A tribute to and scrapbook of Joe Amato, world-class drummer and respected teacher header image 3

About Joe Amato Drums .com

This blog and this forum are the brainchild of former students of Joe Amato who created it as a repository of wisdom, anecdote, and historical information with respect to and in memory of their esteemed friend and teacher, Joe Amato, the man, drummer, the legend. Friends, family, students and others are invited to become involved. Simply email Pierce Christie at to request your own username and password.

by Terry of Astoria

Discuss - 3 Comments

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Pierce // Mar 27, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    Jeeze Terry whats with this “brainchild” business? Everyone knows if I had half a brain I’d be dangerous. Actually I think Craig Abrahamson and I were reminiscing about Joe and discussing the need for such a thing on another website some months back. It was neat because I reminded him of some things that he had stored way back in the far reaches of his gray matter and he conveyed things to me that I don’t believe I ever knew. Like when Joe owned the Schooner Tavern back in the ’50’s or the big names used go the extra hundred miles or two to visit him when out on a west coast gig.
    John Moore found out about it when he stopped into the Mallternative and mentioned Joe. I have also recently spoken with Tom Corryell who took lessons in the 70’s. His time slot was right after mine for a while. He also mentioned he had a picture of he and Joe that he would try and share. Hopefully this little core group can get the ball rolling, spread the word and develop a more complete picture of the memory, spirit and great man that was Joe Amato.

  • 2 Jim Mattila // Jun 14, 2008 at 10:22 am

    Musical History of Joe Amato (as told to, and documented by Jim Mattila in 1975.)

    Joe Amato STUDIED with the following teachers.

    Rudy Schultz: snare drummer with John Phillip Sousa’sBand, the American Symphony, and instructor of field music at West Point.

    George Hamilton Greene: world famous xylophonist.

    Otto Kristufek: Tympanist with the Chicago Civic Opera, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, and the American Opera Company.

    Portland Symphony

    Percussion Section 1919-1925

    Tympanist 1925-1957

    Played under the following conductor’s
    Carl Denton, James Sample, David Rose, Frank Black, Boris Sirpo, Igor Stravinsky, Werner Janssen, Theodore Bloomfield, J. Gershkovitch, W. Vanhoogstraten, Carmen Dragon, O. Klemperer, Paul Lemay, Eugene Fuerst, Jacque Singer, Charles Lautrup.

    Performed with the following Guest Artists (Portland Symphony)

    Singers: Jan Peerce, Jane Powell, Jan Padereskwi, Marian Anderson, Rose Colombi.

    Arthur Rubenstein, Vlhadimer Horowitz,
    Elena Gerhardt, Ignas Friedman, Alex
    Templeton, Harold Bauer, Hans Kindler,
    Efrem Kindler, Mishel Piastro, Yehdudi
    Menuhim, Joseph Szijati, Spaulding, Mieha
    Elman, Osipp Gabrilowitsch, Rudolf Serkin,
    Kochanski, Lewis Persinger, Sophia
    Braslore, Charles Thomas.


    Ballet Russe, Portland Concert Band, Fox Theatre Orchestra, People Theatre Orchestra, De Monte Carlo, Stadium Phil. Orchestra, Harry
    Linden’s All-star Orchestra. Ice Capades.

    Stage Shows:
    R.K.O Theatre, Capital Theatre, Liberty

    Vaudeville Acts & Silent Movies:
    Rivoli Theatre, Orpheum Theatre

    Dance Bands:
    Monte Brooks, Jackie Sounders,
    Archie Loveland, Charles Lantrups
    Staff musician for radio station KOIN and
    KGW for the famous “Hoot Owl Orchestra
    featuring Mel Blanc.

    Broadway Shows:
    Hello Dolly, My Fair Lady, Oklahoma,
    Sound of Music.


    Jack Benny (5 weeks), Bob Hope, Mickey Roonie, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Jimmie Durante, Sammy Davis Jr. Buddy “Little Traps”
    Rich, Diana Shore, Ben Blue, Sophia Tucker, and Edger Bergman.

    Joe DIRECTED the following:

    The Portland Drum and Bugle Corp.
    Joe Amato Orchestra (for the Portland Ice Arena, and the Portland Dog Races.)

