Virgil Donati

Virgil Donati (born 22 October 1958) is an Australian drummer, frequent drum clinician and a producer. He is currently playing with Icefish and his own various bands 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. Donati also performed with Jack Jones (Irwin Thomas) in a Van Halen tribute band in Melbourne known as Hans Valen prior to the bands The State and Southern Sons.

Virgil Donati
Background information
Born (1958-10-22) 22 October 1958
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
GenresInstrumental rock, hard rock, pop rock, progressive metal, neoclassical metal, jazz fusion
InstrumentsDrums, keyboards
Years active1972–present
Associated actsPlanet X, Ring of Fire, Allan Holdsworth, Steve Vai, CAB, The State, Southern Sons, Derek Sherinian, Tribal Tech, Michel Polnareff, Soul SirkUS, Scott Henderson, Tony MacAlpine, U.K., Kazumi Watanabe

Early life and career

Virgil Donati was born in Melbourne, Victoria of Italian descent.[1] He got his first drumset at age 2.[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.[2][3] 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.[4]

Success and bands

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,[5] 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). Donati played for Australian flautist Jane Rutter in her world music flute album BLO. 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 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 had been touring extensively with the late 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.'

Icefish is an exciting new progressive rock/metal project. The band features legendary drummer Virgil Donati and virtuosic musicians Marco Sfogli (guitar), Alex Argento (keyboards), and Andrea Casali (bass/vocals). The music in this project is the real story: carefully crafted power melodies, soaring vocals, and intricate hard-rocking rhythms. Add in state-of-the-art production – and you get a truly inspiring collection of tunes worth listening to again and again.

These incredible players got together recently to rehearse the music in Italy. The video on this page features scenes from those rehearsals. We’ll be posting clips from these rehearsals – with amazing sound and in beautiful HD – for everyone who pre-orders this project through Pledge Music!

We’ll also post interviews, production tips/lessons, and more throughout the journey. Icefish is an international collaboration between musicians on two sides of the globe. Virgil lives and works in Los Angeles, while Marco, Alex, and Andrea are Italian musicians living in Italy. Each with a worldwide fan base.


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.



  • Stretch (1995, Musos Publications)
  • Just Add Water (1997, Thunder Drum Records)
  • Serious Young Insects (On The Virg band) (1999, Vorcity Music)
  • Made In Australia (Gambale, Donati, Fierabracci) (2007, Wombat Records)
  • In This Life (2013, Self-released)
  • The Dawn of Time: Orchestral Works (2016, Self-released)
  • Ruination (2019, Self-released)[6]

With Planet X

With Ring of Fire

  • The Oracle (2001, Avalon Records)
  • Burning Live Tokyo (2002, Frontiers, Marquee)
  • Dreamtower (2002, Frontiers)
  • Lapse of Reality (2004, King Records)

Jane Rutter

Blo (re-released as Titania's Dream with Peter Bowman)

With Southern Sons

With The State

  • Elementary (1989)

With Icefish

  • Human Hardware (2017)




  1. "Virgil Donati Biography, Videos & Pictures". Retrieved 29 May 2011.
  2. "". Archived from the original on 17 May 2008. Retrieved 18 June 2008.
  3. "Encyclopedia entry for 'Taste'". Worldwide Home of Australasian Music and More Online. Archived from the original on 9 August 2004. Retrieved 29 May 2011.
  4. "Virgil Donati". Drummerworld. Retrieved 29 May 2011.
  5. "Southern Sons". Archived from the original on 8 October 2012. Retrieved 29 May 2011.
  7. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 27 April 2015. Retrieved 12 June 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

Template:Jane Rutter

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