The Beat Goes On: Life with a Fifteen-Year-Old Drummer
Ten years ago when my son Josh was five years old, he grabbed two Lincoln Logs, turned the Lincoln Log container upside down, and began playing on the container to the beat of the music that played in the background. “I just love the drums!” he told me as I watched him from the doorway.
“I bet you like the violin better though, don’t you?” I asked as I imagined the peace and quiet that surrounded our home suddenly shattered like glass.
He shook his head.
“How about trying the clarinet?” I suggested.
He looked horrified.
I tried again, “The piccolo?”
He shook his head again.
It was like trying to convince a teenage boy that there’s other fish in the sea after he’s fallen in love for the first time—hopeless.
After several months of watching my son play on his Lincoln Log container, my husband suggested that they take a trip to the local drum shop “just to look around.” “Uh-oh,” I thought, “This cannot be happening.” I hung on the car bumper as they started the engine. “Don’t go!” I yelled with a slightly hysterical tone. It was too late. Several hours later, they returned with a small sack in hand. I slowly let out my breath in a sigh of relief. “What did you get?” I nervously asked my son.
“New drumsticks!” he answered excitedly.
I looked at my husband and mouthed, “Thank you!” I was so grateful that the car trunk didn’t hold a brand new drum set that I didn’t even notice the guilty look on my husband’s face. Later that evening after my son went to bed, my husband sat me down on the couch.
“I want to buy Josh a drum set for Christmas.” I glanced at his face. His eyes were sparkling with excitement.
“It’s going to be really loud,” I said.
“We’ll put it in the basement,” he answered.
“It’s still going to be really loud,” I replied.
“It’s what he loves to do,” my husband added.
I thought of the expression on my son’s face as he played on his Lincoln Log container every day. It revealed concentration, motivation, and the tiniest little smile. At such a young age, Josh had already found his passion and I knew I couldn’t stand in the way of something so perfect.
After conducting a quick inventory of the pain relievers and ear plugs in the medicine cabinet, I finally agreed. My husband jumped up and hugged me. “We’ll never regret this,” he said.
“How could he be so sure?” I wondered.
Bright and early on a cold Christmas morning, we took Josh’s hand and led him down the stairs. I opened the door to the storage room and watched Josh’s face. It lit up with surprise and unbelievable anticipation. He tentatively walked over to the drums and picked up the sticks. He turned to us. “Are these mine?”
“Go ahead,” I encouraged him. “Give them a test drive!” Josh sat on the stool and began drumming on the set that now belonged to him for as long as he wished. As I stood there and listened, I could have sworn the house moved on its foundation, my left eardrum shattered, and all my good crystal cracked in the china cabinet.
“Good grief that’s loud!” I yelled.
No one heard me.
For hours Josh played those drums like there was no tomorrow. Every once and a while, I popped into the room and yelled, “Anyone hungry?”
No one heard me.
“Our house has moved 500 feet down the street!” I shouted.
No one heard me.
“My eyeballs just fell out of my head!” I yelled.
No one heard me.
Ten years later, my husband and I have officially become our son’s roadies. We dress in all black, get the leftover women, and get to say cool things to other people like, "we’re with the drummer," as he travels around town playing gigs as part of BluesEd, a nonprofit youth artist program under the Blues Society of Omaha.
BluesEd is really an amazing resource. Each summer, middle and high school students from Omaha and surrounding areas form bands and learn a repertoire of blues music while becoming adept at rehearsing, jamming, improvising, and writing their own songs. In addition to being mentored by professional musicians in regular workshops, the bands are invited to play in several venues around town, like the Playing with Fire series and the Summer Arts Festival.
Plain and simple—it’s a great program that allows kids to create a lifetime of memories while nurturing their passion for music. I hope that this summer if you happen to be out and about and hear one of the BluesEd bands playing on stage that you’ll stop, pull up a chair, cheer them on, and watch as the tiniest little smile overtakes their faces. It will be obvious how much they love doing what they’re doing.
It turns out my husband was right 10 years ago—we’ve never regretted our decision to buy that first shiny drum set. As we stand backstage and watch Josh perform in front of a crowd with the rest of his band mates, we think about that little five-year-old who had a big dream and is now able to share his passion with the rest of the world. It really is true what English poet Edward George Bulwer-Lytton once said, “Music, once admitted to the soul, becomes a sort of spirit and never dies.”