    Joe was also suppose to be in the original picture of the N.A.R.D. teachers in Chicago. He was ask to be in the picture, and was to demonstrate the Flam, which he could put into a “roll”. When the “historic” picture was taken, Joe was across town working with a Drum a Bugle Corp. and missed being in the picture. I still have a copy of his original NARD certificate, and he is one of the first 25 members in the organization.

    Joe was born in 1902, which means he became a member of the Portland Symphony at age 17.

    Joe was truly unique. He developed his technical facilities to a level of near perfection.

    He was fascinated with Swiss Snare Drumming, and loved working on “crushing” his 5 stroke rolls, and mastering his Swiss Triplets.

    I was lucky enough to hear many times his ability to produce a flam “roll”, which I still haven’t heard anyone else master.

    He was a very demanding teacher, who had no time for you, if you didn’t practice, but on the other hand would spend hours with you if you had.

    I took lessons from him for 7 years, and during that time he charged me $5.00 an hour.
    Many, many times on Saturday I would stay for 3 or 4 hours, and he never charged me for the extra time.

    The other remarkable skills he had were on Tympani (what a beautiful tone he could get out of the drums), and mallets (unbelievable chops).

    When I first studied with him he had recently retired from the Portland Symphony, and had moved to a home off of Niagra Street in Astoria.

    He would “gig” on Friday night at the Astoria Legion, and on Saturday at the Elks Club, also in Astoria. He played with his dear friend Lank Koskela (trumpet). The two of them had other musicians in their band, who came and went, but those two were the regulars for years.

    When I was 11 or 12 years old my folks would drop me off at the Elks club, and Joe would let me sit in a very small chair next to him on the band stand, so I could listen to him play with other musicians. I loved that, and hated when my parents would come pick me up after the first set and make me go home to bed. Joe always had a cigar stashed somewhere in the Elk Club for him to smoke during the break. Sometimes they were hidden behind picture frames, or in the kitchen, or in the back room where the gambling took place.

    I was also lucky enough to know both of Joe’s wives. His first wife fed me lunch many times when I studied with Joe on Saturday. After she passed away, Joe was in mourning, and
    didn’t teach for quite a few months. Eventually lessons resumed and he met a retired librarian from Seaside named Peggy. They were later
    married. Peggy owned a home in Seaside, on
    the prom, and a place in Gearhardt, so they would spent Monday-Thursday in Seaside, and Saturday and Sunday in Astoria at Joe’s home so Joe could play his gigs, teach his students, and work in his garden.
    I also have very fond memories of Joe’s dog. It was a Welsh Corgy. He was completely deaf, and would sometime sit by the bass drum, while we practiced the drum set. He also had his “favorite” chair in the basement that he wouldn’t let anyone sit in. If you did, he would jump up on the chair and nuzzle behind your back and squeeze in and literally push you out of the chair.

    Joe and I both enjoyed digging and eating clams, and I have very fond memories of eating fried razor clams at his home in Seaside, and washing them down with one of his homemade wines (Dandelion, Blackberry were my favorites).
    He also made a mean spaghetti sauce with his own picked and dried mushroom. He made a mean home-made horseradish sauce too.

    I attended graduate school in music at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. I studied with George Gaber, the professor of percussion.
    He told me he had played with Joe in Portland when he was traveling with the Ballet Rouge Orchestra. George played tympani, and Joe was hired on to read the percussion parts.
    George told me that Joe was unbelievably good.
    He said “he not only played the parts flawlessly, on the first reading, but he did it while smiling and smoking a cigar at the same time.” George said he begged him to play tympani with the Cleveland Orchestra, when an opening came up, but Joe didn’t want to leave Oregon, and so declined the job.

    Pierce, thank you so much for starting this website. It was long overdue, and a great tribute to a man who is so deserving.

    If I can be of any help to you in this undertaking, please feel free to send me an email.

    Jim Mattila

  • 3 Jim Mattila // Jun 14, 2008 at 10:26 am

    There is also a student of Joe’s you haven’t mentioned. I don’t know his first name, but I’m fairly sure his last name was BLACK. I was introduced to him a number of times, and I believe he was a percussionist in the Seattle Symphony.

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