As many of you know, I teach ESL. This means that my classroom is diverse; they're from all parts of the world, and I help them improve their English before and/or as they take college courses. My primary focus is writing. I help them go from paragraph writing to essay writing.
Well, today I showed them a sample classification paragraph. I wanted them to see an example of classifying a single idea into categories or subgroups. More importantly, though, I wanted them to identify the topic sentence, major and minor supporting details, and the concluding sentence. I asked questions about unity----whether the sentences all point to the same idea or not--- and coherence---- the way the sentences are organized. It's just a fun paragraph! It's about rock music!
This wasn't the first paragraph I showed them. I had shown them two others previous, and they answer all my questions just fine. For some reason, though, they were having trouble with this one.
Then, I realized the problem. I hadn't explained any of the vocabulary. "Do you think this paragraph has some tricky words?" I asked. They all nodded and said, "yes!"
"Well," I said, "which words do you feel like you need help with?"
Silvia, a girl from Mexico blurted, "snare!" I smiled and told them that I am a drummer, so I can explain that one with total confidence. In simple terms, I described the lay out of a basic drum set: snare, bass, toms, cymbals.
"The snare is the one in the middle and is played the most." I made the sound of a drum roll, and heads bobbed in understanding, and a chorus of "ooooh!" went around the room.
I demonstrated the sound of the bass---- "BOOM! BOOM!"--- while kicking my foot. I did a quick run around the imaginary set--- "Bong! Bong! Bong! Bong!" in different pitches and explained that these are called toms. Then, "CRASH!"
I asked, "Can anyone guess what that last one is called?" I heard a Vietnamese boy whisper something, so I asked him to be confident and speak up.
"Cymbal?" he asked. I gave him a thumbs up.
My drumming hasn't been as consistent as it was over the summer. Now that the semester has started, lesson planning, teaching, grading and conferencing with students is my number one priority. It has to be. It's my job. But I still have a drummer heart. I will forever remember this experience in the classroom. Next time I share this sample paragraph, I'm going to bring in my drum set!... maybe.
I'm learning to play Coldplay's "Yellow," by actually reading music. It's much more effective than stumbling around the set, guessing the tempo, drum to hit, etc. If you ever have the opportunity to learn to read music, I highly recommend it!
I learned to read basic music notation from my piano playing days, but drum notations are sometimes different, so I reached out to my drum teacher Simon, from DrumAmbition via Skype. He and I discussed each measure, how to practice, etc. It was super helpful!
The way Simon explained it is, "segnos take you back" while "codas take you forward." These little symbols work similar to "repeats," in the sense that they tell you to either go back to the previous measures or move forward in the music. Pretty clever guys, I think!
Segnos and Codas in Practicing
The summer is coming to a close, and life is starting to pick up again for me, so it's becoming more an more difficult to maintain my practicing schedule, especially over the weekends. At the beginning of each week, I do a "self-segno," or self assessment. I go back and review what I remember. Then, for the following days, I try to "coda" as much as possible--- I move forward with my learning.
Segnos and Codas in Life
I can see segnos and codas used in my daily life. I believe that life on this earth is a test. We're meant to make each day better than the one before. The mistakes I make in life often cause me to "segno" or take me back. I go back to those I've hurt and say sorry; I evaluate my actions and think about ways I can handle situations like those better in the future. Then, I "coda." I move forward. I try again and move forward.
Whether you're a drummer, teacher, writer, daughter, son, wife, husband, father, mother, or some other title, I encourage you to recognize times to "segno" and times to "coda."
Recently I watched a short video by Nate Morton. He's a drummer from NBC's The Voice. He talked about his biggest motivator for drumming, Animal from the Muppets. As many of you know from my previous blog, Animal is my idol, too!
Nate Morton also talked about how drumming has influenced his life for good. Watching that video made me think about who else, along with Animal, who inspired me to play the drums, so I made a short top 3 favorite drummers. It doesn't include my actual real idols, like Dave Grohl, Neil Peart, Buddy Rich, Ringo Star or the other amazing drummers I love! I'll save that for another post.
Without further ado, here are my favorite drummers:
1. Animal (of course!) from The Muppets
I had a lot of energy as a kid, too. Banging on pots and pans as a kid (that's all I had!) defiantly was good for me, too.
