I started with a color-coded keyboard and picked out songs from a little book. The next year, in second grade, one of the kids brought a drum to school for “show and tell.” I thought it was just the coolest thing I had ever seen. In fact, it seemed so cool I was afraid to go near it.
The following year, I asked for a drum set for Christmas. It was $19 from a Sears catalog. I loved it so much that, pretty quickly, I wore out the drum heads!
When I was in the fourth or fifth grade I wanted to take drum lessons. My mom took me to a local music store to sign me up. Later, I had a chance to have a lesson with the school band director. I took my drum practice pad to the lesson and at the end of the session I asked him if there would be any chance I could play with the band someday, which I wanted to do so badly. “What about today?” he said. I was so thrilled!
The first time that I became super frustrated with the challenges of playing music was when I was in 7th grade. That year, I started playing the marimba. I had never read pitches before, only rhythms, so this was very difficult at first. Even though it was hard and I became frustrated, I didn’t want to quit! My parents were definitely my greatest cheerleaders and my band director was so encouraging. Besides all the extra time he spent helping me with my music, he stressed how important it was to always do my best and have pride in my accomplishments.
My music education taught me to always keep trying. Learning is very gradual and full of challenges. Playing well is hard work, but well worth the effort. Eventually, I got through the challenges that were a part of learning the marimba and I was very proud of what I had accomplished.
Soon after that, I began to feel that I wanted to pursue a music career, so I asked a guidance counselor how it might be possible to play percussion professionally. It’s been many years of learning and hard work since then, but it’s been a great experience all the way!
About 10 years ago, I started a percussion scholarship program that teaches core percussion skills to a very talented and motivated group of Chicago school kids. I remind them that they’ll often feel frustrated when they work on their technique or start rehearsing more complex music, just like I learned when I was their age. I tell them that getting frustrated is normal, but you need to keep trying.
There aren’t any shortcuts. Just keep working on a little something all the time and you’ll end up meeting your goals after a while. You’re not alone, and it does get easier.