Hailing from The Bronx, New York – and with over three decades of professional experience – Ralph Rolle is a much sought-after drummer and producer, having performed and recorded with Prince, U2, Aretha Franklin, Lady Gaga, Paul Simon, Sting, Biggie Smalls, John Legend and Erykah Badu and more. He is currently drumming with Nile Rodgers and Chic and has a cookie empire.
Naturally, we were delighted when the Bronx-born musician agreed to take part in a very special Masterclass at BIMM London earlier this month.
The evening saw Ralph inspire and enlighten our audience of BIMM students with stories from his career and two dazzling performances, including a jaw-dropping live rendition of Thunder Rain – a track written by Nile Rodgers and CHIC’s keys player Richie Hilton.
Our BIMM undergraduates listened with intent as Ralph displayed his playing technique and skill, which transcends genres like Disco and Rap – a rare opportunity to get up close with a master of the drums!
The session was highly engaging as it was valuable, with Ralph focusing on how to hold down and keep a gig within the industry. He shared industry advice on the importance of being reliable and being without a ‘but’ at the end of your name – we couldn’t agree more.
Polite and charming, our Ralph also waxed lyrical about serving the music rather than serving yourself and entering a room with the tools needed for the job.
As for performing, Ralph spoke at length about his mantra of the ‘five P’s’ – Passion, Power, Placement, Performance and Purity. Five key lessons that will no doubt stick in our students’ minds throughout their own careers.
Ralph touched upon his childhood, teaching himself to play the drums and being influenced by such luminaries as Steve Gadd, Harry Vaughn and Sammy Davis Jr.
During the Masterclass, our students were also given a chance to put some questions to Ralph who was only too happy to answer. When asked about his greatest achievement to date, the affable drummer replied “getting paid for what I do”.
The masterclass ended with an outstanding performance of David Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’, which had the whole class jumping on their feet and singing the backing vocal lines!
It was a touching tribute from one musical legend to another.