Virgil Donati (born October 22, 1958) is an Australian professional drummer, frequent drum clinician and a producer. He is currently playing with the band Planet X alongside many side projects. Virgil is perhaps most well known for his fast, highly technical drumming skills. He holds the drum sticks in the traditional style and is also proficient at the keyboard.
Virgil Donati was born on October 22, 1958 in Melbourne, Australia of Italian descent. He got his first drumset at age 3. He started playing soon after with his father’s showband, and kept on doing these shows until he was around 6 years old. He began taking lessons at age 7 with Brian Czempinski and later Graham Morgan, now a legend in the Australian drumming community. He joined his first major rock band and signed with his first major record label at the age of 15. The band was first called Cloud Nine, but was later renamed Taste.
Overall, he recorded 3 albums with the band Taste and as a result improved his skills in the places it counted – the stage and the studio. He was playing 6 nights a week with Taste which really “got his chops together”. Soon after at age 16, Donati left school focusing mainly on the drums, but also piano, and practicing hard every day. Practice became a way of life for Virgil, who tried to learn as many different styles as possible, enabling him to cope with any musical situation he was confronted with.
At age 19 Virgil travelled to the U.S. to study with Philly Joe Jones, and at Dick Groves School in Los Angeles. He also took lessons from snare drum specialist Murray Spivack. Vigil returned to Australia at the age of 21 where his career finally took off. Playing jazz with Allan Zavod and Brian Brown, and rock with Peter Cupples’ band, he was a busy touring and session drummer in Australia. His own pop band, The State turned into Southern Sons, which led to Virgil’s first taste of international fame, with their self-titled debut selling multi-platinum and producing the international hit single ‘Heart In Danger’. During the 1980s Virgil incredible drumming was a feature of the hard-driving, high-quality Melbourne-based jazz fusion band ‘Loose Change’, which later became ‘Changes’.
The big break came in 1995 where Virgil’s first solo album Stretch was released to a stunned community of drummers worldwide. In 1999 Virgil released On The Virg: Serious Young Insects through Melbourne based record company Vorticity Music. With tracks like the timebending Native Metal this CD cemented Virgil’s status as a progressive musical mastermind. Additionally, the track Alien Hip-Hop defined Donati’s skill of deceitful polyrhythmic double bass drumming within the 4/4 time signature..
In 2004, Virgil was voted the no.1 clinician of the year by the readers of the popular drummer magazine, Modern Drummer. Virgil’s own band ‘Planet X’, formed after Virgil’s collaboration on Derek Sherinian’s 1999 solo album “Planet X”, is one of the most advanced progressive fusion groups, setting new standards for other musicians to follow. They have released three studio albums; Universe,Moonbabies, Quantum and one live album, Live From Oz. Virgil has also made numerous live appearances worldwide with fusion leaders Scott Henderson and Tribal Tech. In 2007, he toured with French superstar Michel Polnareff on the European leg of his sold out shows in France.
On March 15, 2007, his website Virgildonati.com exclusively launched a special 2-disc DVD digipak from his clinic in Stockholm during the Bass n’ Drum festival of 2005. Produced entirely by Virgil Donati and Christopher Nalbandian (also the webmaster for Virgildonati.com), it has been very well received by drummers and percussionists alike, with Virgil showcasing his most technical drumming to date. In 2009, Donati returned to Australia for the first time in 4 years, playing on the Drumscene Live Tour along with Thomas Pridgen and Dom Famularo, as well as playing at the Australia’s Ultimate Drummers Weekend in his hometown Melbourne.
These days, Donati lives and spends most of his time in the United States playing with a number of different bands. With his father’s choice of records, including Louie Bellson and Buddy Rich albums, Virgil quickly became a fan of those great jazz drummers, trying to emulate their solos.The first rock drummer to make a big impact on him was Ian Paice of Deep Purple.
Donati was “blown away by his clarity and power”, something for which he later would become famous himself. His Pearl drum kit consists of a 22×18 bass drum, 10×9 tom, 12×9 tom, 14×12 tom, 16×16 floor tom, 18×16 floor tom, 14×5 Virgil Donati snare drum accompanied by a sopranino snare. He also frequently uses innovative ‘air toms’ which are toms that meet the players head height above the existing toms. Virgil also uses Pearl hardware. He plays Sabian cymbals, Remo drumheads and Vater sticks.