Growing up in Marquette, in the Upper Peninsula, Churchville attended Northern Michigan University basketball games with his parents. But it wasn't the teams, but the band, that drew his eyes and ears. "I was attracted to the power and energy that came from the drums," he remembers.
Lots of young kids fall in love with drums, but Churchville's passion had staying power. He took lessons and in high school started banging away in local rock and blues bands. Then, for a class assignment, he watched a video of the famous 1967 Monterey Pop festival. That concert marked the first American appearance of Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar, whose performance was propelled by Usted Allah Rakha's explosive playing on the tabla hand drums.
Churchville was mesmerized. "Once I found the tabla, it totally took over," he says. "It took over my practice time, my study time, and eventually my performance time."
The tabla is a pair of joined drums--the small dayan, made of wood, and the larger metal bayan. Sitting cross-legged on the ground, the player uses a variety of finger strokes, often pressing a wrist on the bayan's skin drumhead to modulate the sound.