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    Posted November 10, 2012 by
    Lakewood, Colorado
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Your rock and roll memories

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    Only Semester-Long Drum Building Course in the Nation


    (Note: The quality of the drums is quite phenominal considering many of the pieces pictured are the work of students who have never built a drum in their life. This speaks mountains about the quality of instruction they are receiving.)


    LAKEWOOD, CO - Dan Briechle (pronounced Brick-lee) has attended Red Rocks Community College as a student for the last several semesters. Fall semester of 2012 produced the premier of a popular new drum building course in the RRCC catalog. The last semester of 2012 also marks Briechle's first semester as a student-turned-instructor at RRCC.


    Briechle played a major role in conceiving and establishing the new instrument building course. The curriculum was essentially created by the former student, and with the pilot semester nearly over he has plans for the future of drum building at RRCC, "I want to cause a spark that helps improve the drum manufacturing industry... I started teaching the course because I wanted to preserve and advance a tradition that is very important to me. Since then teaching has come to mean much more."


    Currently, only a few successful drum manufacturers control the world market; Pearl Drums, Inc. is a prime example. Established in 1946, the giant enjoys a long history of repeat customers. According to the company website, Pearl Drums mass produces thousands of instruments out of Taiwan annually, and most of the drums are identical other than aesthetics.


    Due to the monopolization of the market, drummers, regardless of skill level or experience, have limited options when searching for a new instrument. In addition, it has been decades since any new technology, or even a significant change, has appeared in the percussion marketplace. Briechle explains; "The only real 'innovations' have been a few large manufacturers who changed the type of wood they use on the shell of the drum. Granted, the type of wood changes the tonal qualities of the instrument... but in over thirty years, using a different variety of wood is not what I consider a significant advancement."


    Briechle is a perfect fit for Red Rocks. The fine woodworking department at RRCC is packed with teachers who are literally the best in the world at they do. Instructors are often contacted for expert opinion or interviewed for feature articles in top publications, and their personal investment in each student over the years has developed a department that is renowned nationwide.


    At the end of every semester, fine woodworking hosts an exhibition featuring the student’s work from the current term. Wood veneering, the course that originally brought Briechle to RCC, was just the beginning for the student-turned-instructor. After experiencing the quality of instruction at the college he enrolled in additional woodworking courses and participated in several additional department showings.


    Briechle’s handmade drums are unlike anything most people have seen. His instruments generated a great deal of interest from both students and faculty at the end-of-the-semester features. When approached to teach a course on drum making at RRCC Briechle said it was a “no-brainer.” The same sentiment was echoed by all of his students when asked why they enrolled in the new class.


    Six students remain in the class by week 12 (capacity of 12 students), one student even relocated from Austin, TX to take the course, and another student is relocating from California to experience Briechle’s instruction in spring of 2013. Current students express a great deal of gratitude for the new course. All student expressed a desire to continue their education under Briechle and spring classes are filling quickly


    The new instructor has been refurbishing single drums and full kits since he was a freshman in high school. He received his first set of drums, a 1964 vintage set, when he only five years old. His father brought the drums home after winning them in a poker game and the percussion saw a great deal of wear and tear before Briechle was a teenager.


    Over ten years later, at 28 years old, the drum rebuilder teaches students much more advanced techniques than even he was using a few years ago. He continues to enroll in fine woodworking courses at RRCC to improve his personal skills and Briechle invests a tremendous amount of heart into each student in his drum building course.


    The instructor has connected students with several local resources to acquire materials (all students pay for their own drum-building materials). In his own tradition, Briechle encourages students to take advantage of salvaged drum hardware to not only save money, but history. The focus of the course is meant to teach students how to refurbish vintage kits and construct the drum’s shell which comprises the bulk of the instrument. Above all, Briechle shares his passion for the otherwise commercial (and monopolized) art of building humanity's most ancient instrument.


    In closing the new Red Rocks instructor points out, "Next to the human voice, percussion is our oldest instrument. Humans have been making drums and other percussion instruments for tens of thousands of years. A groundbreaking advancement is long overdue." It is Briechle’s hope that RRCC drum building students will enter the marketplace and start making waves; his new fine woodworking course has definitely created waves with the students, faculty, and staff at Red Rocks Community College.


    Program Update:
    Drum Building will be split into two courses in 2013. Intro to Drum Building will be a prerequisite to Advanced Drum-Kit Building and both will be three credit courses.


    About Red Rocks Community College
    Established in 1969, Red Rocks Community College delivers high-quality, affordable education programs, leading two-year degrees or professional certificates. The college serves over 15,000 students per year online and at campus locations in Lakewood and Arvada. www.rrcc.edu
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