John Xepoleas death, drummer & educator dies after a long battle with ALS

John Xepoleas

The musical scene in the Bay Area lost a fantastic person. John Xepoleas, a legendary drummer from San Francisco, California, has passed away. He was a fantastic teacher, drummer, and friend to many Danville Music employees.

He had an unmatched commitment to music instruction. John wrote books, produced numerous drum lesson videos, and instructed many people how to play the kit.

He inspired and educated a lot of budding drummers and musicians. Here’s what we know everything about his illness and John Xepoleas cause of death

John Xepoleas Legendary Drummer passed away

The world just lost John Xepoleas. He fought ALS courageously with a cheerful optimism that was inspiring to us all. Yesterday, John Xepoleas passed away after a protracted fight.

He maintained an incredibly positive outlook and the best lesson he ever taught may have been how to remain immensely optimistic in the face of hardship.

Announcement from the Xepoleas Family on social media

To everyone in our community, we’re coming to you with a very heavy heart. John passed away peacefully yesterday. He was surrounded by his family and did not suffer. Anyone who knew him knows that he was an absolute force. Jhon lived fiercely and he fought endlessly. He taught us all how to be resilient in the most trying times, and how to lead with faith and love at all times. We will share more details about a coming celebration of life, but for now, we celebrate him and the richness he brought to our lives.

John Xepoleas cause of death

Drumming educator and a mentor of mine, John Xepoleas, passed away yesterday after a long battle with A.L.S. He was the co-director of the camp and a very well-respected Bay Area session musician. John is also a respected session drummer and studio engineer.

John’s daughter Sophia Xepoleas’s emotional Tribute,

The worst part of life is when it’s over. When my dad was diagnosed with ALS over 9 years ago, we had no clue what we were in for. He was my best friend. He just “got” me. We’d take fishing trips, we’d go to baseball games, and he coached my soccer teams – and I didn’t realize how rare of a love he gave me until later.

Peaceful, unconditional, pure, love, His illness took a lot from us. It stripped him of his body and his ability to move. But it also forced all of us to transform in our own ways. Some call it a tragedy, I call it my greatest teacher.

He taught us to be brave in the face of fear. And, he taught us that happiness can only be found within. Most importantly, he taught us how to be good people. I spent 9 years grieving the man he was before, and now I’m grieving the man he became after his illness. RIP to the greatest man I know. I love you forever, Pops.

John’s Illness History

His family said 8 years ago, John was diagnosed with a motor neuron disease commonly known as ALS. John, who was previously and still is a highly regarded professional drummer, slowly lost the use of his left arm, right arm, neck, and left leg, and now his voice, which is deteriorating day by day, over the course of three years, according to his family.

He spends his days in bed, where he prays, meditates, and imparts his knowledge to those he loves. You had the honor of witnessing someone with a powerful and unyielding determination to not only survive but thrive within the confines of his sad circumstances if you recently spent any time with this amazing man. 

ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis)

ALS is defined as a progressive degeneration of the motor neurons of the central nervous system, leading to wasting of the muscles and paralysis. In layman’s terms, this means the nervous system stops communicating with the muscles, resulting in loss of limb function and total muscle atrophy.

Read the message that John Xepolea shared during his difficult time

How We Choose to Look at Life: Since I was 12 years old, I was obsessed with drumming. I played in bands through high school, went on to get a BA degree in music performance, and then played professionally from 1978 until 2015.

Drumming was my true passion. However, in 2015 I was diagnosed with ALS and as you may well know, I am no longer able to use my arms and legs. So much for the drumming career.

I have a choice: I could be really pissed off or I could choose to count my blessings in spite of my illness. I choose the latter. Please indulge me as I do so. These are only ten blessings that I am grateful for.

If I spent another few minutes, I am sure I could think of ten more. When I weigh the blessings against the symptoms of my illness, the blessings always win out. This is what brings me joy and gives me peace of mind. And don’t forget, I WILL REVERSE MY ALS.

Here you can learn about John’s entire medical history.

