Barry Kerch

By Jonah Berman
Photo by James Patrick Cooper

For some professional musicians, studying music comes to a screeching halt when they go on tour and start living the so-called “rock n’ roll” lifestyle. When they’ve attained the dream that so many strive for – making a living by playing music to packed houses every night – there’s simply no time to dabble in music theory classes. Not so for drummer Barry Kerch, who this fall enrolled in Music Theory 101 at Berkleemusic.com. As drummer for Shinedown for the past six years, Kerch has enjoyed considerable success as a performer, and the band currently is in the middle of a tour supporting Rob Zombie. Despite his busy schedule, Kerch makes time for coursework because he knows there is always more he can learn.


“I started playing at eight years old - my grandmother really got me started,” Kerch recalls of his early career. ”I was always tapping on things, and she told me I had to be a drummer.” After taking lessons as a youngster and then playing in the marching band at University of Central Florida in Orlando, Kerch moved to Jacksonville, where his brother told him that Shinedown was looking for a drummer. He went in for the audition and the rest, as they say, is history. “We’ve been together for six years and we’ve been very lucky,” he says. “But you always have to strive to be better at what you do.”


With that in mind, Kerch decided to get back to the fundamentals. “I have all the time in the world while we’re on tour, and while I took music theory in college, it’s like a language: if you don’t keep using it, you forget it.” Hence his decision to enroll in Music Theory 101. “Eventually I want to work toward a production degree, to be able to work in Reason, Pro Tools, and songwriting. But I decided I really needed to get back to the theory first."


For those who might not understand why a professional would need additional training, Kerch references the need to keep with the times. “I think you’re missing what music is about if you just start riding the wave. The basics of music haven’t changed, but what people are doing with it has. If you don’t get involved with these changes, you’ll really lose out.”


Kerch’s influences are wide-ranging, from a variety of different genres. He cites John Jabo Starks and Clyde Stubblefield, the original drummers for James Brown, as two of his favorites. “Also Tony Williams, Led Zeppelin, and Nine Inch Nails,” he says, “for the way Trent Reznor uses modern technology in his music.” He also draws on some older music as well. “Lately I’ve been into some Otis Redding and Motown stuff, as well as some of the bands I used to listen to as a kid, like Pantera and Iron Maiden.”


Kerch views his online course as an ideal fit, given his touring lifestyle. “The positive is that I can do it anytime, on my own schedule, which is great because it’s not like I’m 18 anymore, where all I have to do is go to school.” And he believes his studies will put him on the path towards reaching his goals. “I’m fairly computer savvy, but have never worked with Pro Tools. My goal is to get to a point where I can say ‘why don’t we try this microphone with this setting,’ and know what kind of sound we’re going to get.” Eventually, Kerch hopes to have his own studio in Jacksonville to record in when he is not out playing, and also plans to continue performing and touring with Shinedown. But for now, he recognizes the importance of furthering his musical education through Berklee. “Whenever there is something like this that you really care about, you have to make the time for it, and that’s what I plan to do.”