American Stories Through Song
American stories through song is a live, multi-media musical performance featuring veteran gold record and grammy winning performers and educators, kinny landrum, richard lindsey and Steve Missal. Together they present a fun-filled, interactive presentation, encouraging and demonstrating for teachers to recognize, develop and present their own passions into classroom instruction. The program stresses the need for balance in an era of overtesting and accountability. This multimedia presentation of story and song actively engages students and teachers to appreciate not only the role of music as a primary source in teaching national and state standards, but also provides a unique way to celebrate our rich cultural origins, demonstrating the power and strength in our nation's diversity. The presentation is also designed to more effectively help teachers and administrators utilize technology in implementing core content standards in a variety of disciplines, including social studies, visual and performing arts, and language arts literacy. Modern drummer feature article by robert santelli (director of the r & r hall of fame and author of "the big beat.") steve's sticks are in the r & r hall of fame drumstick exhibit. Portraits kicking the celtic groove by robert santelli Steve Missal is living proof that you do not have to be Irish to play in an Irish band. But the kips bay band, for whom missal keeps the beat and sings, is no ordinary Irish band. The New York-based quintet blends traditional and contemporary strains of celtic music with rock,rap,and funk. It's the kind of band that might have missal knocking out a soul groove behind his kit one moment and using brushes on a plastic garbage pail the next. In fact,missal's middle name could be " versatility." before falling in with the kips bay band,he helped create the hard rock sound behind billy idol,playing on idol's signature song, "white wedding," as well as other songs on his self-titled album. Missal also worked with ted nugent and led his own band,the rhythm team,which featured not just him,but two other drummers,a horn section and an all-girl vocal section. Missal has also logged plenty of time in recording studios;for twelve years he owned and operated out of shelter studios in New York before setting up shop in New Jersey and producing local and regional bands. Though missal is no longer in the studio business,he still does jingles,scores films,develops educational material for teaching history through music, and can be seen in ads and clinics for sonor drums,meinl cymbals,and regal-tip sticks. "i've always tried to expand my possibilities within music,"says the forty-three-year-old missal." but i'm always a drummer first. I've been playing a long time,and i'm as passionate about playing today as the day i started." rs: how did you go from playing hard rock with people like billy idol and ted nugent to playing Irish music? sm: believe me,i never thought i'd see myself playing in an Irish based band. I'm from German and American Indian ancestory. A band was renting my studio in NY and asked me to sit in. The time signatures were different,the melodies unique,and the players were excellent. As a player,you should work with musicians who you can learn from and expand your style base. Rs: describe the music of the kips bay band. Sm: well,when you say that you play Irish music,people think of van morrison,u2,the cranberries,but our music is not like theirs in that we take the traditional ideas and melodies and give them a "world beat" sense and flavor. We're a tradtional-based Irish-American roots band. Rs: was it difficult to make the transition from hard rock to celtic music? sm: my exposure to Irish music came initially from the NYC saint patty's day parade. I would record the regimental drummers and incorporated their style into my performances. I really couldn't tell the difference between a jig,a reel or a hornpipe. Subsequently myself and bassist richard lindsey,working as a rhythm section, have broken new ground for celtic rhythm styles and approaches. I have come to appreciate and understand the connection between American country music and Irish music. It is based on the traditional rhythms and melodies brought over by the immigrants and mixed in with african-American influences as well. Rs: do you come from a country music background? sm: no. buddy rich was asked by a nurse before taking a shot if there was anything he was allergic to and buddy replied "ya,country and western music!" but seriously, i grew up in south Chicago. In my neighborhood you either listened to the beatles or james brown, psychadelic or motown. I leaned towards r&b. rs: what drummers did you listen to while growing up? sm: when people hear that you come from Chicago,they usually think that you grew up with the blues drummers. I was influenced through osmosis but i was really into any style on the radio that caught my liking. I became influenced by john bonham,keith moon,louise bellson,gene krupa,dino danelli and countless others. I admired the dance band drummers of the big-band era and i was literally a ballet and tap dancer. Rs: how did you get involved in dancing? sm: the loretta rozak school of dance was located across the street from me and i saw all the nice girls attending. So at age thirteen i started my dancing career. I started with tap and then ballet. I actually performed with the bolshoi ballet troupe from Russia. Rs: why didn't you continue dancing? it seems as if you had a lot of potential. Sm: my brother picked up a set of black and gold slingerland drums and when i sat down that was it! All the things i learned as a dancer-the syncopation,hand movements,body expression-naturally carried over to the drums. The music at that time-in '66 and '67 was really great and i wanted to play in a band more than anything else. Rs: it seems that you have been a real journeyman style drummer. Sm: i studied with bernard purdie who introduced me to a lot of work. I became a real figure on the NY scene which led to a gig with idol. I've been lucky to work with so many great people but i always believe that the drummer should be the leader of the band. Rs: when did you start singing? sm: when i realized that if you were able to sing,it was another way of surviving in the music business. I also began composing. These are tools that make any drummer more marketable. The more things you can do,the better your chances are of landing a good gig,because you can more easily go beyond what the traditional role of the drummer used to be.what i'd like to see happen is the drummer be the main guy up there on the stage. After all,the drummer is the spirit,the focal point and the heart of any band. You get respect from being a true professional, gaining confidence and always trying to