I was 19 when I took my first drum lesson. I didn't want to play the drums. I had to play the drums. From the age of 5, I was drawn to their sound. It was a sound like no other. Exhilarating beyond description. My heart raced every time I listened to a 45 spinning out Cozy Cole's, "Topsy", or Buddy Rich wailing at the speed of light to the medley from "West Side Story".
For the next 14 years I pleaded with my parents, at one time or another, to allow me to take lessons, but it was not to be. First and foremost there were the neighbors to consider. We lived in a large apartment building surrounded by tenants, and no good could come of subjecting them to a steady diet of drumming. My father used every tactic under the sun to dissuade me. "Every drummer I ever knew was crazy as a bed bug. Why don't you take up a nice instrument like the piano?" he would say. Apparently the excruciating sound of our next door neighbor butchering "Chopsticks" on a daily basis was for him, a Mozart Sonata. In spite of their efforts to discourage me I persisted and when I turned 19 I began lessons.
I practiced on a daily basis for hours at a time in an effort to make up for lost time. My teacher was supportive and made a point of commenting on my progress as my playing improved. Eventually I got into jam sessions, booked club dates, and joined several rock bands. To my amazement I was getting paid to play, but there was still one giant obstacle I had to overcome. ME. I was convinced that I didn't have the goods to make it. For reasons unbeknownst to me at the time I had zero faith in myself. In spite of my improvement I was convinced I was no good. No teacher on Earth possessed the heavy-duty machinery capable of penetrating my walls. Eventually, discouraged and frustrated with my playing, I.e.myself, the inevitable happened. I quit. But the desire to play never left me. In fact it haunted and beckoned me for years.
This particular episode in my life is not unique to me. Many young people I have worked with over the years have been plagued by similar insecurities, low self-esteem, poor self-image, lack of confidence et al. I wish I could offer an easy solution but in my case there was none. For me, looking inward and recognizing and confronting my flaws, fears, weaknesses, and insecurities enabled me to begin to grow and change into the person I wanted to be. Life, I learned, is not a mistake free proposition. By rising to the challenges that present themselves we grow and learn. No learning or growth can occur if we do not invest time and energy in improving ourselves. It took me many years to "find myself" but the journey, hurdles and all, was well worth it.
Eight months ago I found a fabulous drum teacher, Mr. Ed Meade, and with his tutelage I am "back in the saddle" again with a renewed outlook on the what it means to achieve excellence. I practice on a daily basis and enjoy every second of it. Mistakes are now just a part of the process. I never would have dreamed that I would find myself in the wonderfully unique position of being both teacher and student simultaneously. No doubt, this is where I am meant to be and if feels so good to be back!