from Switzerland, which combines melody and percussion. I purchased my first handpan in late 2004, and my second one in late 2005. I quickly integrated them into my music, and interest in my music expanded.
Ever since I bought my first original handpan in 2004, I was interested in making my own version of the instrument. I dabbled with the idea for years, until the beginning of 2012, when I decided to commit to manifesting my own handpan. In Chinese astrology, 2012 was the year of the dragon, symbolizing good fortune, among other things. I was in Asia when the year of the dragon started, so the name stuck. Currently, in the spring of 2016, I am excited to be in production with both steel and bronze Gongpans.
On the development path with the handpan, I discovered the joys of making and playing sweet sounding tank drums, or steel tongue drums. So in the spring of 2013, I began an initiative to make my own tank, or steel tongue drum. Now I am in production with this design, and enjoying all the aspects of making and sharing them. I see people who are not musicians light up when they play the drum. Make your own beautiful music with a Dragon Drum.
For me making music in public is a lot about connecting with people of all ages. Making music and instruments is more than a job; it's my passion.
The clip below is from 2010, not long after I invested in my first steel tongue drum, and many years into my first hang.