A Rising Star--Tony Royster, Jr.

Every parent likes to think their child is special, but there are a very few children who are able to do things most other kids can't. We often call them child prodigies, and it's always amazing to see a child do something that defies explanation. Like playing an instrument without any formal training. That's Tony Royster, Jr.'s story. His father taught him the basics and the rest, as they say, is history.

At 19, Tony is having the time of his life. "I just continue to play and stick with it and always had a passion for drums," he said.

Since long before he could spell the word passion, Tony's played the drums. In fact, when he was only three years old, Tony was drawn to the drums during his father's band rehearsal. "He said I got up out of his guitar case--that's where I would sleep--and I just started playing the beat," Tony told us. "It was just in me, a gift from God."

"I didn't believe what I saw," his father, Tony, Sr., said. "I said play this again and he played. I knew we had something on our hands."

"I guess I was like a circus act," Tony joked, recalling talent shows and other events he played as a young child. "That's what I did until I was like eight or nine and people started noticing me. I entered big contests and got endorsements and it just grew."

By the time he was 11 years old, Tony was already labeled a child prodigy and ranked among the best in the world. In between making the honor roll in school and racking up awards in just about every sport, he won talent competitions all over the world. Modern Drummer Magazine readers voted him the #1 Up and Coming Drummer. He performed at the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards and even shared the stage with many musical greats including Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Paul Schaeffer, Sheila E., Alicia Keyes, and a whole lot more.

By the age of 15 he was teaching. "I started doing drum shows and clinics, traveling around the world," he said. "People were calling me, different drum companies wanting me to represent their product by playing in different music stores and convention centers."

His hard work has really paid off, winning him awards and thousands of dollars in equipment. The drum set he plays now is probably the sixth $10,000 drum set he's gotten from different drum companies for endorsements. All the big names, including Drums DW, Evans Drum Heads, Zildjian. Many more than we can mention, but you can check them out on his website.

In spite of his many accomplishments, Tony doesn't appear to be the least bit affected by the attention. He hopes to use it to help other young people. "I want to continue to support music education," he said. "I want to let kids know, if you have to get hooked on something, get hooked on music."

That winning attitude should take him even further, making Tony Royster, Jr. a name to remember. In case you're wondering if he's really made it, his latest endorsement is from Vic Firth, one of the largest and most respected drumstick manufacturers in the world. The company just released the Tony Royster, Jr. signature stick.

Tony plans to attend the University of North Florida, but he says he's waiting for a while to see how the music turns out.

Reported by: Dawn Baker, dbaker@wtoc.com