Aaron Spears
Aaron Spears

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Aaron Spears has carved out a niche and is enjoying a reputation as one of the most exciting, innovative drummers in R & B and gospel. A winner of the Modern Drummer magazine readers' poll 2006 in the Up & Coming category, he was a stunning performer-some say their favorite-at the 2006 Modern Drummer Festival Weekend. In the Newark Performing Arts Center, Aaron teamed up with contemporary and veteran gospel exponents in a rousing ensemble. When it came time for his solo spot, Aaron simply lifted the roof off the elegant concert hall, juxtaposing diverse timbres and techniques in a manner that had the crowd standing; it was pure electricity.

A Washington, DC native, Aaron began drumming in the Pentecostal church, where he learned the importance of dynamics-always the supreme challenge in places of worship. At age 27, he joined the Gideon Band, which as its name suggests, was a unit infused with religious spirit. The group rocked hard and created a stir with its unique brand of fusion. The word came to Valdez Brantley, musical director of Usher, and the rest is, as they say, history. Aaron Spears joined Usher, contributed to their platinum recording Confessions and appeared on the 2005 Grammy Awards. A world wide stint with Usher's Funk Rock Orchestra and a position with the summer tour of American Idol solidified his place in the drumming hierarchy. But make no mistake: Aaron Spears is no jobbing drummer like you've ever seen. His chops, relentless groove, and unique sense of placement make him one of the special drummers of his generation.

Part of this "placement" concept is Aaron's imaginative use of Toca percussion, both as exclamations, as in his blocks/timbale, and as integral parts of the groove, as in the tambourines. The tambourine, of course, is a staple in churches across the southern states-something that every aspiring gospel drummer ought to remember and incorporate in lieu of that extra tom!

Usher's drummer points to God for inspiration and also lists secular drum set heroes including Teddy Campbell, Dennis Chambers, Vinnie Colaiuta, Steve Smith, Steve Gadd, Papa Jo Jones, Travis Barker, and Stewart Copeland. Particularly important is Gerald Heyward, the gospel drumming stalwart, who mentored Aaron and also brought the young drummer to the attention of the Usher organization.