Dave O'Neill


I have been performing and teaching for over 35 years, and enamoured with music all my life.  My interest in music and the drums began at a very young age.  Typically I would bang on any surface or use my voice; essentially beatboxing in 1972.  I didn't acquire my first set of drums until the age of 12, and it was one of the greatest moments in my life.  When I was 16, I lost my fingers and half of my palm on my right hand in a workplace accident; the worst moment in my life.  But, being young, resilient, and naive, I set out to overcome the loss and to continue to play as a one handed drummer, or more accurately, a "one and a half handed drummer".  Through trial and error and the help of good people (my family, Ernie Porthouse, Bill Nancekivell), I had a prosthesis that could hold a stick.  Many years were spent making it work, practicing, refining, and just trying to get better (and I still am).  I attended Mohawk College and graduated with a 3 year Diploma in Applied Music.  Some years after graduation were spent traversing the country with various groups.  In 1993 I decided to return to school and enrolled at the University of Toronto.  I graduated with a degree in Jazz Performance and then attended Teachers College at OISE/U. of T., graduating in 1997.  After graduation from Teachers College, I devoted myself to studying the vibraphone to satisfy my melodic and harmonic interests.  The vibes just made sense in that regard, as I already had the prosthesis for sticks and brushes.  A small modification allowed holding a vibraphone mallet as well.  I use a three mallet technique, two in my left hand, one in my right.

My performance experience is extensive and ranges from Jazz, Rock, Salsa, Blues, Funk, Country, Theatre and Television pit bands, Polka, Samba, Hip Hop, African Dance Drumming, Modern Dance Technique Class Accompanying, D n B, Reggae, Electronic,.... almost everything at some point or another!  I am endorsed by Headhunters Drum Sticks - "Stick with the Groove" !!

My teaching experience ranges from the Public Elementary and Secondary Schools, to Post-Secondary music programs.  My private students vary in age and ability, and some have gone on to study music at the Post-Secondary level.  I am an Occasional Teacher with the Waterloo Board of Ed.  I conduct Motivational Clinics based on the loss of my hand and the pursuit of music and the drums.

Below are images of my hands and the prosthesis I use to hold a stick, brush, or mallet


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