Author Archives: Mitch

Summerfest Big Band Camp

Summerfest Big Band Camp and Tap Thursdays Show

I am honored to be a clinician for Summerfest’s 3rd annual Big Band Camp, taking place on September 17th! Sponsored by Yamaha, Hal Leonard, The White House of Music and Summerfest, this event is free to all students who come with their school. The other two clinicians are Curt Hanrahan, the director of Jazz Studies at UW-Milwaukee, and Mike Steinel, who is professor of Jazz Trumpet and Pedagogy at the University of North Texas. I’m thrilled to be in such great company for this date!

Later in the evening, my band will be performing on the Johnson Controls Stage! Here’s the poster:

Summerfest Poster Sept 17








DEBUT ALBUM: “FLY!” with the BloomingTones Big Band

Hello readers and listeners,


I have some wonderful news to share with you all:

I am thrilled to announce that on August 19th, I will be releasing my Debut Album, “Fly!” via Patois Records!! (front cover

“Fly!” with the BloomingTones Big Band, features ten tracks. Five are my original compositions, and five are inventive arrangements of new and old songs.

I have learned so much from working on this CD. I am so thankful to all the musicians who played on the album, and everyone involved with design, production, and promotion of “Fly!” I cannot wait to share this music with the world!

Stay tuned for much, much more!





New Year = New Band

Hello Readers!


I know I haven’t written in quite some time, but I wanted to at least make some mention on this blog about my new band. It is a sextet, with two horns, piano, bass, and drums, and I am playing vibraphone! I am very excited to premiere this new group along with new arrangements and compositions on Friday night at Cafe Django in Bloomington!

Lately I’ve been focusing my efforts on learning how to play the vibraphone. For a drummer, learning Jazz melodic and harmonic language can be quite difficult. The easiest way for most is to transfer his or her piano knowledge to the vibes. After all, it’s still a percussion instrument!

I really enjoy being a “horn player” when I play vibes – for so long as the drummer, I’ve been trapped behind the set! As a vibist, I can play melodies, take improvised solos with three whole octaves of notes, and play chords with four mallets to accompany other soloists! It has been a wonderful learning experience and challenge in getting my technique and compositions together for this performance.

I hope to see you out at Cafe Django on Friday night!


Keep on Swingin,


The Next Chapter Begins!

Good Morning!

The new semester at IU has started, and I’m already feeling that this term will challenge me in new ways I never thought possible.

My course load is pretty hefty, as usual, this time around. Honors Music Theory, Ear Training, Jazz Arranging 2, which focuses mostly on large ensemble writing, and a course in Spanish Linguistics. I’m playing in more school-run ensembles including the Jazz Ensemble, Jazz Combo, and The Vocal Jazz Ensemble. Throw in playing caixa (the cousin to the snare drum) in the Brazilian Percussion Ensemble…and then take a step back! That’s a lot of stuff to do!

I’m also going to continue rehearsing and hopefully performing with my big band which I’ve tentatively titled, “Mitch Shiner and the Swinging Hoosiers.” I’ve enjoyed organizing rehearsals and picking music to play.

Even in my first lesson with Professor Houghton, he gave me a lot to try to work on. His philosophy of teaching seems a strategy of total inundation. He will require me this semester to develop a regular practice routine on the vibraphone, something I have not done yet. He suggested sight reading two to four difficult tunes each day – I’ve been getting some good mileage out of that so far! We’re continuing to work on brazilian drumming – and combined with Brazilian Percussion ensemble, I’ll really be swingin’!

Taking the arranging class last semester with Professor Brent Wallarab really changed my musical direction. I realize that the only way for my musical vision to get from inside my head to the audience’s ears is to write my own and arrange my own music. Primarily being a drummer, I don’t deal with harmony too much. Trying to understand what makes sense with different combinations of instruments and textures has been a challenge and absolutely a thrill.

