“Out of everybody there, I was the worst, yet I was the one who became successful and recognizable. That wasn’t my goal necessarily,” Aronoff said. “The key to success is hard work fueled by passion supported by education. All these things ongoing through your life should make you one of the best in the area you’re in.”
Turning points come in unexpected places. After spending his freshman year of college at the University of Massachusetts, he followed a girl he liked to the Julliard School’s Aspen Music Festival and played in their orchestra. While at Aspen, Aronoff met George Gaber, a professor at IU. Gaber struck the drummer as someone he needed to be around, so that summer he auditioned for the competitive IU School of Music and was quickly accepted.
In 1976, he graduated from IU with not only a degree but also with one of the college’s respected Performance Certificates. Later, he would return to the university as an associate professor of percussion. A scholarship is still given every year to a percussion student at the school in his name.
THE B’TOWN BREAK
Once he obtained his degree, orchestras around the globe offered Aronoff places in their percussion sections. The graduate declined and instead opted to travel back home for a year and concentrate on his true love — the drums. In 1977, he returned to Bloomington and joined a few bands, playing at local dives and living in a house that’s now known as The Roach Motel, a name he originated.
Two years later, Aronoff was at a crossroads. Thinking New York was his future, the plan was to move to the big city. But then, a fortuitous tip landed him the break that would go on to define his career.
“All of the sudden, I hear about this audition for this Johnny Cougar guy. I started practicing for that six hours a day and I get the gig,” he said. “I was supposed to have been in that band. There’s no question.”