To grow up in Finland, in a small-town of 550 people may not sound like every little boy’s dream. But for someone born with a passion for drumming, this might actually be a wonderful opportunity. With the closest neighbors on a safe distance away, it is only your parents who might stop you from drumming in the middle of the night. Or if you are really lucky, your father might just pick up the guitar and join you. For 22-year-old drummer Oskar Häggdahl, this was exactly the case.
“We would have rock´n´roll jams everyday when my dad got home from work. Once I got old enough I also started having gigs with my dad’s different bands. I was about 7 and everyone else around 40 years old, which was kind of cool.”
Oskar Häggdahl has been playing drums for as long as he can remember. It started as playful banging on pots and pans, until he at the age of 5 got his first real drum kit. Today he lives in New York, one of the biggest cultural cities in the world, with a fresh graduation diploma from the drumming school The Collective soon in is hand.
Since the age of 12 Häggdahl knew that the only thing he wanted was to become a professional drummer. And even if his small-town childhood might have given Häggdahl the background needed to become the drummer he is today, he knew this was not the place he would spend the rest of his life.
“I remember reading the American drum-magazine “Modern Drummer” when I was about 13 years old, and saw an add in the magazine for “The Drummers Collective“, a music school in New York City. I told my parents I wished I one day could go there to study music and drumming,” Häggdahl says.
Now, ten years later, he is one month away from becoming a successful graduate from the same exact school.
Häggdahl admits, that he knew that everything about coming to New York to study would be much more complicated and expensive than for example if going to England. But at the same time he knew that this was the city where he would be able to find everything about drumming he ever could imagine. He adds, “I think I also in a way wanted to make it as hard as possible for myself – to study with the best teachers and really prepare myself for anything that the future could bring.”
The Drummers Collective is part of the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) accredited music school The Collective. Founded in 1977, The Collective, was created by a small group of professional New York musicians, and is still today a quite exclusive learning center. The Drummers Collective offers drum set players and percussionists everything from private classes to a full-time two year long program.
Häggdahl is happy with his experience at the school, and says that the all-star faculty is definitely what makes it special. Specific programs and personal focus on each student is also made possible because of the small amount of students the school allows for each year. Häggdahl also stresses the good vibe that he feels among his fellow students and the teachers as one of the advantages of a small school.
The high level of education provided can also bee seen in the tuition. With a fee of $60,500 for the two-year long full-time program, students at Drummers Collective must be ready to invest in their future. For Häggdahl, the choice of moving to New York did also mean giving up the free education that Finland provides. But for this young drummer, the life in New York has been worth every dollar.
“So much have changed in my life since I moved here. Not have I only become a better drummer, but I have grown as a person and gained confidence. In the music business it is all about making contacts and getting your name out there, and New York is the perfect city to do it in.”
According to US Bureau of Labor Statistics about 189,000 people in the United States work as full time instrumental musicians, and over half of them are self-employed. In New York, only 16,670 out of its 8 million habitats are making their living out of music. But off course, one should never stare blindly at statistics, especially in such diffuse category as “musicians.”
Even if the statistics are on the gloomy side, Häggdahl looks brightly at the future. Being far from done with everything this city has to offer, he has no plans on leaving the city, even after graduation. Häggdahl has already found several bands and artists interested to collaborate with him, and plays both in a studio and up on stage on a regular basis.
Bass-player Brian Holz is one of them who frequently gets together to play with Häggdahl. When asked what it is that makes Häggdahl an interesting drummer to play with, Holz seems to have the answer.
“The best drummers are the best listeners. They provide a strong groove that doesn’t make you doubt your own sense of time. In short, they instill a confidence that makes you play better and stretch your abilities. Oskar is such a drummer.”
“Drumming is pretty much all I have ever done, and it’s also the only thing I could consider my full-time job.” Oskar says with a smile, and continues: “I don’t think there could be a better place than NYC for a drummer to have his work and home…”