2. Guy Patterson from Doing that Thing you Do
(The screenplay was written by Tom Hanks, by the way.) Because I started my drumming journey a little bit later than maybe most drummers and I was often forced to practice on my own between classes in college, I found this movie/ story inspirational. I lived in small living areas and squeezed my drums into sometimes tight spots. At one point, I had my drums in the basement in my in-laws' house because I didn't have room for them where I was living at the time, and I'd go there when everyone was at work and play along to my i-pod.
When I felt discouraged to practice, I'd think, "what if I'm needed as a drummer?!' and I'd go practice. I got a chance to be "the drummer" for a talent show in 2012. It wasn't much of a gig, but my friends really needed me for the song. I was nervous, but I did it. We didn't get a standing ovation like I imagined we would, nor did we win the talent show, but it felt good to be "Guy Patterson" for a night.
3. Steven Alper from Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie
My favorite roommate in college gave me a copy of it during my last semester. I wanted to read something besides journal articles about ESL teaching. Don't get me wrong! I love learning about ESL and I'm really glad I earned my MTESOL, but I needed (what my sister calls) "fluff" reading. Something that I didn't have to think about. Something I could just read and enjoy!
So, there you have it. My top three favorite drummers, the ones who first inspire me to practice. Drumming has defiantly made me the person I am today.
I'm new to bloglovin. I just learned about it today, actually. From my understanding, it's a way to follow your favorite blogs. I hope to update this blog at least once a month (maybe more, maybe less) depending on if I get my butt away from the set.
If you use bloglovin', please follow me. I'll try to follow you back! Have a great day!
I wasn't interested in recording, and I ended up selling the roto-toms and tambourine pedals, anyway. The new set motivated me. Using Youtube, I learned to play along to "How's it gonna be" by Third Eye Blind. A few friends who played the guitar played songs with me sometimes, but I always felt limited in my drumming and wasn't sure how to best accompany them.
Making time to improve
I started teaching ESL, and all my time went to lesson planning, teaching and grading. I promised myself I could drum after teaching, but then I had to conference with students and adjust lesson plans, etc. Overall, I was exhausted by the time I could drum and/or it was too late in the evening.
This last year, I decided to lighten my teaching load a bit to make room for creative writing projects and, of course, drumming. I made it to the set more often, but never knew what I wanted to practice or work on when I got to the set. That's when I discovered DrumAmbition.com. I started with them two weeks ago. It's been a good fit for me so far. It's affordable, and the lessons are ordered in a way that makes sense. I don't have to fish around Youtube forever, not sure what I want to learn next. I especially appreciate the support Simon gives via email and Skype. If you're a drummer (especially new), I recommend you check them out!
When people first hear about me drumming, like new family or friends, the conversation usually goes something like this:
Friend: "You play the drums? You?"
Friend: "Are you in, like, a band?"
Friend: "I bet you learned in high school."
Me: "Not really..."
Friend: "What kind of music do you like to play? Jazz? Rock?"
Me: (shrug) "I like everything. I'm still learning and willing to try whatever. Maybe someday I'll play with others... but for now, I just play alone...."
My goal: play stuff.
Read Part 1
7th grade band
So, there we were, four of us on the percussion line: two boys and two girls. Randal was tall with floppy blond hair. Daniel was big and bulky, weighing as much as a large 9th grader. Jessica had freckles all over her face and weighed just as much as Daniel. I was small, skinny and self conscious of my growing breasts. We became good friends, especially at the beginning.
I learned about all sorts of instruments: marimba, xylophone, timpani, chimes, scraper, snare, bass, toms, triangle and more! Naturally, I was good at the marimba because it had keys like a piano. Randal was good at it, too, because he took piano, as well. He was a little bit of a show-off. I remember his floppy hair opened up and down like an umbrella when he played fast.
I wasn't interested in anything that reminded me of the piano. Despite all the lessons I took, I didn't consider myself a pianist. That was my older sister, who spent hours playing scales on our home piano. She accompanied nearly everyone in choir and sight-read all the hymns at church. Her posture was perfect, and she never struggled to keep her pinky down.
When it came time to choose which instruments we wanted to play for our upcoming band concerts, I stared longingly at the set in the back of the room. Only 9th graders were allowed to play it. Our options at 7th grade seemed limited to me. The snare was the most coveted, next to the large crash cymbal. I was lucky enough once to play the timpani, a large version of a traditional set (without cymbals), but I wasn't allowed to play it all the time. I had to give the other 7th grade percussionists an opportunity.
