Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Chick-boom-chick-boom, or How a Drummer Was Born

We had two elementary schools in our town.  Park Elem. housed grades K-3 and West Elem. was home to grades 4-6.  When a person "graduated" to West Elementary School, they entered an amazing new world.

West Elementary School held the destinction, until is decommision in the early 2000s, of being the oldest school being used west of the Mississippi (at least that was the rumor).  It was, until (I believe) the1970s, the town junior and senior high school.  It was the high school that my grandfather (and I believe) grandmother attended.  (My memory of the history is a bit rusty).  It was (and still is) a massive, brick,  two-story building, with a sub-basement that housed two classrooms, two locker rooms, and, even deeper in the earth, the gymnasium. 

This school shaped my life in numerous ways.  I learned how to play basketball in that gymnasium, with my dad as my coach.  I learned not to shot spitwads in class with a substitute teacher, and if you do, you'll have to stay behind and fill a cup with spitwads while the rest of the school goes to plant trees at the park for Arbor Day.  I learned not to write graffiti on the outside walls of the school, in broad daylight, and if you do, your dad will drive by and see you doing it, and your parents won't believe your lies about not doing it.  I learned how to country swing dance in 4th grade to Travis Tritt in the music room.  And, I learned the basics of playing percussion instruments in the auditorium in the 5th and 6th grade.

While all of these experiences (and many others I couldn't remember off the top of my head) molded who I am as a person, it was the last one, playing drums, that has stuck with me to this day.

As a 5th grader, each student had the option to play in the class band, and there was no way I was going to miss out on that opportunity.  When they had the first meeting, I with the idea of wanting to play a brass instrument (I believe the trombone), but I had just begun seeing an orthodontist about my overbite, and my parents couldn't afford to pay for a spendy brass instrument.  I also believe my extreme overbite also played a part in the decision, because the teacher didn't think I'd be able to produce the correct mouth position (or that's what my parents told me to help soften the blow).  But there was one instrument that did not require expensive monthly payments or correct jaw placement, the drums.

We went home that night with a brand new set of sticks and a practice pad, and I couldn't have been happier.  My parents would eventually be able to buy me my own personal snare drum.  As a fourth grader, the percussion section consisted of the snare and bass drum.  I was perfect for both.  I have great rythym and can keep time really well.  And my years of piano practice helped me to be able to read sheet music much better than my peers in the percussion section.  I loved being able to whack the drums, and I can remember how mad our teacher would get because I was unable to play quietly and would drown out the other students.

The one part of school band that I disliked was practicing at home on my own.  Unlike the trumpet, or flute, or saxophone, I was unable to play a musical song by myself.  While my friends could show off to their friends and family the new song they just learned to play, a person can only hear "rat-a-tat-tat, rat-a-tat-tat" so many times before it becomes tiresome.  And as we progressed through the song book, reading the percussion tableture became more and more difficult.  By junior high, I got to the point that I would bs my way through a song at band practice, which would lead my teacher to show me the correct drum strokes, which I would then mimic.  I became very good at playing by ear, which is how I play to this day.

When we moved into junior high school, we practiced in the same band room as the high school students, which lead me to the introduction of my new favorite instrument, the drum kit (also known as the trap set).  By the end of my 8th grade year, I was fairly proficient on the kit.  So much so that I bought my first drum set my freshman year of high school, and it is the kit I still beat on today.  I spent a couple of months shopping around, looking for just the right equipment.  I had enough money saved up for the set, and my parents and grandma pitched in for the cymbals and other gear.

Due to a personality conflict with the band leader, I decided to end my school band days when I became a freshman in high school.  But my interest in drumming continued.  I would sit in my bedroom, behind the kit, with my radio blaring, drumming along with my favorite rock bands.  I loved playing a straight 4/4 rock beat (think AC/DC or CCR), but eventually learned how to play along with more technically difficult songs.

My first garage band was formed my sophomore year in high school.  My friend Jonah had started playing the guitar and I began jamming with him in the basement of his house.  We recruited our friend Brad to play the bass guitar and "Feedback" was born.  We ended up only playing on concert, to our parents and my sisters, but in that short time, I fell in love with playing in a band.

I would eventually take my drums to the church when Brad invited me to join the church worship "band".  I got really good at playing with the brushes since I never outgrew my need to play loudly.  I played along side MaryBeth as she played the piano or organ, and Brad lead the singing.  I continued this weekly tradition for a couple of years, until I got married and moved away from Fowler.

After this, my drums sat unused for a couple of years.  Then I got together with two of my college golf teammates, Dave and Tyson.  Dave and Tyson had been in a band for a couple of years and even had one of their performances professionally recorded.  As with most bands, they eventually parted company with their drummer and rhythm guitarist.

When we started jamming at Tyson's house, I figured it was just a couple of guys goofing around.  Then Tyson got us a gig.  It was in a bar in Pueblo and I loved it.  Since we couldn't think of any other names, we decided to be known as TED (our first initials.)  It wasn't too original, but it worked.  My wife even had a shirt made up for me.  It was a mechanic's shirt with the name TED stitched on the breast of the shirt.

While the acoustics of our first venue made it tough for me to hear the other guys, we were able to compensate by playing really loud.  My ears rang for days, but I could not have been happier.  We would eventually play two other gigs around town before the band broke up when Tyson moved out of town.

While I doubt I'll ever become a touring artist, I still love the occasional drumming session with my favorite bands.  I recently played along with my cousin Luke when he was in town.  While my equipment is getting old and is collecting dust more and more, I couldn't imagine not being able to have the option of sitting down with a couple of beat up sticks in my hand and losing myself in the steady rythym of my drumming.


  1. I love that your dad drove by and saw you drawing graffiti on the side of the school and you still tried to tell your parents you did not do it. Classic Eric Lundy. -Rach

  2. Great post. That is too funny, you couldn't go to the Arbor Day tree planting because you were throwing spit wads!?

  3. I heard TED was making a comeback? -the D in TED