Student Spotlight: Zach Fine ’11

As one of the on-call drummers on campus, Zach Fine ’11 provides steady beats for many of the Phillips Academy student bands. According to Fine’s bandmate in the group Marshawn, Ellie DiBerardino ’09, it was Fine’s passion for complex beats, in addition to his “indie hair,” that helped him get noticed. DiBerardino said, “he’s a passionate musician, a great drummer and a great guy.” Fine’s fluency and passion for the drums clearly make him a key player in the PA musical community. How long have you been playing drums?? I’ve been playing drums on and off for four years, but when I came to PA I really started playing [consistently].? What got you started? I’m from New Orleans—it’s a city filled with music. I’ve been brought up surrounded by concerts and [people who know about] music and it was very encouraging. The music department here was excellent and that gave me the push to play seriously.?? Does New Orleans influence your style??? Yeah, a lot. The different jazz elements…the style I play in is called a second line style. I like things that are off-beat, kind of funky—very similar to the music down in New Orleans.? Any particular bands that have inspired you??? The funk band Meters in New Orleans. I saw them live a lot as a kid and that influenced me to play. I picked up trombone and then I went to drums. What do you love about playing drums? Even though you’re not the front man, like the singer or the guitarist, the role is still critical. You’re the pulse of the band that everyone relies on. If you fall back, everyone crumbles. I’ve never wanted to be up front on stage, I’m more about the music. So do you get nervous on stage? Every time. Sometimes I just forget what to play. Playing drums isn’t memorizing an exact part, but I start to get nervous and forget things. [Luckily,] it all comes together when I start. What’s the downside? ? The one thing that’s frustrating is progressing; as far as skill goes, [playing drums] requires coordination from all four limbs, both your feet and your arms. It’s very hard to grasp and definitely took a lot for me to progress. As a drummer, do you find that you are called upon a lot to perform?? Yes. There are a handful of drummers on campus but only three or four have the technical skills down. It is a finite number of options. A lot of people call me when they need someone to play. Do you write your parts? What’s the thought process like?? I always write [my parts] myself and a guitarist or a bassist might make suggestions. The majority is written by me but I’m open to contribution. It’s very different. Drummers are always the last piece of the puzzle. It’s my job to find a groove or riff that goes accordingly [with the rest of the musical components]. What’s the most difficult thing you’ve ever mastered on the drums?? A while back, I was trying to learn a second line drum beat. It’s a very famous beat from one of the first funeral processions. It’s easy to play blandly but difficult to play correctly and with passion. It’s offbeat, so you can’t really put it to time. Do you plan on pursuing a career in music or just continuing guitar as a hobby? I’d love to do it as a career. In the world [though,] so many people play music. At this school alone I think 100 people play guitar. So it would require a lot more practice. Does playing drums become a way of removing stress here at PA?? All the time. Phillips Academy is a great school but a lot of the work is physically demanding. [Playing the] the drums is a great way of letting out that stress.?? Are you interested in playing any other instruments?? Yeah, my whole family has been musically inclined. I just picked up guitar six months ago and I love it. Guitar has opened up a whole new doorway. It’s fun for me to write my own music and have others play it. I actually did that recently—I wrote the instrumentals and currently the singer of [Marshawn and I] are collaboratively working on the lyrics. Any advice for aspiring musicians or drummers on campus? Be tenacious with as much as possible—there are certain things you can’t get even after a lot of work, just persevere and kind of hang in there.