In a career spanning more than 40 years as a teacher, author and performer, Gary traveled the world introducing literally thousands of students to his unique concepts. Having performed with numerous bands and given clinics in England, Germany, Italy, France, Austria, Norway Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Yugoslavia, Japan, Mexico, Switzerland, Brazil, Finland, Canada, Croatia, as well as innumerable events in the US his influences on the drumming world were substantial.
"Gary doesn't teach you how to play a beat, he teaches you how to conceptualize a style. In one day, he changed my whole perception of playing."
During his tenure as Chairman of the Percussion Department at the Berklee College of Music as well as in his own private teaching studio in Boston Gary worked with some of the top players in the industry. Names like Vinnie Colaiuta, JR Robinson, Steve Smith, Kenwood Dennard, David Beal, Joey Kramer, and Larry Mullen Jr. all studied with Gary. Hundreds of other successful drummers came out of his "school" of drumming.
"Gary has a certain method of teaching polyrhythms and independence that's really cool. He shows you how it's broken down and what it's based on. It is really interesting and is planned out very intelligently."
- Vinnie Colaiuta: Frank Zappa, Sting
As an author Gary has released many books demonstrating his unique concepts. Among these are his highly popular 4-volume Patterns series as well as two companion videos. His newest book, "Odd-Time Stickings' continues this tradition of unique and trailblazing ideas.
"After playing on my own for 20 some odd years, Gary Chaffee has helped me to open up new doors for myself. My playing is now more fun and more challenging."
Throughout his career Gary organized many different and innovative percussion performance ensembles. At his first teaching gig at Western Illinois University he started a large ensemble that explored group improvisation. Then, after moving to Boston to teach at Berklee he created a unique Jazz/Rock ensemble which combined a large percussion group (three drumset players, three mallet players, and four percussionists) with a rhythm section featuring guitar great Bill Frisell, bassist Kermit Driscoll and pianist Jim Burt. This ensemble was so successful that it became the first one from Berklee to ever go out on tour, playing at a variety of venues throughout New England. After leaving Berklee Gary continued exploring different types of percussion ensembles. Among these were his group CHOMP which featured six drum set players who were also gifted percussionists.
Having been familiar with Gary’s materials for a few years, I feel that they are really in touch with the directions that drumming is going in. The books open the doors to many new ideas, and are presented in a way that people can grasp.
- David Garibaldi, Tower of Power
Gary Chaffee is not only a Master Drummer, but also a Master Instructor. The Patterns books should be included in every drumset player’s library. The volume on stickings offers limitless possibilities. Most stimulating for the creative juices.
- Ed Thigpen, Jazz Great
Perhaps the most unique and innovative ensemble Gary was involved with was a duo that he formed with drummer Steve Houghton. With performances throughout the US as well as in Canada and England, this ensemble garnered rave reviews wherever it went. Although much of the music was improvised the skill and camaraderie of the two performers was evident from the first note to the last Gary said, "Of all the groups I have played in, this is the one I'll miss the most."
Every time I open Gary’s books, I discover many new and innovative ideas to add to my drum vocabulary. These materials are a must for all serious players at any level.
- Jonathan Mover, Joe Satriani