Thursday, February 2, 2023

The Beat Goes On

Once upon a time, I played drums in a rock and roll band.  True story.  Actually, I played in two different bands in the late seventies.  Those who know me are saying "Wait, isn't the trombone the instrument you play?"  The answer to that is yes, but I've always held this fascination with the drums.  In fifth or sixth grade (not sure which), the high school band instructor came over to the Vandyke Elementary School and gave music lessons to those young students who wanted to play an instrument.  My choice?  Drums.  I had one of those drum pads on which you could practice your skills.  It was relatively quiet and it seemed like I was on my way to being a drummer, if you can be on your way to doing anything at that age.

Sadly, I needed one thing... rhythm.  I just didn't get the rhythm.  The band instructor did everything he could to help me plug into the beat, but try as hard as I could, it didn't happen.  At the end of the first year, the band instructor said "Why don't you try the trombone?"  So, I gave up my dream of being a drummer and the next year I was learning how to play the trombone.

But the drums kept calling me.  The summer after graduation, I joined a ten-piece rock band, playing my trombone.  We played a lot of Chicago/Blood Sweat and Tears kind of music.  The guy who played the drums for us had a clear double bass drum set.  I thought it was the coolest thing ever.  the band was together for about one year and during that time, I whetted my drum appetite by sitting down at his drum set and playing it.  Lo and behold, somehow the rhythm issues I had so many years before had vanished.  I was able to keep the beat (not bad for a trombone player).  

Later that year, during my first year in college, the pep band didn't have a drummer (I'm actually surprised that we had a pep band!)  So, I took up the task and played the drums for the pep band (which only played during hockey games - which was great because I was on the basketball team and that was all I could handle!)  Fast forward to about 1978 - the summer of that year.  I cannot recall how it happened, but I purchased a Pearl drum set - bass drum, snare, and three toms - complete with cymbals.  I have no idea why I bought it - I'm sure Nancy didn't either.  As it sometimes happens, I knew a guy who knew I had a set and they were looking for a drummer.  Hint: if you own a drum set, then you are a drummer.  I was a drummer.

I played with that group for about a year.  Two singers who were dynamic (and were sisters) lead the group.  We played a lot of Heart/Fleetwood Mac/Linda Ronstadt.  We had gone on the road, playing in a dive in Moorhead, Minnesota when the group decided they needed a drummer with a bit more flash.  Hint: if you own a drum set, but have no flash, you will get no cash.  I thought my drum playing days were over.  I was wrong.

A fellow trombonist knew that I was playing drums.  He was also in a group that played 50's and 60's rock and roll - a group that (guess what) needed a drummer.  I joined his group and played with them for a couple of years.  I bought a double bass white Slingerland drum kit that was every bit as cool as the clear drum set I noodled around on in my first band.  The group eventually disbanded and I sold my set - thought my drum playing days were over.  I was wrong.  Again.

Fast forward to the year 2010.  I was now pastor for a church just south of Stillwater - on the edge of the Twin Cities.  They had a praise band and were in need of a drummer.  It had only been about thirty years since I last played, but I stepped in and once more, I was a drummer - this time for all the right reasons.  Since then, I've played here and there for our church praise team.  I purchased a Roland TD9 digital drum set, added two more toms and four Zildjian Gen cymbals - a set that I don't know what I will be doing with once I retire.  How many 70 year old drummers are out there? 

In the past few years, there have only been a few select opportunities to play the drums in the Worthington area.  Mostly, I've been connected to the City Band and the Symphony Orchestra playing my trombone, the instrument of choice.  I didn't think I'd ever be playing the drums in a group again.  I was wrong.  Again.

Last week, I was contacted by the person who is directing the local high school production of "Hello Dolly".  They were in need of a drummer for their pit band and wondered if I could do it.  I'm always ready to give it a whirl, so I went to their practice session on Monday night, sitting on a drum set that was set up for high school drummers.  It's been fifty years since I was the size of a high school drummer.  I was most uncomfortable as I tried to maneuver my way through the music.  I decided that I would bring my own set next time - a set built for me.  And my shape.  

So, my friends, the beat goes on.  Again.

I don't know that there is any specific moral or lesson to be learned from this memory, but I do know that it's important for us to have aspirations and dreams.  It keeps life fresh and new.  They give us hope for the future.  And hope is a good thing. 

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