BIOGRAPHY – Willard J. “Bill” Putnam
I was a child prodigy in Percussion from age 3, a classically-trained Eastman School of Music percussionist – born and raised in Rochester, New York – who grew up with performance and instruction in Drum Corps in Rochester. I was the youngest member of the National Association of Rudimental Drummers at age 9. I composed and arranged for drum corps percussion lines from age 13 – composed, arranged and instructed full percussion lines at age 14 – taught percussion privately from age 14 – held the position of Percussion Instructor for many drum corps, both Drum and Bugle & Fife and Drum, including the U.S. Army Drum and Bugle Corps. I am one of the country’s authorities on Rudimental Drumming – the 1969 “Ancient” National Individual Snare Drum Champion. I am a published composer, a 2007 Nominee to the World Drum Corps Hall of Fame, as well as a current member of the United States Association of Rudimental Drummers and the International Association of Traditional Drummers. I am also an Endorsing Artist for The Cooperman Drum Company.
I started my classical instruction at age 3 with Mr. Hugh Robertson, Principal Percussionist, Eastman School of Music, Rochester, New York. Through many years of private instruction, and my affiliation with the Eastman School of Music, my percussive talents were utilized by Eastman – and John Beck – for many programs and performances, including the Eastman Philharmonic Orchestra (from age 14), The Eastman Wind Ensemble, Composer’s Symposiums, etc., as percussionist and tympanist. At the same time, I was being instructed in the fine art of Rudimental Drumming with local Drum Corps, making my first performance at age 7. I was fortunate to have both ends of the spectrum….training on all orchestral percussive instruments as well as marching field percussion. My cross training in both disciplines gave me a broad understanding of the very fine points of technique and power, both applied equally as well in both orchestral and field percussion.
My High School years saw me teaching, writing, performing in every aspect of Percussion, as I wrote and arranged for several drum corps throughout the Northeast U.S. and Canada. The war in Vietnam caused me to be the victim of the mandatory Draft, thus, drafted into military service in 1968.
Because of my ever-widening musical reputation, I was fortunate to secure an audition with the United States Military Academy Band, West Point, New York, for the renowned “Hellcats” Field Music (rudimental drumming) Detachment, was immediately accepted there and entered the Army. To my good fortune, I was reunited with John S. Pratt (my drum instructor at 7 years old) as well as several well-known associates in drum corps. In the last year of my 3-year enlistment, I was recommended to hold the position of Percussion Instructor and Arranger for the U.S. Army Drum and Bugle Corps, Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
I have continued teaching, arranging, composing and consulting through the years. My compositions, both orchestral and rudimental, from solos to full percussion ensembles – Grades 1 through 6 – have been published by two publishers, Kendor Music (www.kendormusic.com) and by Rhythmic Expressions Percussion (www.reppercussion.myshopify.com).
My extensive background in drum corps and military field percussion has afforded me the recognition as one of the country’s authorities on Rudimental Drumming, an ever-diminishing art of field drumming, with the techniques required to correctly perform, and to correctly instruct others in its precision.
I am currently a composer / arranger as well as a clinician, performer and lecturer for “Days of Percussion” in various PAS-sponsored venues…and videos of my 2013 and 2014 performances at the United States Association of Rudimental Drummers Conventions – New York Drummers Association – can be viewed at: