Our first really helpful influence will of course be our drum teacher. A good teacher will encourage us, push us, and ensure that we really make some progress.... Unfortunately a not so good teacher may well put us off, never to pick up the sticks again although this is rare. So finding the right drum tutor is important, and these early lessons will really shape our outlook. However, its the other drummers that you meet over the years that can really have a profound effect on us.
Looking back at my own experiences, i had a great teacher from the age of 11, and he gave me a very solid grounding in playing snare drum and orchestral percussion. Away from lessons I was playing drumkit at home, watching and learning from drummers on TV shows such as top of the pops in the early 1980s. By my mid teens, I came into contact with 2 older guys that I feel were a huge influence on me...both were Nottingham based jazz drummers at the top of their game...Phil Alexander (who presented the first drum clinic i ever attended) and Barry Page. The first jazz gigs I ever went to were thanks to Barry sneaking me into venues such as Nottinghams Cafe Royal long before i was legally entitled to be in there! I would hide behind his bass drum case as he entered the venue and then he'd sit me in a quiet corner with half a lager so I could watch the band! I learnt so much about being a working drummer from him, and met many great musicians. I guess by this stage I really felt that this is what i wanted to do in life, so in a sense the influence of these guys (now sadly no longer with us) was a major factor in the course of my lifes direction.
After leaving school, I got more into playing kit and less into the orchestral side of things, and was looking to have some drum kit lessons. Again, fate played its part and I was introduced to another prolific Nottingham drummer, Andy Ferguson. Andys playing really knocked me for six....great funk grooves that I had never encounted before, and this set me off on a whole new musical direction. I gained so much from Andy, and began listening to new musical influences such as Phil Gould (Level 42) and Dave Weckl (Chick Corea band). These were really exciting times, and in addition, Andy was a great pipe band drummer which again blew my mind a little..he'd play these incredible snare drum patterns that fascinated me. I used to badger him all the time to show me new beatings, I really couldnt get enough! And massive to respect to him, as he always took time to show me.. So once again an almost chance meeting led to a drummer becoming a major influence on me, as I continued with the pipe band drumming which eventually took me all over Europe.
There have of course been many other great influences on me over the past couple of decades. Ive been fortunate to meet so many great players and formed some wonderful friendships, but its the encounters from my early musical career that really stand out in my mind and I will be forever grateful to those guys.
So, if you are new to drumming, listen to as much music as you can, and really vary the genres...you might just find something new, fresh, and inspiring where you least expect it. Try and attend drum clinics or live gigs.... watch and learn from the drummer and if possible have a chat after the show. Most drummers will be more than happy to talk drums and you can learn from every drummer, so be receptive.
And to any established drummer, I would say....be that great example. If a young or new drummer approaches you, give advice freely whenever you can. One day they might just look back and acknowledge the influence that you had on them....