Who was John Xepoleas?

John Xepoleas is one of the most respected drummers and educators on the West Coast. His Online Drum Lessons and YouTube Drum Videos have become a valued resource for step-by-step, easy-to-understand lessons on a variety of drumming topics.

Career: Drummer, Teacher, Author

Since 1971, John has been an integral member of the San Francisco Bay Area music scene, both performing and instructing. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Music Performance from Cal State East Bay in 1978.

John has performed in a range of musical settings, including big band, R&B, fusion, jazz, rock, and funk. Studies for the Contemporary Drummer, John’s debut book, was published in 1981, the same year he started writing for Modern Drummer magazine.

For the next five years, his essays and columns appeared often. Drum Lessons with the Greats, the first volume, was created and co-authored by John in 1991 (Warner Bros. Publications).

The authors of the book, Dave Weckl, Steve Smith, Terry Bozzio, Peter Erskine, Kenny Arnoff, and Gregg Bissonette, contributed thoughts and conceptions.

Take a look at John’s “Game Changing Moment” presented by Vic Firth

A multi-talented musician

As a result of the original book’s popularity, John worked with some of the best musicians working today to create a series of Lessons with the Greats books for guitar, bass, and saxophone in 1993.

Among the musicians included in this series were Mike Stern, Steve Lukather, Alphonso Johnson, Jimmy Haslip, Ernie Watts, and Hubert Laws. John was appointed director of drum set studies for the Soundwall Rock ‘N’ Roll music camps in the spring of 1995.

Later, in the autumn of that same year, he contributed to the Harbour of Tears CD by Camel. John’s Drum Lessons with the Greats 2 was published in January 1996.

Neil Peart, Mike Portnoy, Chris Parker, William Kennedy, Tim Alexander, and Jonathan Moffett were on the line-up for this album. Studies for the Contemporary Drummer by John was republished in 2004 as Style Studies for the Creative Drummer.

Essential Drum Lessons With The Greats was published in 2012 after John collaborated with Alfred Music to consolidate the content from his two well-received Drum Lessons With The Greats books.

John performs frequently with The Fundamentals and Fundz Jazz in addition to developing fresh material for JohnX Online Drum classes. He works on a few freelance jobs, runs a successful teaching business, and is in charge of the music at the Soundwall Summer Rock Camps.

John plays: Drum Workshop drums and pedals; Zildjian cymbals; Vic Firth sticks; Aquarian drum heads, the MAY miking system, and Shure microphones.

Tributes pour in as reports of John Xepoleas’s passing appear online

One person said,

Rest In Peace John Xepoleas! One of the best drummers in the world and an awesome human. John was a friend and even closer to an actual family member. The Bay Area was fortunate to call him their own! A true drummer Icon and an amazing person John Xepoleas.

The second one wrote,

Drumming educator and a mentor of mine, John Xepoleas, passed away yesterday after a long battle with A.L.S. Thank you for being a part of my early drumming education and encouraging me to pursue other facets/styles of this incredible instrument.

Another one said,

The world is a less inspirational place today….😘🦋 God speed John will be greatly missed by one And all.💔

Joy Fishley, John’s friend wrote,

Our wonderful long-time good friend and neighbor, John Xepoleas~has passed..from a long-time illness..and He is now up in the Heavens fishing in the best river in Heaven~

Our thoughts and prayers go out to John’s family, friends, and fans during this unimaginably difficult time. May his soul find peace, and may his music continue to resonate through the ages.


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3 thoughts on “John Xepoleas death, drummer & educator dies after a long battle with ALS”

  1. I’ve known John since we were 12 years old in junior high in Castro Valley. We were roommates for 7 years out of high school through college. He was a good man and a good friend who will be missed.

  2. John was a good friend and my rhythm section partner in The Fundamentals and Fundz Jazz. He positively impacted the lives of so many. The old saying, “Only the good die young” could not be more true than in this situation. His presence on the SF music scene and as an educator will be sorely missed.


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