08 October, 2002

A Percussionist's Thoughts

When I was very young (probably around five or so), my father bought me a drum set. At the time, he played guitar often with his friend Kenneth, and I believe he thought that by buying me such an instrument at such a young age, I might be able to become good enough at drumming to play with him and his buddies. Unfortunately, very soon after, his work became overbearing, and he played guitar less and less often, and I thusly played the drums very rarely, and never really got very good at them.

Now fast forward a few years. I attended Robert E. Lee Elementary in Satsuma, Alabama from third grade to fifth grade. In my final year there, the Nelson Adams Middle School band in Saraland, AL came by to recruit new band members for the upcoming year. I was interested, so I signed up for drums, since I obviously already had a drum set. I didn't know it at the time, but the decision made then in fifth grade to become a drummer in middle school was one of the most influential moments of my life.

You see, before this time, I spent the majority of my time either with my parents, my grandparents, or my two friends, Jeremy and Gregory. I was friends with Jeremy because he lived next to my parents' house, and I was friends with Gregory because he lived next to my grandparents' house. I didn't really listen to music with either of my friends, so I didn't come to like music through them. Neither did I learn to like music at my grandparents' house -- they both preferred the television to any particular radio station. And at my own parents' house, I listened only to what my parents listened to, namely rock and very light metal. As you can well see from this, I wasn't exactly very cultured in music at all.

But because I went into percussion in middle school, I became exposed to music the likes of which I had never even considered before. I fell in love with classical music from the very beginning. Soon after, I became aware of other styles, most notably big band jazz. And because my ears were finally open, I searched out even more diverse music and found that the world of music is just as wonderful and entertaining as any other art form could ever hope to be.

Having the teacher that I did really helped a lot. My band director's name was Mr. David Ellis, and he was in my opinion the best that a band director can actually be. During my years there, he put together a symphonic and jazz band so good that when I transferred over to the Satsuma High School band, I could tell that I was taking a step down, rather than up. In fact, our middle school band was so impressive that we were actually invited to play at Carnegie Hall. It was quite an honor.

However, I personally was never really all that good as a drummer. Some that I have talked to blame my teacher, but I do not, especially considering what he did with the rest of the band. You see, in those days I got straight A's on my report cards without even trying, and I rarely worked hard for anything in my life. Because I was brought up having it so easy, I never really learned that you have to work for some things. That is why I believe I wasn't very good at drums. I will admit that Mr. Ellis rarely spent any time working with the drummers during my middle school days, but that is understandable, as most band directors have an inner dislike for the percussion section. Personally, I believe that is why percussionists make the best band directors -- but that is really just idle speculation, and I have nothing more than circumstantial proof to back that argument.

As a drummer, I was not required to do or learn as much as any of the other students did, and I believe that is what made me stick with it. I honestly believe that if I had chosen trumpet instead, I would have been too discouraged by not being the best in class, and I would have quit. Being a drummer really helped in that respect since all of the other drummers were really much worse than I was, with the exception of Dustin (who eventually quit) and Trent Geringer, but the subject of Trent is another story entirely.

Because of the obvious lack of attention generally brought to the drummers, after I quit high school, I decided to help out in my old middle school. The new band teacher there is named Ron Thacker, and I knew him previously from his work as assistant band director at Satsuma High School during my sophomore year. My argument was simple: in middle school, the director has to teach the entire class a great deal, but more so for the horns and woodwinds than for percussion. Percussionists don't need to learn scales; rather, they should spend their time learning more challenging time signatures and more advanced notation techniques, as well as chop building. A single band director is really unequipped to handle such things, because when he works the group all at once, he has to stay at the lowest common denominator for the whole class, and almost by definition, the drummers are going to be innately held back. Therefore, Mr. Thacker allowed me to help him out in the classroom one day a week with the drummers. It was a fun time, but it got pretty complicated after a while for a volunteer job, so I stopped doing it.

I miss teaching them. If I could do it again and get paid $15 an hour for two hours a week for it, I would do it in a heartbeat. But I'm too cheap to volunteer there any longer.

I wonder if this makes me greedy...

::sigh:: I hope not.

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