Robert Shi – Drummer, Author and Fire Chief

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When Robert Shi moved to Moncure in December of 2002, he did not know that his life would take such a drastic turn. Born in South Carolina, he lived in various places up and down the East Coast before settling in the Raleigh area in 1992. After living closer to the city for about 10 years, he and his wife Jennifer decided that they needed something new. “We wanted room to breathe and land”, explains Robert. They found a listing on that they liked, and against the advice of their realtor, ended up purchasing the first house they were shown! He now happily lives on the river with his wife, Jennifer, son, Samuel, and daughter, Caroline.

Before moving to Chatham County, Robert was a drummer. He attended Berklee College of Music in Boston then became a drummer and teacher, which he did for about twenty years. During this time, he opened a business called Drumlab, where he had five teachers working under him to teach people the art of drumming. When Robert moved to Moncure, the opportunity arose to sell the business. Tiring of the commute and following the advice of his accountant, who told him, The best time to sell is when someone wants to buy, Richard sold Drumlab. This enabled him to complete the instructional books for drummers he had been working on and also gave him time to market the books online.

Selling his business also gave Robert time to do something he had always wanted to do: become a volunteer fireman. “I had always wanted to do that”, he says, “but I had never lived in a place that had a volunteer fire department. As an adult I had lived in Boston and Raleigh and Cary, and theres no opportunity to volunteer.” Soon after moving to Moncure, Robert spoke with a man who was a volunteer at the Moncure Fire Department who got him interested, and he began volunteering soon after that.

After working as a volunteer for some time, he began working part-time then moved to full-time, and eventually became the Fire Chief in January of 2014. Robert says of this transition, “I never envisioned myself doing that, but the opportunity kind of presented itself and it just seemed like the thing to do at the time. You never know where life will take you.”

The job of Fire Chief is much different from volunteering or working in other roles at the fire department. The job of chief requires a 9 to 5 schedule as opposed to a shift schedule. He is also on call all almost all of the time. “People call me at all times of the night or day”, Robert explains. Another difference is the level of responsibility. He says, “The responsibility is ever-present. You are thinking about all of the things you have to keep up with and all of the things that could go wrong.”

Robert says that every call they receive at the Moncure Fire Department is unique. The most common calls are medical calls, but they also have calls for fires, accidents, and water rescues, among many others. “People call the fire department when they dont know who to call”, says Robert. Robert and the men and women at the Moncure Fire Department work hard to protect their community. They are currently offering smoke detector installation, fire prevention services, fire station tours, and child safety seat installation, all for no charge. In addition, for a small donation you can purchase reflective number signs for your house from them. Most important of all, however, the fire department offers compassion. Robert explains, “My mission at the fire department is to treat our community members as if they are members of our family. It becomes a job, and you have to build up a barrier so that things dont bother you, but at the same time you have to remember that when you respond to someones house it is probably the worst day of their life.”

You can learn more about the Moncure Fire Department at or at If you are interested in learning more about Roberts books on drumming, go to

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