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Billy Ward is from Cincinnati
Ohio. When he was nine, he began formal drum lessons with well-known
local drummer, Jack Volk. "Mr. Volk was a stickler for holding the
sticks properly, reading music and independence. He was a great
teacher." While in the fifth grade, Billy began playing with local
bands. Billy listened to, and tried to play, all kinds of music;
from James Brown to Miles Davis; The Who to Charles Mingus.
At the age of fifteen, Billy got
his first studio experience when he became the house drummer for a
local Cincinnati gospel recording studio/label. While attending The
Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, Billy says: "I had a technical gig
mixing the sound at a Thad Jones/ Mel Lewis concert in Cincinnati
and I met Mel Lewis, who said I needed to go to New York (to Frank
Ippolito's Drum Shop) to get a set of K. Zildjian (Istanbul)
cymbals. This was during the early 70's. In New York, I selected a
set of K's with assistance from Papa Jo Jones, who was just hangin'
out at the shop that
"I also got an extremely influencial drum lesson with Elvin Jones that, due to his generosity, lasted six hours! I will always be indebted to Mr. Jones for the many gifts he shared that day." Billy quit the conservatory in the second year when he realized that he wanted to play jazz and rock. "Counting two hundred and ten measures to play a two measure chime part wasn't my thing." His symphonic career ended, it was off to North Texas State University; a jazz school that emphasized playing.
"I was too stubborn and headstrong to participate anymore in a college program, so I quit NTSU after one week....but lived there and played in the Dallas / Fort Worth area four years before coming to New York. All I did was practice- practice- practice ... wierd stuff too (largely thanks to a Northern Indian Nonesuch record that I fell in love with) seven over five over three kind of stuff! I then believed that jazz, or improvised music, was the only real art form. I now know I was way off base. The world is round, not flat, and there are many ways to create art."
When Billy moved to New York, he started working around town playing in local groups and mostly earned his living playing in local groups, including wedding bands. Eventually, his playing became more seasoned and improved along with the work he was getting.
In the last fifteen years (my, how time flies!), Billy has toured and /or recorded (among others) with jazz artists Jim Beard, Bill Evans Supergroup, Leni Stern, George Russell and Living Time Orchestra, pop artists The Knack, Jimmy Webb, Carly Simon, Richard Marx, ex-KISS star Ace Frehley's Comet, and unclassifiable talents like Bill Champlin, Robbie Robertson, Yoko Ono, and Chris Whitley. Most recently Billy completed a year and a half tour with singer Joan Osborne.
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