Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Drumming For A Lifetime, pt.3

One Day, Two Conversations

Most of the time, you don’t realize how pivotal moments are when they happen. This is a story about one of those times.

As I was relating the story to my 13 year-old son of how I got into playing the drums, I thought about the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the events. Not to mention the repercussions.

Setting: Bowie, TX. Population ~5,000 people. Jr.High School.
August, 1978.

All through our 7th Grade year, my friends and I had dreamed of starting a rock band just like “KISS”. (don't ask, but we were into them)

So, the first day of school of my 8th Grade year, I decided to break through the impenetrable barrier from full-time jock to legendary rock-and-roll drumming god… in the school band.

This is where the “two conversations” thing comes in:

Conversation #1

Jr. High Band Hall -
The band was sitting in normal half-circle fashion, rookies (including myself) were sitting along the side while the director, Mr. Gray, was giving short interviews in order to find out what the new members wanted to play.

Mr. Gray: (looking at me like I was lost) “So, what would you like to play?”

Me: “Drums.”

Mr. Gray: (looking over his shoulder at the long row of drummers already in his very small band) “Oh boy… well, it looks like I’m already overloaded with drummers.”

(He thinks for a second, then looks over his other shoulder.)
“I could really use a tuba player though.”

Me: “Um, no thanks, I just want to play the drums.”

Mr. Gray: “I’m sorry Mark, but I just can’t take on anymore drummers right now.”

Bummed, I leave and decide that I will be an 'air-drummer' for the rest of my life.

Conversation #2

At the end of the day, I was running late for the bus, so I was hauling-it down the stairs from my locker to the first floor. Seeing no one in sight, I almost blind-side none other than Mr. Gray walking down the hallway at the bottom of the steps.

Mr. Gray: “Whoa! Hey there Mark.”

Me: “Oh, hi. Uh, sorry.”

He turns.

Me: “Um, Mr. Gray? If any of the drummers quit, will you let me know?”

Mr. Gray: (thinks) “If you want to play that bad, show up tomorrow.”

Our lives are SO linear - in that one experience leads to another, and to another, and so on. And as I told this story to my son, I realized a great many things might not have happened had I not seen Mr. Gray at the end of that day:

1) I might not have ever stuck my neck out again and tried to join a band, therefore I might have never learned the drums.
2) I might not have gone to college and gotten a music degree.
3) I might not have grown in my faith, 'cause I grew as I played drums at church.
4) I might not have met my wife, since we met at a gig where she was opening for the band I was playing in.
5) I might not have had the opportunity to travel to many cool places in the world and play.
6) I might not have opened up a recording studio.
7) I might not have transitioned my career to post-production sound, and eventually moved to California.
8) On and on, etc, etc.

I was so moved by this line of thought, I looked Mr. Gray up, and thanked him for being at the right place at the right time, and for giving me a chance.

Maybe there was more than one road to where I am and what I’m doing today. God only knows that, but I’m glad I almost ran over Mr. Gray that day.


Steve Lee said...

...Yet another sound editor who was a drummer. Way cool.

Anonymous said...

Yeah - I had the same story up until the part where the band teacher asked about being a tuba player... it was a baritone in my case (really just a smaller version of a tuba), and I gave in and played the stinking thing for a few years before giving him the "ok, either I'm in the drumline or I'm out" ultimatum. It worked.

Chris said...

That's great!! You never know what little decision is going to change your path for life. Very cool.

Karenkool said...

I love those key moments in life--especially when you can actually see how your life was effected in amazing ways. I also think about those moments where I wonder what would have happened had I chosen the other thing. Maybe it's like Greg said...

FYI--I played the french horn in band for 4 years and then the marimba for 2 (but piano has forever been my main instrument).

Great story!

Mark Keefer said...

Steve, didn't know you played. Looks like we'll have a lot to talk about at the Expo.

Greg, I probably couldn't have resisted a baritone either. It was my favorite brass instrument to play while I was in college. (good thing I didn't know that in 8th grade)

Karen, Marimba! Cool. Did you do 4 mallet? I still have pain between my 3rd and 4th fingers from the 4-mallet technique! It's actually a wonderful instrument.

Steve Lee said...

Actually, I haven't in years. I really meant all the others... Ben Burtt, Jimmy Macdonald... etc.