Professional drummer and Chicago native Darryl Howell is sharing his passion and experience with the next generation of Chicago musicians. Howell has toured with the likes of hip-hop star Nicki Minaj and R&B crooners Avant and Maxwell.
The drummer’s musical journey began at two-years-old, the age when his mother told him he first began playing with her dangling earrings as if they were cymbals.
Although neither of his parents are musically inclined, they both recognized their son’s natural musical ability and supported it, Howell said.
The musician benefited from a variety of musical influencers both in and outside of his home.
“My father always had a love for James Brown and George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic; anything from the funk era, my father loved it,” he said.
Howell said he recalls being exposed to drums and an organ while he was in the care of the family of his childhood pastor from ages 3-6 years old.
“I had a family at home supporting me and a second family speaking to me musically and doing what my parents couldn’t do,” he said.
It was during his formative years that Howell’s love for the drums took full form. He estimated that he practiced over 10,000 hours before the age of 25.
“I knew music was my passion, it was all I really loved to do,” Howell said. “Music overshadowed everything, it was all I wanted to do, it was all I was interested in.”
After graduating from Thornridge High School, he went to South Suburban Community College before ultimately deciding to pursue his music career full-time. He credits the church for giving him the space to sharpen his skills and perfect his craft.
“Church is the best practice there is,” said Howell. “Church is the most difficult art form, gospel is the most intriguing art form to play. That’s the best practice to me, church.”
It was through playing in the church that Howell was offered an opportunity to perform alongside Avant – a move that would forever change his career. Howell said he’s never auditioned for a gig because he’s always been hired based on word of mouth. To this day, he tells youth he works with to always “be prepared, practice your passion.”
“As much as it may seem like a dream sometimes these opportunities do fall in your lap, and if you’re not ready, they will just be taken away from you,” said Howell. “All the practice that I was putting into my passion at a young age allowed me to perform.”
Howell said when he’s not traveling or performing, he invites aspiring drummers to his home to play and offers them advice. He said there’s art within everyone even though it may not always be music.
“I just want to show those kids that there is another way,” said Howell. “A lot of times our parents say, ’you go to school, you go to work.’ They try to keep us on the straight and narrow for our own good, but sometimes we have to let them know that there’s a gift within us as well. These kids are advanced these days, they need to know dreams come [true].”
Howell said he’s all about “inspiring the next generation.”
“When I become the old man, they’re going to inspire me,” said Howell. “You’re not going to be hot forever, so you have to reach back.”
Howell suggests aspiring musicians perform at open mic nights, work with wedding bands, clubs, and more to get their foot in the door.
Howell has advice for musicians on tour too.
Performing on tour takes a “strong mind,” he said. He noted that while traveling can be lavish, it’s necessary to save money and plan for the “slow period” when tours typically come to a close during the holiday season and before new tours begin in the spring. He said touring can be taxing on the body, and because of the tight-knit nature of the business, “you have to learn to love everybody.”
Howell said he welcomes interested parties to reach out to him if they would like him to speak to youth.
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