Growing up in Cedar Falls, Iowa, Jim Dreier had to largely teach himself, because there were too many snare drum players at his high school. But this didn’t stop him playing professionally in rock and soul bands as a young man, and later getting in to the prestigious Berklee College of Music. It was here that his early interest in Latin rhythms would be cemented as he arrived at the school at the same time as Berklee’s very first Latin percussion instructor, Richie (Pablo) Laundrum.
Jim holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Berklee College of Music (Boston, MA) and a Master of Arts degree in music theory from the University of Iowa. He has studied with such master drummers as, Michael Spiro, Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez, Jose Eladio Amat, Bobby Sanabria, Giovani Hildalgo, Daniel Alphonso, Pascoal Meirelles, Joe Hunt, and Alan Dawson.
In the pursuit of jazz, James has performed with such notables as George Garzone, Phil Wilson, Jimmy Mosher, John Carlson, Tim Haggens, Steve Swallow, Carla Bley, Bobby Shew, Victor Mendoza, Anthony Cox, Willie Pickens, Robin Eubanks, Benny Wallace, Kenny Wheeler, Ray Anderson, Ben Allison and Felipe Salles.
As a graduate student at the University of Iowa, he performed and traveled with Brazilian pianist Rafael Dos Santos, including a residency at the Conservatorio Pernambucano de Musica in Refice, Brazil. Since then Dreier has traveled numerous times to Cuba where he studied with the legendary Rumba group Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, master drummer Jesus Alphonso, Daniel Alphonso and others.
Mr. Dreier was a founding member of the Iowa based-Latin/jazz group Orquesta Alto Maiz. He now leads his own Latin jazz group Ritmocano. His album "Familia, A Latin Jazz Journey" with this group and others was released in the spring of 2014 on Realtown Records. The most recent recording from this group is "Iowa Friends/Cuban Music" released in 2019 that features the core Ritmocano group along with many Iowa-based jazz musicians and educators. Mr. Dreier also performs with the Beaker Brothers and the UI Faculty Jazz Group among others. Recording credits include A fungus Among Us, Odds and Ends and Lost Art Cafe with the group Odd Bar Trio, John Rapson's Water and Blood, The Billy Higgens' Improvisations (9Winds, Beverly Hills, CA) and Mafficked Simularcrum (MoMu Records, Iowa City, IA). Dreier also appeared on Tim O'Dell's Before My Life and Dreams of Pangea (Southport Records, Chicago, IL) and Dr. Anthony Williams’ Synthesis (Sky Deck Records, Chicago, IL).
In October of 2015, Dreier published the book, “Latin Jazz Guide, A Path to Authentic Percussion and Ensemble Performance” (Hal Leonard) along with the companion website: www.latinjazzguide.com An Associate Professor of Instruction (jazz) at the University of Iowa, Mr. Dreier teaches Intermediate Jazz Improvisation (for Drum Set), Jazz Rhythms and Interpretation I and II, Jazz Cultures in America and Abroad and directs the Latin Jazz Ensemble.