Paradiddles

I received a thank you note in the mail yesterday from one of my former drum students for a gift I gave him at his graduation ceremony. Asa was one of the first boys I ever taught to play drums, when
I was still figuring out exactly how to teach.


The book I chose as a gift was Os Guinness’ (yes, I love Dr. Guinness’ work a lot) book, The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life. Along with the book I wrote a letter to Asa, offering him the wisdom I feel I have gleaned over the years as a young person. Wisdom is something that should be passed down, and I feel it is important for us to make it a point to actually write a letter to those younger than ourselves. Especially if you’ve been in some kind of leadership role in that person’s life.


Asa is a special kid. His siblings are all special but I’ve spent the most time with Asa during our drum lessons so I see him a little differently. I watched him learn how to hold his drumsticks correctly, stopping every so often to correct his finger placement, etc. The entire time I watched him learning I was recalling in my mind how it was for me in the beginning of my own drum lessons. There was pain, frustration, and pure happiness when I finally learned to grip the sticks right and pound away on the drum head.


I had excellent teachers when I was learning. The best one, Chad, made me play for a recital once in front of a drumline comprised of all boys and their parents at Paschal High School. I don’t really remember how my solo went, so I might have played horribly, but I got through it and lived to tell the story.


I was never intimidated by the boys (not that I remember) because I just loved playing so much, I didn’t care what they thought.


When the recital was over, some of us stood around watching Chad and one of his students dueling on one of the marching snares. The kid was this massively tall, gangly blonde boy that could snap and pop his sticks all over the place like firecrackers on the 4th of July.


I was in awe of his talent and felt so cool when Chad told me to come over and join them. My little hands couldn’t go quite as fast as they could, but it was fun.


That was quite an experience for this little homeschooled girl. I played a solo piece at that recital which I eventually taught Asa, who (obviously) nailed it once he found his groove.


The moment you find your “groove” with drums is like being propelled into outer space in a rocket, honestly. The beat just seeps into your skin, eventually igniting your bones on fire and you hit that high where you could play for days on end. I’ve felt that high so many times but it never gets old. I think playing worship music only makes the experience that much more rewarding.


As a student, once you find that place where your brain finally clicks and says “Hey, I can do this!” you know you’ve made it. Although I’m just a person who loves to play and has done since seventh grade, I love to make people’s eyes pop when they see me (a girl) behind a drum shield, banging away at the set. I’m no professional, and I play mostly by ear, but dang it feels good to play and have fun while I’m doing it.


Asa, and pretty much all of my other students, caught on to drums well when we first started. It was fascinating to watch him develop every week when he’d come to his lesson. We talked about what kind of music he listens to a lot, and I made suggestions to him. You know, stuff like Boston, Matisyahu, Creedence Clearwater Revival, bands like that to get him going. He ended up liking quite a few of these artists, not to mention his dad knows the old school stuff because he’s cool like my Dad.


I’ve never claimed to be a professional, I just teach what I know and hope they can keep up. They usually do and what they learn ends up being a major part of their lives. I love being able to teach them a skill that is a commodity because not many people play drums. And it is especially hard to find a drummer with a good attitude who can actually play and take instruction from the band leader.


One line of Asa’s thank you note to me brought all of those memories back: “Thanks for teaching me drums because that has become a huge part of my life and personality and I never plan on stopping.”


That kid is going places.


Like the letter I wrote to him, I believe it is important for us to pass down skills we worked hard to acquire in our own younger years. Drums have opened so many doors for me, but so has the wisdom of my parents, spiritual leaders, and the good books I’ve read. It’s easy to forget the hard work you’ve put into learning a skill, but when you take a minute to look back on the pain and frustration you went through to get where you are, that makes the accomplishment all the more sweet.


My greatest desire is for Asa and the other kids I taught to use their gifts to glorify God and not themselves. So I hope as they move through life they will consider and assess their talents and know how those skills fit into God’s calling on their lives. Because above anything else, that’s the most important thing they need to know.

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