Tracy Ferrie credits his Elkhart music teacher.
By Kayleen Reusser
Tracy Ferrie, bass guitarist and vocalist for the rock group Boston, credits his music teacher/band director Donald Litherland, now retired from Elkhart Memorial High School, for his success in a musical career.
“Mr. Litherland inspired me to play music,” Ferrie said during a recent phone interview. “Under his direction I took music seriously and became interested in performing. He taught me the steps it takes to get in the limelight. I had to work hard and understand music properly. I was not the greatest student in school, but he pushed me in the right direction and it paid off.”
Ferrie has gone far in his musical career, including attending college in Boston and living in Hollywood, Calif., and New York City. Now he will be back in Indiana, albeit temporarily, performing with the band Boston on Tuesday at Foellinger Outdoor Theatre.
Ferrie was born in Kokomo but moved to the Elkhart area with his family while in elementary school in the early 1970s. “When I first joined the school band, I chose to play the tuba, which was generally considered the most obnoxious instrument,” he said. “From there Mr. Litherland suggested I play an upright bass for the orchestral band. As the years went on, he kept suggesting I learn to play other musical instruments like the tympani and electric bass.”
At Litherland’s encouragement Ferrie learned to read music for drums and other instruments and joined most bands at the school, including pep, jazz, symphony and pit band.
“I played music throughout my high school time,” he said. “I even signed up for summer school so I could play music.”
To supplement his musical education Ferrie attended concerts in Fort Wayne. “I saw Elvis Presley at his final concert in 1977 in Fort Wayne,” he said. “He died that summer, so I caught one of his last shows.” With each concert Ferrie yearned to be a part of the bands on stage.
After graduating, Ferrie attended Berklee College of Music in the city of Boston before moving to Hollywood, Calif., to try to start a music career. After a few years, Ferrie returned to New York City and during the next several years was hired as a bass player for bands on tour. “We toured the world,” he said. “Someone told me when we were in Perth, Australia, that we were as far from home as we could be.”
Ferrie was playing as bass guitarist with the band Stryper for a benefit concert in 2012 when he met Tom Scholz of Boston.
Later that year, Scholz called Ferrie to ask him to join Boston’s tour as bass guitarist. Ferrie agreed, and he has been with the band ever since.
This popular group filled the airwaves in the 1970s with hits such as “More Than a Feeling,” “Peace of Mind” and “Smokin.” Many of their songs are played often on classic rock radio stations today. More than 31 million copies of their albums have been sold.
Ferrie is proud he has supported himself and his wife and four children by playing music professionally for nearly three decades.
“When a musician starts out, especially in Hollywood, you have to pay promoters to get to play in venues,” he said.
His advice for people who want to play music professionally is to be diverse. “I’ve seen people make the mistake of just playing one instrument like percussion,” he said. “I recommend that people add singing to their talents. Even if you’re not great, it might help you find work because so many bands need full vocals. I would not be in this band if I didn’t sing.”
The same is true for singers. “Some people could have jumped on this tour but they didn’t play a musical instrument. Don’t limit yourself to one style. Be flexible and have a good attitude. That’s the key to any job. Know your place and respect the chain of command. One of the most important things to understand is where you stand. Serve the spot that you occupy.”
With Elkhart within driving distance of Fort Wayne, Ferrie hopes to see childhood friends at the Foellinger, as well as newcomers to Boston’s songs. “Fans can expect an energetic concert with songs that sound like the album,” he said. “We’ll play familiar hits you hear every time you turn on classic rock radio.”