Saturday, November 21, 2009

My Son Has Surpassed Me!

Way back in the dark ages when I was a young whippersnapper, I spent an inordinate amount of time playing, practicing, and trying to perfect my artistry on percussion instruments, particularly the drum set. Of course, since this was in the days before videos, the Internet, and file sharing, I had to make due with recordings on vinyl!

Yes, every time that I got a few bucks in my pocket I would travel to the local store that had discounted jazz records and I would stock up. To this day, recordings of Buddy Rich, Louis Bellson, Butch Miles, Tony Williams, along with several more, align my shelves with records that have been substantially worn!

Through all of my diligence, attention to detail, and hours of practice, others believed that I had become reasonably decent on the drums. Attempting to imitate my drumming hero, Buddy Rich, while also fitting in with the group, I did my best to be the best drummer that I could be.

I always held first chair in the percussion section from middle school through high school; I was able to attain the same position in college for our trip to China; and I spent several years playing drums with some of the better musicians in the Detroit area. In fact, my drumming provided the necessary funds for all of my college expenses, including tuition.

Now, fast-forwarding several years, my youngest son showed an interest in drums at a very early age. Even before he reached a year old, he would sing tunes as they were written and then he would embellish the melody with jazzy nuances. He would also produce various percussion sounds with syncopated rhythms.

Throughout his childhood, my drum set was always set up and he would often hit the tubs to work out various rhythms with all four appendages. I often provided informal instruction to him to provide a more regimented routine and to ensure that only good habits developed.

At some point, it was time to join the school band and, of course, he chose to play percussion. He quickly excelled and rose to the top of the 5th grade! He even performed a solo in front of 500 people after being in band for only 2 months!

With his growing interest in percussion, I began to give him formal lessons. While the lessons propelled him even further, it was quite obvious to me that another teacher could provide a better level of instruction for him.

We managed to contact a gentleman who is considered to be one of the best percussionists in the entire region (this particular teacher was getting ready to graduate from college as I was entering the same college hundreds of years ago!). His lessons with this gentleman propelled him even further into the world of excellence with his drumming, to the point that was able to accomplish things on the drums at age 15 that I had not yet mastered at my advanced age!

Recently, he performed a drum set solo at the talent show at his high school. As I watched the tape of his performance, I could not believe my eyes and ears. Not only had my son surpassed my professional level of drumming, he had surpassed it by so much, that his favorite dad will never be able to catch up!

His rhythms are perfectly executed, his musical ideas (dynamics, phrasing, etc.) are top-notch, his speed is amazing, and even his level of hot-doggedness is as good as any (not that I was ever a hot dog, of course!).

So, at the ripe old age of 15 years old, how did my own son greatly surpass me in the world of drumming, a world that I used to own in our family? Practice, diligence, training, attention to detail, a natural knack for the tubs, constant hearing of songs and rhythms in the home since birth, and, well, who knows what else?

What I do know is this: My son has attained a level of professionalism that is not frequently seen at age 15. Am I bragging? Well, not on purpose. Am I proud of his accomplishments? ABSOLUTELY!!

As a final humbling note, my son actually credits ME with his drumming prowess. No son, I helped to get you there, but you are the one who made it happen. Keep up the great work in everything that you do!

As a final note #2, guess which drum set my son uses for his live performances? Yes, the Buddy Rich drum set that my parents gave to me when I was ...... 15 years old!

Paul W. Reeves

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