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A rocky start to my lifelong love affair with the drums.
When I was in 5th grade, our school had a ‘try out’ for different instruments of the Orchestral band. Students were asked to spend an hour or two testing out several instruments, to see which one they preferred the best.
We were told not to worry, the stakes were low and that us kids were not the ones being evaluated in this said try out. Rather the meaning of the moniker was for us to try the instruments and choose one that best suited our preference. There would be no hard cuts, and we could choose whatever we pleased. There was one small exception to this benevolent policy… percussion.
Percussion wasn’t for everyone
At least that’s what we were told at the time. I still to this day remember stepping into that small sound proof room with a few of my peers. There were a few practice drum pads set out in front of us, on stands so that we could play them while standing up. We were each handed a pair of sticks and given a brief tutorial on how to hold them and how to properly strike the pad. It was far from exhaustive, but it was more direction than most kids would get the first time they just happened to get behind a drum kit and started messing around.
We were then explained that we would have to play basic quarter notes along with a metronome. The band teacher waved her hands about flamboyantly in the role of conductor once the track started and we were instructed to do so. I was so nervous since I understood the stakes of that particular try out. I had a low self-esteem, so anytime that I was told something was challenging or only suitable for a select few, I assumed that I was counted out and not good enough to meet that standard.
I wasn’t doing well, I knew it from the start. A few condescending sneers from the old lady in my direction confirmed this fact to me. At the end of the 2-3 minute track, were told to set down our drumsticks for evaluation. The woman started down the row of 3 pupils. The first two performed with flying colors. They lacked polish, as they were true beginners, but she explained to them that if they were interested, drums might be the instrument that they might pursue. They were good enough to be taught at least.
If I recall correctly, the first kid did in fact end up playing drums both academically and in his personal life, although he never made a career out of it. The second kid never ended up playing a musical instrument at all.
Then there was me, the final child to receive a critique. “You…” the woman did not take any pause to carefully tailor her words “might want to consider a different instrument, this might not be for you”. I was a little deflated, and certainly embarrassed to be the only one in the room who did not meet the basic performance requirements. I ended up choosing the saxophone, an instrument that I hated and barely put any effort into practicing for the next year before giving it up.
It wasn’t until about 3 years later where a completely non school-sanctioned route brought be back to playing the drums, and the rest was history. But that’s a story for another time.