Saturday, February 18, 2017

Drums Can Change the World

Drums can change the world. Well, at least they changed mine. It all started in the basement. It was dark down there, and tools were everywhere, although I never saw anyone ever use them. It smelled like standing water and earth and concrete. We set up on a water-beaten plank of plywood so as not to destroy any of the instruments, and began pounding away.

Rules did not exist, only sound - lots of it. Sound rolling over us, boiling in our ears, and scraping our spines from the front of our bodies, soaking our minds with feedback. I pounded out rhythms on my snare drum until the tips of my fingers bled, and when they did I celebrated and played even harder.

I can remember going home after those Saturday afternoon jam sessions. I was only a little back kid then, and I had to be back for dinner. On Saturdays in the winter, I would stop home, eat, get dressed into something nice and walk to Mass. I can still remember one time, counting down the minutes until I could cut out the back door of the church to run back to finish writing a new song. That feeling of excitement in the stomach and the pride that came from knowing that my friends and I had worked together to create something new is unforgettable. Ironically, we played music that reeked of the darkness of the city, but all I felt was joy.

It was joy and freedom and work and pride and dreaming and creating and sweating and learning all at once. It was a creative time that I have always remembered, and it has become the bar against which I have judged every other pursuit I have embarked upon. Without that first Slingerland drum kit – sharpie marker all over the snare head, the ride cymbal that made my ears ache, the missing resonant bottom heads that made the batter heads louder - I would not be writing this right now. The absolute joy and freedom and creative power that flowed from my bleeding fingers crawled back inside me and colonized my mind, compelling me to remain a drummer all my life. It has also inspired me to want to share my love of drumming and music with my students.

They are my audience. I want them to experience the pure joy in making music that I felt in those heady basement days. I want to convince them that music already exists for them. It is waiting for them. It lives inside their beating hearts, breathes through their lungs, and shoots like pulses of electricity from synapse to synapse within their brains.

Every note we will ever play is already playing. All we have to do is reach out to it with willing hearts and open minds. We are drawing water from a well. Our body is the ladle and the universe our spring, connecting us through timeless creative forces.

Can you see it? Can you hear it?

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