The crash cymbal was fun, but I dropped it once during rehearsal and Jessica took it over because she was bigger and could handle the weight. I might be exaggerating my memories, I admit, but I'm sure I played the triangle more times than anyone else. I don't ever remember seeing Randal with the triangle, and when I think about Daniel, I see him towering over the large bass drum for every song we played.
Pretty soon, I stopped hanging out with any of the other 7th grade percussionists. I made really good friends with a girl who played the clarinet, and I almost wished that I had had to use my back-up so I could spend more time talking and laughing with her. The girls who played flutes were nice. I made friends with some trombone and trumpet players, even though I thought it was disgusting when they blew their spit from their instruments onto the band floor.
Band verses Choir (again)
I made more friends in choir than I ever did in band (though I still talked with the girl who played the clarinet at lunch). At the end of the year, my choir teacher invited me to try-out for a girls' small singing group. I did and became second soprano, which spilled into my 9th grade. At the end of that year, all my choir friends were trying out for the high school choir, so I did, too. I was one of three sophomores who made the junior choir! What an honor!
My biggest regret
My heart told me to take band so I could play the drums, but I knew my choir friends would be disappointed if I didn't join the junior choir, so as a sophomore, I sang with the juniors, which sounds cooler than it actually was. The teacher was strict, the songs were harder (and often in other languages), and I was forced to sing alto, which I had never done before. We wore long green robes like on Sister-Act that were itchy and hot. All my friends were in the sophomore choir, and I felt terribly alone and shy.
The only joy I found each day I had to go to choir was the idea of seeing Mark Nelson, a tall handsome bass who stood 3 people away from me. Sometimes one of those 3 people would be absent, so he'd be closer, and I could smell his cologne.
Mark Nelson wasn't my friend. He flirted with other girls and hardly saw me. Once, I dropped a pencil and he picked it up for me. He smiled, and I squeaked out a "thanks." I stayed in choir for the rest of my high school experience.
My friends and I attended every football game, and I stared longingly at the kids playing drum line. I was too proud at the time to admit it, but I was wrong for staying in choir. It became the greatest regret of my life. (Read Part 3)
My mom has pictures and videos of me as a toddler banging on pots and pans with wooden spoons on the kitchen floor.
While potty training, I'd sit on a small training toilet 2 inches away from the TV and watch Animal go crazy on the drum set. I carried my toy drum and sticks around the house, marching and mimicking Animal's moves, down to every bang and yell. I wanted more than anything to play the drums. This a common tale for drummers like me, I'm sure.
Taking Piano Lessons
My parents have always been supportive of my dreams, but didn't enroll me in drum lessons. Instead, they made me play piano. I was 8 years old and met with Linda Eades, who lived two blocks away, every Wednesday after school. She seemed old to me, but was probably only in her early 40's. The hardest part about taking piano (besides losing my books, and you know---the actual practicing) was making my left pinky stay down. I don't know why, but it always stuck up in the air when I played!
Overall, taking piano wasn't too bad, but I knew in my heart that I wasn't a pianist; I was a drummer. Of course I'm eternally grateful to Linda Eades and other piano teachers I had over the years because I learned to read music, and that has been an invaluable gift! I also learned to play at least two hymns (religious music) on the piano before serving a Mormon mission in Australia. Consequently, I'll probably insist that my future kids play piano before any other instrument, too.
Band verses Choir
In 7th grade, my mom asked me if I'd like to do band or choir. I said "band, of course." Now, I don't know what it's like in the junior high world today, but when I was in 7th grade, only four kids were allowed to learn the drums. They made all those interested take a "beats" test, where you listen to beats and write the notation for what you heard. For me, at that time, it was the easiest test in the world!
After the test, the drum instructor told all parents and kids to choose a back-up instrument in case they weren't chosen as one of the four percussionists that year. Mom took the advise seriously. She led me to the sample instruments and told me to hold each one and decide what my back-up instrument would be.
"Here," she said, "what do you think of the saxophone? Kristi down the street plays it. She's a few grades ahead of you, and she really likes it. What do you think?"
"It's nice, Mom. Whatever," I said.
"Here's a clarinet! I really like the clarinet! Why don't you play this one?" She insisted.
"Sure. Whatever, Mom." The clarinet became my back-up, but I never learned to play it. I was chosen as one of the four drummers in 7th grade, like I knew I would be. Drumming was in my blood. Why wouldn't they choose me?
Read Part 2