MANATEE COUNTY — Donny Vosburgh’s credits read like an anthology of the best of American music. The drummer has performed with some of the country’s most influential artists, including James Brown, Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions, Iron Butterfly, Cactus and Alice Cooper. He even won a Grammy with Blues Image for “Ride Captain Ride.”
After such an extensive career in one of the toughest businesses, Vosburgh moved to the East County in July to be closer to his family — and perhaps even enjoy some well-earned relaxation.
But even at 63 years old, it is obvious Vosburgh has no plans to slow down any time soon.
As a part of a new Tampa-based organization called the Teach the Dream Foundation, Vosburgh — along with several other rock legends — is working to help the next generation fulfill its own dreams in the music business.
Founded by Latin/jazz guitarist John Seda and his wife, Sachiko, Teach the Dream seeks to educate younger musicians about the business aspects of the industry and use veteran players as mentors and teachers. In addition to Vosburgh, the organization has enlisted the help of saxophone great Hellmut Wolf, Jefferson Airplane founder Marty Balan, Justin Timberlake’s current drummer John Blackwell and more.
The organization will host its first major event, the Teach the Dream Concert and Seminar Series, from noon to 1 a.m., Sunday, Nov. 21, at the Dallas Bull in Tampa. In addition to special performances by Balin, Vosburgh and more, the event will feature seminars and speakers, including Artie Kornfeld, co-founder of Woodstock 1969.
“We need to watch out for these young artists,” Vosburgh says. “They need to get paid for what they do, for their talents.”
BORN TO PLAY
The son of famous Florida concert promoter Moose Vosburgh, it seems Donny Vosburgh’s future was carved even before he could walk.
“My mom told me when I was a baby, if there were pencils on the floor, I would crawl over to them,” Donny Vosburgh says. “Then, I’d just tap, tap, tap — and she said it was an actual rhythm.”
With his natural talent for all things percussive, Vosburgh pursued music through his formative years. After graduation from Dixie Hollins High School in Kenneth City in 1965, it didn’t take long for Vosburgh to find a place in the business. He started in funk/R&B as James Brown’s only Caucasian drummer and also performed with Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions.
Just five years out of high school, Vosburgh earned his Grammy with Blues Image in 1970. From there, he shared stages with a plethora of artists, including Mother’s Finest, Cash Casia, Thee Image, Iron Butterfly, Alice Cooper and Fortress. His largest audience was 350,000 people at the Ozark Mountain Music Fest in 1975 with Cactus.
In addition to R&B and rock, Vosburgh also has performed in the classical genre with pianist Linda Gentile and jazz with Wayne Henderson.
“I’m what you call a feel player,” he says. “I’m a chameleon. I’m not just one kind of player. I’m everything.”
However, despite the legendary laundry list, Vosburgh says the crowning achievement in his music career didn’t come until February 2006, when he was invited by the Department of Defense to perform for troops stationed in Iraq.
“That was a real honor,” he says.
After years of touring, Vosburgh settled in New Jersey and began teaching private lessons at the Pleasantville Music Shoppe in 1988, where he remained until moving to the East County in July.
Soon after moving to Florida, Vosburgh connected with Seda and even added another credit to his name by drumming on Balin’s latest album, “Blue Highway.”
Now, through Teach the Dream and Seda’s recording studio Rising Sun Music, Vosburgh says he’s excited to share all he’s learned with up-and-coming players.
“It’s time to give back,” he says. “And we (veterans) have a responsibility to be an example.
“This (Teach the Dream) is an answer to my prayers,” Vosburgh says. “I said, ‘God, I would like to have my own music school and do nothing but teach.’ Now, that’s becoming closer to reality.”
For more information about the Teach the Dream Foundation, visit www.teachthedream.com.
Contact Michael Eng at [email protected].
TEACH THE DREAM CONCERT AND SEMINAR SERIES
WHAT: Rising Sun Music and Teach the Dream Foundation will offer seminars, speakers, live music and more at this event. Jefferson Airplane’s Marty Balin, Bobby Hendricks, The Producers Heart and Soul, will perform, and Artie Kornfeld, co-founder of Woodstock 1969, also will appear.
WHEN: Noon, Nov. 21, to 1 a.m., Nov. 22
WHERE: The Dallas Bull, 3322 U.S. 301 N., Tampa
TICKETS: $35 in advance; $40 at the door
INFORMATION: Teach the Dream, www.teachthedream.com, or the Dallas Bull, www.dallasbull.com