This is another article chronicling life behind the scenes of Violet Mary, with a look at multi-talented drummer Chris Teal…
When Violet Mary was undergoing a change in drummers leave after the recording of their third album Level, this was a position the group had
experienced several times before. The drummer’s position was open for a third time, and Violet Mary had hired a new bass player in Marty Dorren in 2011 after their original bassist left. Auditions were scheduled, and Violet Mary would take time to decide on who the right fit would be for them.
They didn’t have to go that far, because Chris Teal was already on board - and he carries a lot of many beats with him.
The Eastman alum stepped up behind the drum kit as Violet Mary’s third force of the sticks, but before Teal landed the job, he was already a part
of several notable local bands. He founded the multi-style band Quintopus in 2009, while playing drums for the jazz band The Dave Rivello Ensemble, jazz chanteuse Madeleine Forster, and the rock group The Mighty High and Dry. Besides his drum work, Teal is also lending his voice as a member of the a cappella group The Bowties.
Teal’s road to drumming success began in his home state of Washington, and it didn’t hurt to have family deeply involved in music. ”I always grew up hearing music in rehearsals and at my parents’ schools,” he said. ”Both are music teachers and my mom plays with the symphony in Spokane.”
Throughout his early musical learning, Teal took up the drums in high school and learned how to play with different styles - from the classic rock of The Beatles and Genesis to jazz giant Miles Davis. That versatile training continued into Whitworth University located in Spokane; he graduated in 2005, with his bachelor’s degree in Jazz Percussion Performance. Then came time away from school, with life in the Spokane music scene and even spending time with a cruise line. Soon after, Teal took on a new opportunity across America, when he was accepted by the prominent Eastman School of Music in Rochester; he would earn his Master’s in Jazz and Contemporary Media in 2009.
Before he made his way onto Violet Mary’s drum throne, Teal had seen them perform as well as meeting several band members. ”I had met Mike and Mel (Muscarella) at a Fair Trade Music meeting, and they’d heard me play with the Po’ Boys Brass Band, and I heard Violet Mary a few times after that.”
In November 2012, an opening came up within Violet Mary’s ranks. The band saw their drummer Scott Butcher leave, and according to
guitarist/co-producer Mike Muscarella, they had planned auditions with several drummers including Teal.
"(We) brought Chris in first," said Muscarella. "We make a point in taking our time in making this level of decision. After the audition, we hung out with Chris and then sent him home. From there, the decision was simple and unanimous: cancel the remaining auditions after offering Chris the gig."
Teal savored the opportunity as Violet Mary’s new drummer. ”When the opening came…it just worked out really well, and we hit it off playing and
Even with all of the other current projects Teal has attached to, the band shows no concern over his level of involvement. ”We knew that his other
work would be a complication,” said Muscarella. ”But his playing and personality was what we needed, so we were willing to head in that new
Muscarella acknowledged Teal’s many styles have been just another element in a continuing period of change for Violet Mary. ”(The band’s) style is rather defined at this point, but that definition isn’t static. The brand evolves as the music evolves…but will add new colors and textures based in part to Chris’ voice.”
Even with his steady career of life as a drummer, Teal has also pushed himself in promoting music in Rochester. He is a founder and artistic
director for the Institute for Creative Music; he also plays drums for the school-oriented IfCM Collective, along with other musician-educators - and his versatile musicianship has been a driving force in his involvement with the group.
"There weren’t enough gigs in Spokane to just be a one-style guy, so I had the chance to sit in with bands that my teachers played with and sub
for them,” said Teal. ”I think that set me up to play in some very specific settings.”
Teal is also one of the driving forces behind Free Trade Music Rochester, an organization whose goal is to grow the city’s music community through projects and active engagement. The group’s website calls FTM an extension of the Rochester Freelance and Live Music Forums, the latter in which he is listed as a co-founder. Teal said FTM is a group of musicians launched in Portland, Oregon, with an emphasis on collaboration amongst musicians and locations where they perform.
"In Rochester, we’re getting the musicians working together on some recurring projects," he mentioned. "(And we’re) keeping everyone in contact with each other in sharing resources, communicating about professional business practice and band policies."
One such recurring FTM project is a yearly compilation featuring selected tracks from local artists, with Teal calling on Mike Muscarella to help organize the first release. Besides Violet Mary, several other bands with Teal’s acknowledgment were included - as well as bands MoChester & The Isotopes, and solo artists Amanda Ashley and Alysia Groth.
Another project in the works has been the formation of an FTM concert series, with the Artisan Church’s stage being used as a performance space. ”It seemed like a logical step to get people out hearing the bands that we’ve featured on the CD,” said Teal. ”By running the events ourselves, it gives everyone interested the opportunity to be involved, even if they’re not performing.”
Teal will be part of Violet Mary’s FTM concert with Eyesalve this Saturday night at the Artisan, and the drummer sees loads of potential ahead for all involved. ”The music will be great, and we’ll all learn a lot about what we need to do moving forward with the organization and our projects by who shows up.”