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Drummer aims to spark musical journey for kids

By Capi Lynn
from The Statesman Journal
May 6, 2009

Deen Castronovo, with his purple-spiked hair and his tattoo-covered arms, recently stopped by a local branch of the Boys & Girls Club of Salem, Marion and Polk Counties to donate a new set of drums. Before he could leave, the staff persuaded him to test them out, but not until he autographed the cymbals.

Castronovo, in case you didn't know, is the drummer for the rock band Journey, so it was quite a treat for everyone at the Knudson Branch that day.

"He played the drums so loud the roof, with acoustic tiles, was raining dust," said Tim Sinatra, the executive director of the club. "It was a little embarrassing. But the kids were just loving it. You wouldn't think they would know who Journey is."

The band was formed in the 1970s and was mega popular in the '80s.

Journey is enjoying a resurgence in popularity thanks to YouTube, digital downloads, a sold-out tour in 2008 and a pregame performance at the most recent Super Bowl.

As much as members are gaining acclaim for their music, they also are developing a reputation for philanthropy. Lead singer Arnel Pineda, whom Castronovo confirmed was discovered on YouTube, donates time and money to feed the homeless in his native Philippines, for example.

"Journey loves doing these kind of things," Castronovo said. "We're a very giving band."

Castronovo, who lives in Keizer when he's not on tour, is giving more than just a set of drums to our local Boys & Girls Club. He's helping staffers create a music room at the Wipper Teen Center.

"The goal of the teen center was to have something for everyone," Sinatra said, "and what we were missing was music."

Enter Castronovo, who grew up here. He attended Kennedy Elementary School and was a member of the Boys & Girls Club. He played football for the club, but the drums, not sports, were his passion.

He went on to attend three local middle schools and South Salem High School, but he never graduated after a music teacher discouraged his intentions of making a career out of the drums.

A month after quitting school, Castronovo was on the road with Blue Oyster Cult. He since has played with several bands, including Bad English and Ozzy Osbourne.

Castronovo joined Journey in 1998. He is the band's third drummer, in case you're wondering.

I was there at the Boys & Girls Club when he met with Sinatra and assistant director Debra Garvey to get a feel for the space available, and his vision was exhilarating.

He revealed plans to soundproof the room so patients of the adjacent dental program wouldn't be bothered. (I'm thinking any loud music would be welcomed over the shrill buzz of a dental drill.)

He talked about how other members of Journey are donating a bass guitar and a keyboard, and how local company Apex Pro Audio & Lighting is donating labor to wire the room and maintain the equipment.

Apex owner Joel Kinney has known Castronovo for years and is excited about the impact such a recording studio could have on youths.

"The next Jimi Hendrix could be in the Grant neighborhood," Kinney leaned over and whispered to Castronovo at a recent Boys & Girls Club event.

Castronovo wants to provide an accessible platform for kids to reach their musical potential.

In addition to the drums and a gold Schecter guitar already in storage, he plans to donate a 24-channel digital recorder, amplifiers and microphones.

He has a plan for everything and started pointing out to Sinatra and Garvey where things might go. The drums in this corner, the isolation booth in that corner.

"By the time I'm finished with it, this will be a full-on recording studio," he said. "This will be professional grade. I'm not going to do this halfway. If it's going to have my name on it, Journey's name on it, it's going to be something positive for this community.

"I'm pumped. This is all I've been thinking about."

He even has plans for decorating the space. He ordered a platinum record award that he will present to the club, commemorating more than 2 million copies sold of Journey's latest CD, "Revelation."

Money appears to be no object for Castronovo when it comes to this project. He tosses out estimates such as $30,000 to $40,000, out of pocket, before he's through.

"At the rate you're going, you'll spend $50,000," said Tony Colomina, his best friend, personal assistant and sponsor in sobriety.

"It's God's money, and it's to give to the community," Castronovo said. "It's not to buy 20 of the bitchingest cars."

Of course, he couldn't help but buy one, a white Mercedes SL65 AMG. (He told me it's one of only five such cars in the U.S.)

Don Lulay, a local car dealer whom Castronovo counts among his inner circle, turned him on to the Boys & Girls Club. Lulay is a member of the board and mentioned the desire to add a music room at the teen center, then suggested that he get involved.

Castronovo, whose past is riddled with wreckage from substance abuse, jumped at the opportunity.

"For me to give back to the community helps me keep my sobriety," he said. "It gives me an outlet and keeps me clean and sober."

Drugs cost him his latest marriage and damaged his relationship with his family. He has two sons, an 18-year-old and an almost-4-year-old. Their names, Kyle and Roman, are tattooed on his arms.

Castronovo has been clean and sober for two years now, and he credits people such as Lulay, his friend Colomina and his pastor, Bruce Stefanik, for believing in him and sticking by him.

"That's what I see at the Boys & Girls Club, a team of people who volunteer their time and are giving kids an outlet," Castronovo said.

Sinatra invited him to speak at the club's recent breakfast for community leaders. Castronovo admitted that he was nervous to stand before the 150 people in attendance, even though it was a scant crowd compared with the 20,000 fans he has played in front of with Journey.

"But I've got a nice arsenal of drums in front of me," he said. "You can't even see me."

No one noticed that he was nervous, but I did hear some murmurs about his appearance.

"He does look like a rocker," someone said

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