From Student to Teacher: Darren Johnson Interview


The Bucket Busters—Music Motive’s own critically acclaimed, percussion performance group—have been smashing cans and busting buckets in SLO County for over ten years now. Playing at community and private events, the group collects donations for scholarships students who could otherwise not have the opportunity for music lessons.

Bucket Busters alumni, Darren Johnson (aka the “Drum Miester”), played with the group for almost two years, as well as taking private lessons in our drum school as well. Darren’s work-ethic and dedication to his craft always set him apart as a stand-out student; now, the trend continues as he leads a new generation of Bucketeers (and guitar!) students in elementary schools throughout the Central Coast.

Recently, I managed to track down the multifarious musician; I asked Darren about where he’s been, what he’s learned, and what his future may hold. 

1. What first sparked your interest in music? How old were you?

I was 12 years old; I can almost remember the exact day. “Lonely Day” by System of a Down came on the radio. The music hit me in a way it had never had before. The emotions of it really caught me.

Immediately, I wanted to create music of my own. I wanted to make that happen. I’ve been really passionate about music ever sense.

2. What came first, the bucket or the drums? 

I first started with drum lessons in the drum school. I did (private) lessons for about 3 and a half years before I joined the Bucket Busters.

3. How do you compare your Bucket Buster’s experience to your private lessons experience?

Well they both definitely helped me with my chops, but (the Bucket Busters) taught me how to play with a large group which was something I’ll always take with me. It was something I didn’t have before.

Learning how to perform in front of an audience was the most important thing, making a crowd pleased to see you and all stuff like that.darren_bt

4. Now that you’re teaching, what is your approach? Do you draw from your Bucket Busters experience? 

Definitely. I try to have the kids enjoy themselves. Bucket Busters taught me that I could have fun with music—to be laid back, to not get stressed out. I learned a lot from Steve Hilstein (Music Motive director) and applied that to my teaching.

5. What are your current musical influences? Still rocking to System of a Down? 

Jazz. The last 6 months or so has been playing and listening to a lot of jazz. It was just all rock and metal for a while but I’ve been branching. Steve Gadd is amazing at playing jazz; I’ve been trying to imitate his style a lot. He’s great.

6. What do you do to keep busy?  

Besides teaching Bucketeers and Guitar classes for Music Motive, I’ve also been attending the Recording Arts program at Cuesta College with George Stone. I was apart of the last class to be admitted before they cut the program.

I’ve been learning more guitar and piano too. I’ve also been looking for a new music project to work on right now.

7. You’re future looks bright! Will you continue with school? What’s the plan?

I’ve been considering the Berklee School of Music in Boston but we’ll see; I’m hoping to produce music someday.

Whatever Darren’s bright future holds, we’re glad we have him at Music Motive now.

Thanks Darren!


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