Drummer with Schizophrenia Using His Art to Manage His Illness

At a self-storage facility in Baltimore, Bill Allen lifted the door on space No. 41 to reveal his life’s work. In units all around him were people’s living-room sets, mattresses, bureaus, and weight-lifting benches, but for Allen, his 15×20-foot unit is more like an office. Five or six days a week he bicycles four miles from Dundalk, Md., to play a drum kit that is, surely, one of the biggest in the country, if not the world.

ABOVE: Bill Allen plays his massive drum set 40 hours or more a week. That time is “like a therapy,” he says.
On a 90-degree day, 60-year-old Allen, outfitted in green khakis and an olive-striped knit shirt, had the look of someone reporting a condo association’s minutes, but once inside he began the tumultuous process of navigating the cramped space onto the drummer’s stool– the epicenter of 12 gongs, 13 cymbals, 24 toms, two bass drums, two floor toms, one snare, one hi-hat, six sets of chimes, three triangles, three timpani drums and one cowbell. (Allen is a strict minimalist with cowbells.)

“How long do you want me to play for? Forty-five minutes?” He wasn’t joking. “I’ll cut loose.”

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