“I don’t want to work. I want to bang on the drum all day.”
Not really knowing any other lyrics of the famous Todd Rundgren song, those few words looped in my head all the way from Norwich to Afton, where I had the opportunity to work in the shadow of local drum maker and craftsman Jay Bereck, whose self-made business Skin on Skin Percussion has produced handmade Afro Cuban percussion instruments including congas, bongos, batas and other related instruments for over 40 years. In that time, Bereck’s work has garnered acclaim from percussionists worldwide, and been featured in the national spotlight through publications of The New York Times, the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) and the Public Broadcasting Company (PBS).
While drum making wasn’t always the career path followed by Bereck, he said it’s always been the career of choice as a percussionist himself. Once a former metal construction worker in New York City, Bereck began making percussion instruments near his city residence when the demand for metal construction workers subsided after the completion of the World Trade Center in the mid 1970s.
As a percussionist himself, it was a logical move to make drums, he recalled. “They’re something that I always wanted to make,” he said. His resume grew in the following years, earning respect from notable musicians all over New York. Thirty years later, he took up a permanent residence in Afton, far outside the city, and opened a new workshop just outside his home in 2001.