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Forte Teacher Spotlight: Dennis Frehse

Dennis Frehse

Ashley Pitman, Strategic Marketing and Content

February 22, 2023

Name: Dennis Frehse Instrument(s): Drum Set Location: Tokyo / Japan Website:


I am a professional drummer and drum teacher of 20+ years from Germany, living in Japan since 2009.  I studied music at Berklee College of Music, from where I graduated in 2004 with a diploma in performance.  I am mostly active in the Jazz field, though I also crossover to pop, rock, and classical projects.  As a performer, I have worked in a variety of situations, including concerts, tours, and recording sessions in Europe, Asia, and the USA, and in venues ranging from the tiniest Tokyo Jazz Clubs to big outdoor festivals and arenas in China and South Korea.  Additionally, I have done TV appearances in music shows and commercials in Japan. 

My wife is Japanese, and after living in Germany for a few years, we decided to give Japan a try.  My first visit to Japan was when Berklee had sent me there as the leader of a student ensemble to give concerts and to represent the school. That’s when I first fell in love with the country.  My wife and I later traveled frequently to Japan to visit family and to spend time, that’s when my love deepened. It didn’t take much more time then for us to decide to move and live here. Tokyo has a very exciting music scene, plus the city is just amazing. Additionally, Japan is a beautiful country, has great food, so we are happy here! And, now being able to teach online I can work and meet people from all over the world, it’s fantastic!

Artists I have worked with include: Makoto Ozone, Sadao Watanabe, Seiko Matsuda, Lisa Ono, Dan Nimmer, Tomonao Hara, Julian & Roman Wasserfuhr, Martin Sasse, Michel Reis, and Mike Tucker, to name a few.

Currently, I am a faculty member in the Jazz Department at Senzoku Gakuen College of Music in Kawasaki, Japan, and I teach students of all levels privately.

Greatest inspiration: 

Everybody who is striving for excellence: It can be my students, fellow musicians, chefs, athletes, craftsmen, farmers, artists, educators, etc.

Favorite place to perform:

Blue Note Tokyo, Cotton Club Tokyo.

Live Performance:

These two short clips were recorded in a Jazz Club in Tokyo in November 2021.

Teaching Setup:

Forte Studio Tech Setup 3

I have the Brio camera mounted on top of my laptop screen to give the students the big picture. The c920 is mounted on a light camera stand and is flexible to move around and show close-ups as well as other details around the drums and myself when needed.

Earbud headphones help me to hear all the details and to give a clear sound to the students by avoiding clashes between my microphone and speakers.

The microphones I’ve chosen connect via USB to the computer and have a built-in headphone jack, plus a volume knob to control the system’s volume. This is very cool and convenient because the mic is set up close to me to give the student a clear sound of my voice, and at the same time, I am able to control the student’s volume. For example, when a student is talking, I can turn the volume up, and when they are playing, I can turn it down if necessary.

What’s great about teaching on Forte?

Forte makes teaching online so easy and comfortable. The interface is simple and intuitive, and I have all the things I need right in front of me and ready to use.

Most important for a successful online music lesson is the video and sound quality, and Forte sticks out with excellence here. I can talk to my students while they perform, and I can see and hear all the details crisply and clearly, without having to adjust anything in the settings.

Forte also feels and looks very professional and therefore gives my students and me a quality experience in online music lessons.

Tell us a bit about your teaching style: 

I like to be flexible in my lessons. I have certain things that I want my students to learn and to pay attention to, for example, the basics of performing and creating sound on the instrument, technically and musically. The ways to get there are varied and depend on each student, their learning style, their personality, and even their interests.

I want my students to come up with questions and things they would like to explore, and I react accordingly. I want them to discover on their own, but I also stimulate and guide them if needed. It’s teamwork. Sometimes I coach, sometimes I teach.

I write and compose a lot of materials for my students because everybody is different and has their own challenges to overcome. By doing this, I am building up a library of pieces and exercises that I can use for other students as well if appropriate. It also adds fun to the lessons when a student plays a piece that has been dedicated to somebody else and then asks, “Who is this student? How old is he/she/they and where does he/she/they live?”

I also incorporate classic and time approved methods and books, and sometimes we work on materials the students bring in proactively.

Tell us what you like most about your experience as a music educator:

It always excites me to see my students improve. It can be very simple things like a beginner understanding the mechanics of playing the drums, or the advanced students getting deeper into music-making.  Every step, however tiny, makes me happy and keeps me going from lesson to lesson. It also inspires me to work harder on my own craft, as a teacher and performer.

A piece of repertoire I love to teach:

I like to work with books like George Lawrence Stone’s Stick Control or Charley Wilcoxon’s Modern Rudimental Swing Solos and All American Drummer. Those books are timeless classics and known by many drummers around the world. You can apply them to every style of music and you will develop a strong foundation to build on.

A piece of repertoire I love to play:

I recently discovered the work of William Schinstine, in particular his writing for snare drum. His pieces are very musical yet challenging and a great source of inspiration. Two books I am working on now are Southern Special and Adventures in Solo Drumming.

Fun fact: 

On my first paid gig, when I was in my late teens, I forgot to bring my drum sticks!

Luckily that event took place at a public school, and I could convince the facility manager to get me a pair from the music room. I’ve never forgotten my sticks since!

In the artist’s own words:

I always tell my students: “Leave the ego at the door and play for the music, not for yourself. We are all servants to the music. The music is above everything.”