Our final project for class was to arrange a three-horn chart, with full rhythm section. My sextet arrangement was on the beautiful song, “Somewhere, Over The Rainbow.” Brent has organized a collaboration with the Recording Arts Department, so I will get a chance to rehearse and record my own arrangement! I’m so excited to get in the studio on Tuesday night!

I’ve been so fortunate to work with Brent at school, but lately he has been calling me to perform with his professional bands in Indianapolis! I’m so honored that he thinks so highly of my playing.

I played with his septet in October. We performed music from the Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn book. In November, I played with the Midcoast Swing Orchestra. Both of those were at the Jazz Kitchen in Broad Ripple.

Before winter break, he included me on one of the most insane shows I’ve ever played on. When music, offensive humor, and the holidays collide, the result is the Leisure Kings Holiday Show. We performed to a full house at the Indianapolis Vogue Theatre!

Here’s a clip of the two singers: Leisure Kings.

The day after, I performed at the Jazz Kitchen with the Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra, performing music from their holiday CD, “Carol of the Bells.” The band featured the legendary vocalist Everett Greene on almost all the songs. He sang and toured the world with the Count Basie Orchestra, among other incredible ensembles. Just being in the same room with someone who performed with that band was almost a spiritual experience!

I can’t wait to keep cooking and learning more this semester. I’m arranging more music for my next project – to be revealed soon!

Thank you for reading, and have a great day! Back to the woodshed for Shiney!

Kicking off Year #2


Hello, readers! It’s been about a month since I’ve written in the blog, but not without good reason – school is super busy! It isn’t as if I did not anticipate being very occupied…but between all my rehearsals, classes, projects, and performances, I am always on the move!

I recently received the recordings from my Emerging Jazz Artist Project submission demo. I recorded two originals, “The Dragon Express” and “Fluky’s Blues” along with my arrangement of John Mellencamp’s “Lonely Ol’ Night” as the required piece. I’m very happy with the results so far and I’m looking forward to hearing the final mix! Sound files will be up soon. I can’t thank my friends Robert Walker, Joey Lamb, and John Weisiger for helping me make this all happen.

I just finished up a big band concert cycle with Brent Wallarab’s IU Band. We performed a few weeks ago at the Indianapolis Jazz Festival, and prepared charts by Jim McNeely, Thad Jones, Duke Ellington, and Bill Holman. It was great to get out into the community with a school group! Our concert in the Musical Arts Center included a few more tunes by IU graduate students, “Maids of Cadiz” by Gil Evans, and “Penny Arcade” by Joe Farrell. Professor Houghton actually performed that one with the band – a real powerhouse behind the drums! Learning “Penny Arcade” was a challenge. It is a 1970’s funk tune, and playing with high intensity and tight focus was an eye opener to that style of music. I can’t wait to swing again with that band!

I’ve been playing a lot of small group around Bloomington, too! Professor Pat Harbison has asked me to play several times with his band “The Post-Modern Jazz Quartet”. We will be rehearsing tomorrow evening for an all Cole Porter show on October 19th at the Player’s Pub. I will also be performing at Cafe Django on October 29th (following the Indiana-Northwestern football game) with the PMJQ. I’m honored that Professor Harbison has asked me to play with his group!

I’ve been transcribing Tony Williams lately, too! I hadn’t felt quite ready to tackle his genius until this year. The thought of a drummer being so incredible that he began playing with Miles Davis at age seventeen still frightens me. My method of understanding Tony is as follows. I’m analyzing the connection between the piano player and the drummer, in this case with Herbie Hancock. I’m studying “So What” from Miles’ album, “The Complete Concert, Four and More.” I transcribed Herbie comping rhythms first, and now I am transcribing Tony’s drumming. By putting the two together, I have a clearer picture of exactly why Tony played what he played. This track is a gem!

I must get going now…two more IU Big Bands are taking the MAC stage tonight! Associate Instructor Ashley Summers’ band is performing as well as Professor Jeremy Allen’s band! I’m excited to hear some great music this evening!

Thanks for reading! Back to the woodshed for Shiney!

Great to be back in Bloomington!

Hello readers!

Wow. What a summer. Eleven weeks, amazing clinicians, new friendships to last a lifetime, musical experiences galore, and of course, enough magic to last me for a while. I’m still in disbelief that the 2011 AACB performed about two hundred sixty times this summer…the sets add up after “five times a day, five days a week!”

I’ve learned so much. The world is so big, and I’m so thankful to all who made it possible for me to explore the wilderness of the music community at Disney and beyond. Studio playing, touring, clubbing, recording, producing, engineering, composing and arranging, performing, sight reading, the list goes on of how much information was crammed into my head.

To my newest friends, you are all incredible musicians and even better human beings. I said it before, but in being an only child I never thought it was possible to exist peacefully with so many people for so long. All of us striving for the same goal…the perfect show…and all the while, supporting each other through our musical and personal challenges made for a tight-knit family. Thank you, thank all of you.

I’m back in Bloomington now, and writing to you on the evening of my first day of classes. This year will be packed with challenges and adventure for me. I’m taking the Honors section of music theory and an ear training class. I will be studying Jazz Arranging with Brent Wallarab this year and taking a class about the business of the arts in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs. I’m excited for the total package!

I’m ready to take all the things I’ve absorbed from my AACB summer and hit hard this semester. Forward thinking ideas, instant perfection, and an open mind to all music is where my attitude is going.

Thanks for reading, and check back often! Back to the woodshed for Shiney!

Disneyland College Band #1

Hello! Happy Fourth of July everyone!

I’m writing to reflect on the last few weeks of this program. I wish I would have written a bit about the rehearsal cycle we had in order to prepare for the showband sets, but as a Disneyland Cast Member, I can’t reveal anything about what goes on back stage! All I can tell you is that practice makes perfect! Working with Shelly Nichols as our choreographer was a challenge and she really pushed us to our limits musically, mentally, and physically.

After we set our shows in the park for the first time, we moved to the second phase of the College Band Program, focusing more and more on our sight reading and Big Band Jazz playing. Every day we read new charts in rehearsal and perform them that afternoon in the park for the guests. We read great music by Alan Baylock, Matt Harris, and Gordon Goodwin. A few of our charts are Disney themed (no way!), but mostly we play great and classic literature.

Every week a guest clinician comes in to work with the band. They bring charts for us to read and prepare during two rehearsals and then perform the music in a concert on the second day of their clinics.

With Steve Houghton

Our first clinician came on June 24th and 25th. My own professor from Indiana University, Steve Houghton, came to work with the group! In my previous post I had mentioned that Professor Houghton encouraged me to work out of his book, “Studio and Big Band Drumming” before and during my time leading up to his arrival at Disney. He said that he would be checking on my progress with the methods presented in his book. I think he was pleased, but being my teacher, he had to lay it down hard on me. Tough love from the teacher, eh?! He encouraged me to get out of the habit of relying only on the chart and to open up my ears to the music happening within the horn section of the band to inform my musical decisions. On the concert I got to play behind him on Congas and other Latin percussion instruments. I, as well as the rest of the band, felt the power and intensity that he creates from behind the drums. I feel so lucky to be able to study with him during the year. What a great performance!

I’ll be writing more soon about more adventures with the Mouse! Back to the woodshed for Shiney!

Looking Back and Looking Forward

Hello! So I’ve been back home in Milwaukee, WI for the last week or so since school let out for the summer in the first week of May.

Looking back on my first year of college is quite a trip. I learned so much about music, not just how to play it but also what music is and what music means to me. I had revelations, and I had frustrations. I had moments of inspiration and inquiry. I had times of pain and times of (yep, you guessed it) gain. All the things that I have learned so far are dwarfed by what I will come to understand in the coming years at IU. I can’t wait!

