JoBeth Umali of Zili Misik

JoBeth Umali is a drummer based out of Boston. Let’s show her our love.  

Tom Tom Magazine: Hi, JoBeth!  Tell us, how long have you been playing the drums?  What inspired you?

JoBeth: I started playing in 6th grade, so it’s been 15 years now!  I’m fortunate to have music in the family and initially started off taking violin, piano and guitar lessons.  I became OBSESSED with the band, Green Day, and knew I wanted to play drums like Tre Cool!  Understandably, my parents didn’t want to buy me a drumset because they thought my obsession was just a phase.  But once I started taking lessons, they noticed me beating up my practice pad and saw that I had potential.

TTM: What was the first drumset you owned?

JB: For Christmas, I got a used Tama Rockstar with Paiste cymbals my parents bought from my first drum teacher.  It was maroon!

TTM: Who was your first teacher?

JB: Charles Tombrello.  I met him at my aunt and uncle’s music school in Kingwood, TX.  Then, I had lessons with Vernon Daniels, John Simmons and Joel Fulgham.  They’re all from Houston.

TTM: How has Houston made an impact on you as a drummer?

JB: Houston’s a huge part of who I am.  I started playing snare drum in concert band at Awty International School.  Then, I played percussion in the pit with Memorial High School’s marching band during my freshman year.  After that, I played in the jazz band at The High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA).  This was when I started taking my instrument more seriously.


TTM: How has HSPVA influenced your musical career?

JB: HSPVA changed my life.  It was an ego-boost when I got accepted.  But when I realized the other drummers were WAY more advanced, I knew I had a lot of catching up to do!  It was intimidating, but it was what I needed to step up my practice routine.  I started exploring different genres like: jazz, big band, Latin, funk and blues.

TTM: Being female, how do you think others perceive you as a drummer?

JB: I think at first, people will initially think, “Girl?  Ha..  She probably can’t play.  Whatever.”  But I remember being the only girl in a drum lab class at Berklee College of Music and the teacher telling the guys, “Whoa..  This ‘lil girl can play!”  When I first tell people I play drums, they seem surprised, like,  “You?  Really?  No way.  You don’t look like a drummer.  That’s bad-a$$!”

TTM: Were there a lot of female drummers at Berklee during your time?

JB: Not really.  But I used to watch Nikki Glaspie play at Wally’s all the time.  Ayeisha Mathis is another.  Terri Lyne Carrington started teaching at Berklee after I graduated in ’06.

TTM: What inspired you to go to Berklee?

JB: Music did!  I majored in Music Business because I thought it was the way to make money.  But I soon realized that I’d rather just play music and be on stage!  I learned a lot from my studies, but I feel like I learned more from experience and my peers.  I explored more genres like: rock, pop, R&B, reggae, afro-beat, World music, gospel, jungle and drum & bass.  Versatility was my goal.  Surrounding myself in the environment worked wonders for my musical growth.

TTM: Who were some of your drum teachers at Berklee?

JB: I tried to learn from as many teachers as I could.  I’ll never forget what I’ve picked up from: John Ramsay, Kim Plainfield, Jackie Santos, Dave Cowan, Kenwood Dennard, Mike Mangini, Rick Considine, Francisco Mela, Mike Ringquist, Joe Galeota and Sean Skeete.  One of my mentors at Berklee was Walter Beasley.  He taught me a lot about groove, time-keeping, space, dynamics, stage presence, listening and life!

TTM: Who do you play with these days?

JB: I play with an all-female Roots music band called Zili Misik.  We play what we like to call ‘New World Soul’.  I enjoy it because it’s eclectic, rhythm-driven and it makes people dance.  The band is full of cool people and close friends which makes them fun to tour with!

TTM: Where are some places that you have toured?

JB: We’ve toured all along the east coast and midwest.  Our favorite place to tour is on the west coast because it’s beautiful and the people are so nice!  Our fan base really appreciates us out there so we feel at home.  In summer of ’11, we played several festivals like Oregon Country Fair, Gaia Festival, Reggae on the River, California World Fest and Beloved Festival.  It was an incredible experience!

TTM: What’s the most memorable gig you’ve played?

JB: The most memorable gig was when Zili played at Lincoln Center with Emeline Michel in New York City summer of ’10.  There were probably about 2,000 people there!

TTM: What would you have to say to young and upcoming female drummers out there?

JB: Some might say, “you’re pretty good for a girl!”.  It’s only motivation to practice all day.  People tend to have low expectations of you.  Use it to your advantage!



2007:  Zili Misik – New World Soul
2008: Evan Cole – EP
2008: Tony Brown – Music for a Shrinking World
2009: Zili Misik – Zee’lee Mee’seek
2011: The JRo Project – New Skin
2012: Zili Misik – (New album coming soon!)

Photo credits:
First photo by Michel Dessources, Jr.
Second and last photos by Anh Ðào Kolbe

Previous ArticleNext Article


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *