Virgil Donati (born 22 October 1958) is an Australiandrummer, frequent drum clinician and a producer. He is currently playing with Planet X, Allan Holdsworth, and his own band among other 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 22 October 1958 in Melbourne, Australia of Italian descent. He got his first drumset at age 2. He started playing soon after with his father's showband, and kept on doing these shows until he was around 6 years old. 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, with whom he recorded 3 albums. Soon after at age 16, Donati left school focusing mainly on the drums, but also piano. At age 19 Donati 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 and Rob Carson.
Donati 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 Donati'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 Donati's drumming was a feature of the Melbourne-based jazz-rock fusion band 'Changes' (Virgil Donati Drums, Joe Chindamo Keyboards, Mark Domoney Guitar, Steve Hadley Bass, John Barrett Saxophone), which later became 'Loose Change' (a quartet - same lineup as 'Changes' minus Saxophone). The big break came in 1995 where Donati's first solo album Stretch was released. In 1999 Donati released On The Virg: Serious Young Insects through Melbourne based record company Vorticity Music.
In 1999, Ex-Dream Theater keyboardist Derek Sherinian hired Virgil to play drums, and co-write on his debut solo record Planet X. The collaboration morphed into the metal-fusion band Planet X. Together they have released three studio albums; Universe, MoonBabies, Quantum, and one live album, Live from Oz. Donati has also made numerous live appearances worldwide with fusion leaders Scott Henderson and Tribal Tech. In 2004, Donati was voted the no.1 clinician of the year by the readers of the popular drummer magazine, Modern Drummer. In 2007, he toured with French superstar Michel Polnareff on his sold out comeback tour of France. On 15 March 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. 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. Donati was also one of seven drummers auditioned to replace Mike Portnoy in Dream Theater. As of fall of 2012 Donati has been touring extensively with guitarist Allan Holdsworth and bassists Jimmy Haslip and Anthony Crawford, playing at various venues in the United States, Canada and Europe. Famously independent and very strictly self-disciplined, Virgil is known for a life dedicated to music. In an interview with Modern Drummer magazine, the issue which came out in mid-1999, when asked about marriage, Virgil said, 'I think you have to be very strong to stick to your goals in life... So far I've resisted the choice of marriage and the many distractions they can bring.'
With his father's choice of records, including Louie Bellson and Buddy Rich albums, Donati 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”. In an interview with Modern Drummer magazine, the issue of which came out in 1999, Donati prefers playing with traditional grip. He says, 'I decided that it's just how I wanted to play... There are times when, believe it or not, traditional grip feels better on my left hand than on my right... Traditional grip doesn't limit me in any way. That said, I would not necessarily recommend traditional grip. It is a far more difficult grip to get used to and to develop power with. Any student serious about learning this instrument would be better off focusing on matched. Still, because it's not used very much today, traditional grip seems to be more hip.'
In the same article, he speaks about his approach to playing double strokes with the feet on the kick drum, saying that playing single strokes on the double bass 'has gotten a bit tired,' and so as of 1999, he can comfortably play sixteenth note "inverted" double strokes with the feet at 200 beats per minute and has managed to 'squeeze through' sixteen notes at 220 beats per minute.