improve by actively working and honest risk taking. Rs: tell me about your drum style. Sm: what i'm interested in is a signature sound,feel and look. Style should be any drummers main objective. Someone hearing me for the first time should get the impression of cleanliness of technique. I also hit with a vengeance,and most important,i have fun! i hammer down as the nuge would say. Visual presentation is crucial. Rs: where do you get your composing inspiration from? sm: from anywhere and everywhere-influences,ideas,tours, situations. Writing is an important creative outlet for me. The real money in this business comes through publishing. Rs: by singing,writing ,producing and playing drums,you cover the musical gamut. Are there any other creative drives that you need to fulfill? sm: just to be he best drummer-singer that i can be. that's what matters most to me. The energy of playing the drums can't be topped. I am a drummer above all else. Bob santelli is a world renowned music journalist. He is the author of "the big beat" a best selling book containing interviews with past and current famous drummers. Mr. santelli is the current educational director at the rock n roll hall of fame in Cleveland,Ohio. The star-ledger thursday ,january 9,1997 today section by jay lustig star-ledger staff schoolteacher Steve Missal is stamping his feet in front of his fifth grade class at the louise a. spencer school in newark but he's not mad. He's teaching his pupils about patterns. He pounds the floor once, then twice; then once, then twice; then once, then twice. "why is that a pattern?' he asks, and hands shoot up all over the room. 'because it repeats,' calls out one pupil. You can take the drummer out from behind his kit, but he'll still think in terms of rhythm. With his shaggy hair, rumpled shirt and loosened tie, missal looks like an overgrown teddy bear, but he's really a rock 'n roll animal who has been in scores of bands and backed artists like billy idol and ted nugent. He currently plays drums, writes songs and sings for the Irish-rock band kips bay, and recently released a solo album, 'American connection,' on his own label. His claims to fame include playing at Madison square (with nugent) in l976 and performing on ido1s 1983, 'white wedding.' but his pupils, who weren't even born when 'write wedding"' was all over radio and mtv, aren't exactly in awe of him. "they couldn't care less," confides missal, sitting at his after school's out." gold albums don't matter. They are impressed with fairness and you caring about them." and other things as well, according to the school's principal, joseph k. brown jr. children respond well to missal, he says, because "they like the creativity he brings to the classroom, and the way he combines his good sense of music and his great sense of humor with instruction." missal, who's 45 and lives in scotch plains with his wife and four young daughters, has been working as an elementary school teacher -teaching reading, writing and arithmetic, with an occasional touch of rhythm -- since 1992. he's a product of New Jersey's alternate route system, which helps adults change careers and become teachers. His new profession allows him to support his family and still play music at nights, on weekends and during the summer. Missal says he could still support himself as a musician and a recording-studio owner (for most of the 1980s, he ran shelter studios in New York), but teaching offered the opportunity to spend more time with his family and earn a steady income -something he didn't know much about as a journeyman drummer. He was only with nugent for six months. And idol employed him for only 11/2 years. Most of the bands he played with between 1972 (when he left his hometown of Chicago for New York) and 1992 had far less success. There was the stu daye band, which opened a tour for aerosmith but never went very far on it's own. And revolver, which had a record deal with epic, but misfired. And zipperfoot, and the allies, and the r band, and ronnie & the jitters. And plenty of others. ''my thought now is, where are all those guys -- the bass players, the keyboard players, the singers?' says missal. 'i know where i am. i'm teaching in newark. And if they see this article, it's going to freak them out.' unlike most of the musicians he's worked with, he hasn't hung up his rock shoes. He just keeps them in the closet most of the time. He describes kips bay, originally know as the kips bay ceili band, as 'an American roots band with an Irish accent.' the group's signed to the green linnet record label and performs frequently. It's busy times are march, when club owners like to present st. patrick's day shows on or around the holiday, and the summer, when it can play at outdoor fests. The band's first shows, about six years ago, were in Irish bars in the bronx, places 'where you have to play the traditional jigs and reels, but they want eric clapton thrown in,' says missal. As opposed to some Irish-rock groups, which use traditional Irish percussion instruments, kips bay uses a full rock drum set. 'i'm a rocker,' missal says. 'i play loud and heavy, and i hammer down. I have fun. I'm not a subtle guy when it comes to drums.' he is more than just a basher, though, writing some of the band's material, and singing in a style that borders on blue-eyed soul. Steve addabbo, who produced kips bay's latest album," into the light," as well as work on "American connection," says missal "can do it all, and do it really well. He's almost a kid in a candy store when it comes to music. He can sing great, he can play great, he can write songs. And his energy is incredible: he just throws himself into everything." addabbo, who has co-produced albums for suzanne vega and shawn colvin, remembers when missal had six drummers in his late 80's band, the rhythm team. " i told him, 'you're crazy.' but he didn't care. He said, "this is what i want to do.' that's the kind of person he is." indeed, missal sounds strikingly confident as he talks about balancing a full-time teaching career with his musical endeavors: i can do both. Next year i'll be all over the world again, but i can work it out. It's doable. I've always done whatever it took to be a musician. To me, this job is supporting my music. He says it helps that principal brown is supportive, and brown in turn says missal's extracurricular activities don't hurt his ability to teach. Though there are weekend and occasional weeknight shows, 'every time he goes on tour, school's not in session,' brown says. 'it really isn't a bad mix between the two.' and there's even an extra bonus for missal, the musician. 'these kids are really in touch with whatever the latest beats are,' he says. 'before New York or Los Angeles even knows what's happening, i'm here listening to it. i've seen it happen.'