Taking a Break to Rally Around Rhythm
by Drew Holmes
As I opened his car door, weeks of increasing excitement finally bubbled over.
“I can’t believe it’s really happening!” exclaimed Timothy, my seven-year-old.
The “it” in question was the FoCo Rhythm Rally, an event hosted by Drums West and Boomer Music for the local drumming community. Not a competition but a celebration, the event brings drummers together to creating beats as one and be part of something bigger than themselves.
An aspiring drummer, Timothy has had his own drum kit since he was four years old. The sanity of that decision is open for debate but rest assured Jamie and I discussed it ahead of time. He has not yet shown interest in formal lessons, but his natural talent for music in unquestioned. This event seemed the perfect way to fan the spark of his percussive passion and maybe inspire him to take it to the next level.
We loaded in his drum set and I quickly set it up. Ear protection in place, my Iron Maiden t-shirt clad second grader dutifully took his place behind his kit, ready to throw down whatever beats were thrown at him.
The Rhythm Rally is for all ages and skill levels. There were local gigging professionals scattered amongst the advancing students and enthusiasts. Tim did exceptionally well, but over the two hours of the event he got increasingly frustrated with not being perfect. Disheartened, he put his head down on his floor tom and looked like he had had his fill.
My high school marching band had three scheduled weekly rehearsals — Tuesday night, Thursday night, and Saturday morning. If we did well enough during the week, we could earn a day off for Saturday, which happened more often than not.
Senior year I was on the field for a rare Saturday rehearsal. The piece we were playing was adapted from the concert band literature, so we got creative with covering parts. An oboe solo became a straight-muted trumpet solo and as section leader the honor fell to me to play it.
On this particular Saturday I was not having a great day. Run after run I kept cracking the notes of my muted solo and my frustration was boiling over. We ran it again, with the same outcome, and in a fit of rage I yanked the mute and heaved it as far as I could, the ensuing ‘clank’ indicating a collision with a drum in the pit.
“Drew,” called our director, Mr. Lasdow, from the top of the bleachers, “maybe try that part with a cup mute?”
“Yeah,” I shouted back while walking to retrieve the mute, much less politely than I should have. “That won’t dent when I throw it.”
To his eternal credit, Mr. Lasdow did not pursue the matter any further, letting me find the lesson on my own. Eventually I calmed down, refocused, and played the solo successfully with my freshly dented mute. Letting out my frustration and immediately trying again was just what I needed to break my string of failures and finally achieve success.
“Hey buddy,” I said to Tim as I lifted the headphones from his ear. “Let’s take a walk and see if we can find a vending machine.”
“I’m doing so horrible!” he said as we left the room, sounding defeated.
“That’s not true,” I replied. “You’re the youngest one here! You are doing amazing!”
Snack in hand, he regrouped and took his place behind his kit. He made it the duration of the event and received several compliments from other participants. Tim left with a renewed interest in drumming.
And my dented mute? I still have and use it. And every time I see the dents, I think back to that Saturday rehearsal and remember to take a break to mentally reset and then try again when I’m feeling frustrated. But today I know to do it *before* I start throwing my mute.