12/04/2024

Best Beat

Setting the Rhythm for Your Music

Finding My Way Back

Finding My Way Back

When I was 5 years old I got my first drum, a tom tom given to me by a neighbor for Christmas. It came with a small wooden mallet that had a round, blue, rubber tip. A grey, rubber skin, tied down with thin course rope, kept the drum skin in place. I beat on that drum head night and day until my mother, who was not blessed with patience to begin with, disposed of it. I was not a happy camper when I found out that my one and only instrument had been unceremoniously terminated. Stricken with sadness and frustration, I pestered my parents to replace it, over and over but it was not to be. There would be no winning this battle so I gave up the fight, but my love of drumming was imprinted in my brain for all time. Over the years my fascination with drumming grew exponentially. As I entered adolescence I began to work on my parents in the hope of wearing them down. My father insisted that I play a “nice” instrument like the piano or violin. “Every drummer I ever met was crazy.”, was the psychology he used to try to derail my love affair with the drums. I never bothered to ask him how many drummers he had actually met that went playing the drums, but I had met more than a few people who weren’t playing with a full deck that got there without ever playing a paradiddle.

Flash forward a few years. I’m 19, in college, and after putting it off for an eternity, I tell my parents that I’ve found a good drum teacher, a job and I’m going to pay for my lessons and drum kit on my own. This time victory is mine.

Over the next 15 years I developed some skills and in spite of my acute fear of failure and rejection I started to play semi-professionally; bar-mitzvahs, weddings, rock bands, jam sessions and an assortment of freelance gigs. The problem was I lacked discipline and focus. I wanted instantaneous results. I yearned for fame and all its trappings. I had zero understanding of process. If I couldn’t “master” something the first time out it was because I was incapable, lacking in talent, and/or intelligence. I didn’t understand the time, energy and effort it took to master any instrument. When I did practice I neglected all the things that presented me with difficulties. There were specific elements of my instrument that required my full attention, but when faced with any challenge I retreated to that safe and ultimately unrewarding place called limbo. Eventually the rejection got the better of me and I folded my hand and cashed out.

Over the years regrets were mounting and I knew in my heart I was living an unfulfilled life. I was now traveling down a road that was filled with compromise with no room for dreams. I opted for jobs that were “a means to and end”. But there was no end. The trip was always the same. I paid my fare and ended up in the same place with the same predictable stops along the way. The clock was ticking. It was time for a life-altering change. I was headed to no man’s land if I failed to confront my flaws and limitations and learn the importance of self-awareness as it pertains to all the relationships in my life. A new and exciting journey was in front of me. If I wanted my life to change. If I wanted to find meaning in the things I did I had to change myself. No one could do it for me. And that’s exactly what I did. Like anything in life it wasn’t always a day at the beach but there were important lessons to be learned and I was learning them. Every aspect of my life was improving. In college I became a part of an improv group. I was writing and acting and living and loving every minute of it. Eventually I participated in an underground TV production called “Video Madness”. After encouragement from my wife and fellow actors I went on to formally train with the amazing Tim Phillips. By this time I firmly understood what it meant to focus and persevere. To achieve any success I would have to work hard and understand that success would not be handed to me on a silver platter. Sam Goldwyn said, “The harder I work the luckier I get.” I was going to have to work hard to make some luck of my own. Now when I took a job I did so with a sense of purpose. No full-time jobs for me. Every job I took was in support of my dreams. I was not going to back down or give up. I was not going to succumb to an unfulfilled life. I had chosen my path and I was going to stick to it. And I have.

Today I am fully involved in my acting studio that I started in 1988. Two years ago I began studying the drums again with the remarkable Dave Meade. I am back on track do the things I love and need to do to maintain balance in my life. I know and understand that life is always going to present me with challenges but rather than shrink from them I welcome them as opportunities for growth and change. I wouldn’t have it any other way.