I don’t really have a “News” section on my website, but I have made a few allusions to what my summer plans are. I will be playing with the Disneyland All American College Band this summer! I am extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to work with an incredible group of musicians and an outstanding director, Dr. Ron McCurdy. I auditioned for the group in February and was notified of my acceptance in early March. The wait for May 28th, the day the band convenes at Disneyland, has been unbearable! However, less than two weeks remain until the summer and opportunity of a lifetime will begin.

The band begins rehearsing on May 29th, and we will have our first day in the park on June 16th. The staff at Disney sent me a book of charts in April that is approximately 3/4ths of an inch thick to memorize. Completely. The music is fantastic – Tower of Power, Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind, and Fire, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and of course several tunes from feature films like The Incredibles and Tarzan.

Once our performing schedule gets rolling, we will perform four showband/marching sets throughout the park and one Big Band Jazz set. I am looking forward to all of it! The big band will require a lot of sight reading and instant perfection. Coming from Steve Houghton’s studio at IU, Dr. McCurdy will expect a ton from me in that department – driving the band on the first time out. I’ve been working on reading and approaching charts using Professor Houghton’s book, “Studio and Big Band Drumming.” He made a career out of nailing everything the first time through in the studios – now it’s my turn!

I will try to write a lot about my adventures in the entertainment industry this summer. It will be a wild ride. Thanks for reading, and now it’s time for Shiney to get back to the woodshed!


Hello, there! I’m sitting outside the Bloomington Bagel Company in downtown on what is undoubtedly the most beautiful day I’ve lived here in Bloomington. The sun is shining, no clouds, and my handy Swackett weather app says it’s about 80 degrees right now! Campus is buzzing with energy as Little 5 week begins.

The last guest artist I had been taking lessons with in Steve’s absence was quite a treat. Zoro came to show us the path of R&B, Soul, and Funk! Until working with Zoro, I had never explored the technical demands of “popular music” drumming, only the techniques and independence that is required of Jazz music. His approach was a practical one; he told me that all the things I would be working on were things that he had to think of on the spot in studio situations. Earlier in his career, he had to play on drumset exactly what producers or artists programmed electronically. This proved to be quite difficult! We worked on open hi-hat/left foot independence exercises that really threw me for a loop! He showed me some real music examples of these exercises and grooves, and a lot of them applied directly to the music of Earth, Wind, and Fire. EWF is hugely an ensemble-oriented music, similar to big band Jazz. The role of a drummer for this music is limited, and the options of how to play hits with the band becomes very limited as well. A viable and musical option is to play the tight, super short notes with a barking hi-hat. Developing the control needed to play this music accurately will take lots of listening, analysis, and patience! Time to hit the woodshed!

Lessons with Dick Sisto and Jim Rupp

This semester, Steve Houghton, my primary studio teacher is on a sabbatical. He just finished up a huge project in Washington DC yesterday performing with the US Army Band at Constitution Hall! I so wish I could have been there to watch him perform.

In his absence this semester, we have had two special guests so far. For the first month of the semester, vibist Dick Sisto shared his insights on Jazz. We worked on tunes including My Romance, A Night In Tunisia, Ceora, and Afternoon in Paris. I really enjoyed learning from him. He always said to keep the melody in mind while soloing, so that the audience will remember what tune you’re playing even though you’re not actually playing the melody.

This month, we’ve been hanging with Jim Rupp, who usually teaches at Ohio State University (he’s probably going to give us some heat for losing in basketball earlier this evening…). He got me started on an important tradition in drumming, a rudimental style, often associated with parade/marching/battlefield drumming. We’re working out of Wilcoxon’s book, The All American Drummer. I’ve found these solos to be challenging but fun; sight reading the intricate grace notes and rolls prove difficult, but once they’re worked up to par these little guys can really GROOVE!

That’s all for now…check in soon for some more news. Back to the woodshed for Shiney!!!